The basil, whose scientific name is Ocimum Basilicum, is a plant also popularly known as basilica. Originating in India, its main properties and benefits were discovered and used there for medicinal and culinary purposes. Even today, the Indians consider it a sacred plant that contributes to the development of spiritual growth, promoting relaxation and balance. Basil contains many nutrients and has different functions, contributing to the proper health and function.
Basil is originally from the Middle East, India and the Mediterranean region, but is now planted throughout the world. In India, it is a sacred plant and is much planted in temples where it is known by the name of Tulsi (Ocymum Demiflorum). It was also a symbolic plant for the ancient Greeks and Romans who believed it contained powers of reconciliation. In northern Europe and Haiti it is associated with love.
A source of beta carotene, the basi;l plant stimulates the liver and helps fight insomnia and menstrual pain. The large basil or sweet basil (Ocymum Basilicum) is an herbaceous plant of the family of mints that are also lamiaceous (lipped), existing in about 150 varieties. The most popular variety among us is known as the large leaf basil, which reaches 45 cm in height.
Basil is not only used just for spiciness, but is also for cooking and keeping flies away from sardines. The Greeks also use it for this purpose, planting it in the entrance of the houses, also like signal of welcome. Its aroma and flavor comes from the essential oil anetol which is also one of the main constituents of the anise. Estragol, eucalyptol, eugenol and linalool, also present in lavender, form the strong, almost intoxicating aroma of basil. It is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin A in vegetables and yellow fruits. It also has calcium and vitamin C.
Basil is a plant that grows best at temperatures above 18° C. In cold climate regions, it should be grown within greenhouses or during the months of the year when temperatures do not fall below 15° C. In hot climates, basil can be grown all year round.
It needs good light and should receive direct sunlight for at least a few hours daily.
The soil should be well drained, light, fertile, rich in organic matter. The plant is quite tolerant of soil pH and only very acidic soils are inadequate.
It is necessary to irrigate frequently so that the soil is kept slightly damp. Both the lack and the excess of water will damage the basil.
The seeds can be sown directly in the final location of the garden, especially in hot climate regions. They can also be sown in seedlings, small pots or cups made of newspaper, approximately 10 cm high by 5 cm in diameter. In this case, the seedlings are transplanted when they have 6 leaves and 10 to 15 cm high. Basil can easily be grown in medium and large size bowls and vases, although it usually grows less.
Harvesting leaves can begin when the plant is well developed, which usually occurs between 60 and 90 days after sowing. The flowers are also edible.
In India, it is cultivated as a sacred plant and known as the king of herbs, thanks to its medicinal properties.
In the Mediterranean region, basil is planted in the eaves of the windows to repel mosquitoes and house flies.
Basil is widely used to obtain its essential oil, important in the perfumery industry and the aromatization of food and beverages.
Basil is a general tonic of the body and a digestive disinfectant. It stimulates the liver, is diuretic and refreshing. It is also used to relieve inflammation of the bronchi, intestinal gas, vertigo, nervous insomnia, gastric spasms, depression and memory loss. Studies done on this plant indicate that it is a stabilizer of blood glucose levels, and can be used to control diabetes. When applied to the skin, it can, however, cause allergies in the most sensitive skins. According to the American Cancer Society, a diet rich in vitamin A may lower the risk of some types of cancer.