Botanical Name: Ocimum basilicum

Family: Labiatae

Hindi Name: Kali tulsi

Basil is commonly called sweet basil or garden basil. The name basil has been derived from the Greek word basileus, meaning king, because of the royal fragrance of this herb.

In India and Southeast Asia, basil is considered to be sacred, and is hence mainly used for religious purpose, though it is also used for culinary purpose.

It is indigenous to the lower hills of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, and is cultivated all over India, southern France, other Mediterranean countries, and in some parts of USA.

The early Romans made it a symbol of love and fertility, by sporting a sprig of it on their shirts as a sign of their marital intentions. In India, Hindus believed that if a leaf of basil were buried with them, it would serve as their passport to heaven.

The basil plant is an erect, much branched herb, growing to an average height of 60 cms. It is an aromatic plant of the mint family. When the bright green leaves are dried, they turn brownish green and brittle, and curl up. The dot-like oil glands in the leaves contain a volatile oil that is camphoraceous.

Its composition is as follows:

  • Protein: 11.9 %
  • Fat: 3.6 %
  • Fibre: 20.5 %
  • Carbohydrates: 41.2 %
  • Ash: 16.7 %
  • Calcium: 2.1 %
  • Phosphorus: 0.47 %
  • Sodium: 0.4 %
  • Potassium: 3.7 %
  • Iron: 0.04 %
  • Thiamine: 0.15 mg/ 100 g
  • Niacin: 6.90 mg/l00g
  • Riboflavin: 0.30 mg/l00g
  • Ascorbic acid: 61.3 mg/l00g
  • Vit A: 290 IU/100g

The sacred basil found in India has an intensive pungent smell whereas in Thailand the sweet basil has a liquorice aroma. The rich aroma and excellent blending properties of basil has made it highly popular worldwide. There are over 150 varieties of basil in the world and several grades of Indian basil are available for the international consumer.

Among spices, basil offers one of the highest yields per acre. Warm, temperate climates of India, Italy, Africa, Thailand, etc., are perfect for proper growth of basil.

Basil is aromatic with carminative and cooling properties. It is used to treat mild disorders, fevers, flatulence and catarrh. The decoction of basil mixed with honey and ginger is an effective remedy for asthma, influence, cough, cold and bronchitis. It helps to cure digestive and genito-urinary disorders, and relieves one of constipation. Basil oil is effective against mosquitoes and flies. The juice of basil leaves is used externally to treat some skin diseases like ringworm and leucoderma. It is useful in rheumatic afflictions, earache and toothache, croup, stress, women's problems and headaches. It acts as an antidote to poison.

Basil, also known as a tomato herb because of their affinity. It is delicious with tomato, cooked or as a salad. Basil complements tomatoes, green vegetables, salads, squash and lamb. Its spicy overtones of aniseed is strongly associated with Italian cooking.

Some of the major applications of basil lie in French liquors, sophisticated perfumes, and gourmet class culinary seasoning.

The oil is extensively used in all kinds of flavours, including those for baked goods, confectionery and condimentary products.

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