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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

Basil Varieties Table Bush Basil Camphor Basil East Indian Basil Hoary Basil Holy Basil Sweet Basil


There are basically two types of basil - annual (A) and tender perennial (TP) (treated as annuals or pot plants in the north). All require full sun and rich soil. Most are used for culinary purposes, except where noted. All are susceptible to fusarium. Purchase plants and seeds from reliable dealers who test for the problem. Following is a list of basils, including modern cultivars. Recommendations are: Fino Verde, standard Sweet Basil, Lettuce Leaf, Spicy Globe, and as an ornamental, Holly Painted, Purple Ruffles, Dark Opal. Sources for plants and seeds are: Richters and Well-Sweep Herb Farm.

African BlueOcimum 'African Blue'(TP) Large, attractive purplish-blue leaves on tall plant. Leaf veins, flower spikes and stems are purple. Sweet camphor scent. Possible hybrid between dark opal basil and one of the camphor basils. Does not grow from seed, but does reproduce readily from cuttings.
Anise (or licorice)O. b. 'Anise'(A) Strong anise fragrance. Light purple flowers.
AraratO.b. 'Ararat'(A) Foliage splashed with purple markings. Sweet flavor with licorice overtones.
BallO. 'Tufted'(A) Nice compact form with purple flowers.
BushO.b. minimum(A) Dwarf form, small leaves. Good in pots.
Bush, GreekO.b. minimum(A) Improved variety of 'Bush' with tight compact growing habit. Good pot plant.
CamphorO. kilimandescharicum(TP) Strong camphor odor. White flowers. Not a culinary variety, but used medicinally and as a commercial source of camphor.
CinnamonO.b. 'Cinnamomum'(A) Distinct cinnamon aroma. Sprigs placed in vases to ward off insects at the table (Mexico). Pink flowers.
CloveO. gratissimum 'Clove'(TP) Cultivated variety (cv) of East Indian Basil. Lavender flowers.
CubanO.b. 'Cuban'(TP) White flowers.
Dark OpalO.b. 'Dark Opal'(A) Dark purple leaves. Especially attractive made up as vinegar. Developed at the Univ. of Connecticutt in 1962.
Dwarf BouquetO.b. 'D.B.'(A) White flowers.
Dwarf Fino VerdeO.b. 'Fino Verde'(A)
Dwarf ItalianOcimum 'D.I'(A) White flowers.
East IndianO. gratissimum(TP) Large, greyish-green, velvety leaves with clove scent and spicy flavor. Used in India as a cold remedy.
Fino VerdeO.b. 'Piccolo F.V.'(A) Fine leaved variety excellent for all basil uses. Makes great pesto.
GenovaO. americanum 'Genoa profumatissima'(A) Also known as Perfume Basil.
GenoveseO.b. 'Genovese'(A) Well known for making pesto. Two varieties are - Special Select FT (Richter's exclusive) and Compatto FT (Richter's exclusive), a compact form.
Green GlobeO.b. minimum 'G. G.'(A) Excellent variety of the Italian globular form. Very dense 'heads' 20 to 28 inches across. Spicy flavor. Good in pots.
Green RufflesO.b. 'G.R.'(A)
Holly's PaintedO.b. 'H.P.'(A) Unusual variegated leaves. Pink flowers.
Holy BasilO. sanctum(A) Used in salads and cold dishes; not used in cooking. Name often applied incorrectly to Spice Basil. Holy basil has a unique 'Juicy Fruit'-type aroma. There are green (O. tenuiflorum) and purple (O.s. purpureum 'Tulsi') varieties.
LemonO. americanum(A) Compact bush type. Good for tea and potpourri.
LemonO.b. citriodora(A) White flowers. Seeds are made into a tonic drink.
Lemon, Mrs. BurnsO.b. 'Mrs. Burns'(A) Larger and more robust than the type, up to 3 feet. White flowers.
Lemon, Sweet DaniO.b. 'S.D.'(A) Improved lemon variety, high in essential oil and citral content. White flowers.
LesbosO.b. 'Lesbos'(A) Unusual combination of spice, floral and citrus aroma. Height to 40 inches. Also known as 'Aussie Sweetie'.
Lettuce LeafO.b. crispum(A) Similar to, but better flavor and aroma than Mammoth. White flowers. Used as a cold remedy in Japan.
LimeO. americanum(A) Lime-scented. White flowers.
MammothO. basilicum(A) Excellent variety of sweet basil with very large leaves.
Mexican SpiceO.b. 'M.S.'(A) Grown for fragrance and aroma and as an ornamental. Pink flowers.
MiniatureO.b. 'Minimum'(TP) White flowers.
NapoletanoO.b. 'N.'(A) White flowers.
Nufar F1O.b. 'Nufar'(A) Fusarium resistant variety of Genovese type sweet basil.
Osmin PurpleO.b. 'O.P.'(A) Darkest purple of the basils. Height to 20 inches.
Puerto RicanOcimum 'P.R.'(A) White flowers.
Puerto Rican, MiniatureO.b.'M.P.R.'(A) White flowers.
PurpleO.b. 'Purpurascens'(A) Pink flowers.
Purple BushO. 'Purple Bush'(A) Dwarf, compact growth with purple-green leaves. Good in pots and for hedging.
Purple DelightO.b. 'P.D.'(A) More robust in growth than 'Rubin'.
Purple RufflesO.b. 'P.R.'(A) Dark purple leaves heavily ruffled and fringed. Pink flowers.
RubinO.b. 'Rubin'(A) Improvement over 'Dark Opal' (very little green). Pink flowers.
Siam QueenOcimum sp. 'S.Q.'(A) Variety of Thai Basil. Deep purple inflorescences above dark green leaves. An anise aroma and flavor.
Spice BasilO.a. 'S'(A) Possible hybrid between O. canum and O. basilicum. Lavender flowers.
Spicy GlobeO.b. minimum 'S. G.'(A) Uniform, dense globular form with larger leaves than the type. White flowers. Excellent in pots for the windowsill garden.
Sweet BasilO. basilicum(A) Best known basil for culinary use. White flowers.
Sweet FineO.a. 'S.F.'(A) White flowers.
Sweet Salad(TM)O.basilicum(A) Medium-size leaf. Leading commercial variety. Dries without turning black.
Sweet ThaiO.b. 'S.T.'(A)
ThaiO.b. thyrsiflora(A) Variety used in Vietnamese and Thai cooking. Lavender flowers.
Thai MagicO.b. 'T.M.'(A)
Thai SeedO. citriodora 'Thai'(A) White flowers.
Well-Sweep Purple MiniatureO.b. 'Minimum Purpurascens Well-Sweep(A) Diminutive form of Purple Basil exclusive to Well-Sweep Herb Farm. Pink flowers.
West AfricanO. virideThyme-like aroma and flavor. Called 'adefetue' by the Ewes of Ghana. Used medicinally for fever, as a tonic, for diarrhea and to repel insects. Also used as gargle, wound dressing, and for conjunctivitis.
---O. teniflorumAka 'Holy Basil'. Used in Java as an aromatic stimulant.
---O. guineenseUsed in cases of bilious fever.

(Ocimum minimum)
image image

A low-growing tender perennial usually growing to a height of about 6 inches and much smaller leaved than sweet basil. The leaves are ovate and yellow-green to purplish in color. Flowers are white appearing in whorls toward the top of the branches and smaller than those of sweet basil. There are two varieties - one with dark purple leaves and one with green. Both types are native to India. Plant has a spicy lemon odor. Its uses are the same as sweet basil.
In Malaysia and Iran it is planted on graves. In Egypt women would scatter the flowers on graves. To the ancient Greeks, basil represented hate and misfortune and it was believed the plant would not grow unless subjected to verbal abuse at the time of sowing. To the Romans it symbolized love (in Crete - 'love washed with tears'). In parts of Italy basil is still considered a token of love. In Moldavia, tradition holds that a lad will love any maiden from whom he accepts a sprig of basil.

PROPAGATION: By seed and softwood cuttings.
NEEDS: Rich soil.
HARVEST: Leaves as needed. Seeds when they ripen.
FLOWERS: July-August.


Aromatic and carminative.
Calming herb. Has been used for nervous tension and mild nervous disorders alone or combined with sage (1 part basil combined with 2 parts sage to make an infusion). Dried leaves in the form of snuff have been used for nervous headaches.
Tea has been used for nausea and vomiting. A cold infusion of the leaves has been taken just before setting out to prevent travel sickness.
Has been combined with dandelion leaves, licorice root, and parsley as a mild laxative.
Has been used for rheumatism.
Seeds were once taken internally against snakebite, placed on wounds as a vulnerary, and used to cure warts.

Same uses as sweet basil. Used to flavor soups, ragouts, and sauces. In France it is used to season turtle soup.

(Ocimum kilimandscharicum)

Tender perennial shrub 5 to 10 feet with leaves downy on both sides and with a strong camphor scent. A source of commercial camphor. Also used as a mosquito repellent. Has been used in Africa to lower fevers. Also used in the liquor distillery.

aka Fever plant, Shrubby Basil, Tea Bush, Tree basil
(Ocimum gratissimum syn O. viride, O. suave

A semi-woody tender perennial 3 to 8 feet in height, leaves to 4 inches and hairy on upper surface and dotted with glands beneath. It is found growing wild over most parts of Ceylon and Oceania. The caryopyllata type is strongly clove-scented. The graveolens type is strongly scented as well, but is not clove-like and has a purplish tinge inside the lower lip of the flower and is used for culinary flavoring. The suave variety is velvety-hairy on both sides of the leaves and grown around homes as a mosquito repellent.
O. viride (2 to 5 feet) is indigenous to West Africa, but cultivated in India. Its fragrant leaves smell much like lemon thyme.

PART USED: Leaves and oil.


Aromatic, stimulant, antiseptic, vermifuge, febrifuge.
Has been used internally for fever, headache, impotence, diarrhea, dysentary, postpartum problems, and worms in children.
Has been used externally for rheumatism and lumbago.

Leaves used for tea.
Clove and thyme scented types used for flavorings. O. viride is used in salads, as a flavoring, and steeped for tea (taken with milk and sugar).

Oil used in insect repellents. Also: plants grown to repel insects in the immediate area.

aka Hairy Basil
(Ocimum americanum syn O. canum)

An erect annual (1 to 2 feet) native to the West Indies with downy leaves to 2-inches in length.

NEEDS: Dry soil.


Seed mucilage has been used as a tonic.
Has been used as a cold remedy in India.
A decoction has been used for chest problems and for dysentary.

Used for diseases of the kidney, bladder and urethra, uric acid diathesis, swelling of glands (inguinal and mammary), and renal colic.
DOSE = 6th to 30th potency.

Mild young leaves used in rice and curry dishes.
Used to season seafood, meats, poultry stuffing, salads, soups, and sauces.
SEASONING RECIPE = Combine 1 oz each of nutmeg, mace and dried bay leaves; 2 oz. each of cloves, peppercorns and winter savory; 3 oz each of basil, marjoram, and thyme; 1/2 oz each of cayenne and grated lemon peel; 2 tsp of granulated garlic. Powder all and store in air tight bottle.

The distilled oil has a lemon to camphor odor varying at either end of the spectrum which is used to fragrance soaps and other toilet products.

aka Sacred basil, Tulsi (Ind)
(Ocimum sanctum syn O. tenuiflorum)
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Tender perennial subshrub (1 to 2½ feet) native to Asia and Australia with a mildly intoxicating clove-like fragrance. In India this plant is sacred to Krishna and Vishnu and cherished in Hindu households. It can be found planted about Hindu temples of worship and individual homes. It was believed to protect the spirit of the family and each Hindu goes to his rest with a sprig on his breast as his passport to Paradise.
Culture is the same as for Sweet Basil. Essential oil contains anticancer potential (also oils of Papaver somniferum and Cumin). Research continues.

PROPAGATION: By seed and softwood cuttings.
NEEDS: Pinch out growing tips to encourage bushiness and retard flowering. Botrytis can be a problem, also slugs, aphids, whitefly and spidermites. Pot grown in the north or treated like an annual.
HARVEST: Whole plant. Cut as flowering begins to be distilled for oil. Pick leaves during growing season and use fresh or dried. Seeds collected when ripe.
PART USED: Whole plant, leaves, stems, seeds, oil.


Pungently aromatic, warming, antiseptic, febrifuge, antispasmodic, antibacterial, digestive aid, strengthens immune system.
Has been used internally for feverish conditions (especially in children), colds, flu, sinusitis, headaches, rheumatism, arthritis, abdominal distension and cramps, poor libido, and melancholy.
Has been used externally for skin infections.
Seeds have been made into tonics and have same uses as Sweet Basil (O. basilicum).
Studies in India have shown some evidence it prevents peptic ulcers and other stress related conditions such as high blood pressure, colitis and asthma.

Leaves are added to salads and cold foods, but is not used in cooking.

Crushed leaves and/or oil used as insect repellant.

Stems are cut into beads for rosaries.

aka Baccio (Ital), Common basil, Garden basil, St. Josephwort
(Ocimum basilicum syn O. bullatum)
[luo le]

CAUTION: Contains estragole and should not be taken by pregnant women. Essential oil not to be used externally or internally by pregnant women.

CONTRAINDICATED: NOT when pregnant. NOT when nursing. NOT for prolonged use. NOT for infants or toddlers.

CONTAINS: Volatile oil (including estragol), methyl chevicol, methyl cinnamate, eucalpytol, eugenol, citral, geraniol, linalol, thymol, camphor, ocimene, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassiu, sodium, zinc, ascorbic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folacin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, cystine, phenylalanine, tryosine, valine, arginine, histidine, alanine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, and serine.
Mediterranean types contain mainly linalol and methly chavicol with little or no camphor. Eastern European types are distinguished by methyl cinnamate (a more pronounced cinnamon aroma). Southeast Asian types contain a high ratio of eugenol. African types contain more of camphor and methyl chavicol. Hydrolized mucilage from seeds yields uronic acid, glucose, xylose amd rhamnose.

A member of the mint family native to India, Africa and Asia, sweet basil grows to 3 feet with a square stem and small white flowers appearing in whorls in the leaf axils. Flowers have 4 stamens, are two-lipped, 1/2-inch long with the upper lip having 4 lobes. The leaves are opposite, broad, stalked, being smooth, soft and cool to the touch, and tipping in towards the central spine. They are highly aromatic and the plant is rich in volatile oil. Seeds are tiny and dark brown.
The derivation of its name is unclear. Some saying the name came from the Greek 'basileus' for king, others that it derived from the mythical creature called a basilisk which could kill with a look. Basil has acquired a long list of superstitions and lore associated with it. It was once believed if a sprig were left under a pot for a time, it would turn into a scorpion; some believing that to even smell the plant would produce a scorpion in the brain. According to Culpepper it was to be applied to venomous bites, including those of wasp and nornets as it 'draws the poison to it', apparently being of a like kind. Mizaldus stated that if placed on a dung heap it would breed 'venomous beasts'. Pliny recommended smelling it in vinegar for fainting which was a far more practical consideration.
To the French it is 'herbe royale'. In Greece, St. Basil's birthday is celebrated on January 1st, although there may be no connection to the plant in this. In Malaysia and Iran it is planted on graves. In Egypt women would scatter the flowers on graves and the ancient Egyptians burned a mix of basil and myrrh during religious rituals and also used it in embalming the dead. To the ancient Greeks, basil represented hate and misfortune and it was believed the plant would not grow unless subjected to verbal abuse at the time of sowing. To the Romans it symbolized love (in Crete - 'love washed with tears'). In parts of Italy basil is still considered a token of love. A sign of that love was when it was worn as a sprig in the hair. Traditionally, a woman would put a pot of basil on the balcony outside her room when she was ready to receive her suitor. In Moldavia tradition holds that a lad will love any maiden from whom he accepts a sprig of basil.
In Haiti it is associated with the Haitian goddess of love (Erzulie) and is said to stimulate sensuality. Store owners there would sprinkle basil water over their places of business to drive away evil spirits, thus opening the way for buyers and properity.
In New Mexico carrying a sprig in your pocket was believed to attract money into them; also a woman would dust basil powder over parts of her upper body to insure her husband did not succumb to a wandering eye.

PROPAGATION: By seed and softwood cuttings.
NEEDS: Annual. Needs full sun, good soil. Plant out around June 1st in Zone 5 and use liquid fertilizer every 2 to 3 weeks. Avoid overhead watering followed by or in direct sun as can cause water spotting on leaves. Pinch out growing tips to encourage bushiness and retard flowering in order to extend the harvest season. Botrytis can be a problem, also slugs, aphids, whitefly and spidermites.
HARVEST: Leaves. Snip back top 1/3 of plant when harvesting to encourage full growth. Leaves can be fresh frozen for culinary use, but will darken to a near black color.
PART USED: Whole plant, leaves, seeds, oil.


Warm, aromatic, restorative, antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, stimulates the adrenal cortex, digestive aid, stomachic, galactagogue, prevents vomiting, tonic, carminative, febrifuge, expectorant, soothes itching, possible slight sedative action.. Used as a tea, infusion, decoction, gargle, inhalant and the essential oil in a carrier oil for massage.
Has been used against bacterial infections and intestinal parasites.
Has been used internally for colds and flu, poor digestion, nausea, abdominal cramps, gastroenteritis, migraine, insomnia, melancholy and exhaustion. Has been combined with elecampane and hyssop for bronchitis and coughs.
An infusion has been used to ofset the nausea of chemotherapy.
Has been combined with wood betony and skullcap in tincture form for nervous afflictions. Tea taken lukewarm several times daily for stress.
5 to 10 drops of the essential oil has been added to bath water for nervous exhaustion, mental fatigue, melancholy or general uneasiness. Also the essential oil has been diluted in almond oil to use as a massage oil for nervous weakness. Has been combined with leaves of lemon balm and rose petals as an infusion for mild depression.
5 drops of essentail oil has been diluted in 10 ml of almond (or olive) oil for asthma and bronchitis for a chest rub.
A cup of tea has been taken for headache.
Tea has been taken with meals for indigestion.
Tea has been taken for stomach and muscle spasms.
Warm tea has been taken several times daily for scalding, burning urine.
Tea has been taken internally for infection and used externally as a wash; also inhaled (steam) for respiratory infection.
Hot tea has been taken to promote onset of delayed menses (1 tbsp fresh herb to 1 cup boiling water, steeped 10 minutes, then strained).
Infusion was taken orally and as a douche for venereal disease.
Warm tea taken slowly, a mouthful at a time has been used for whooping cough (antispasmodic properties). Also used as a gargle for the same.
For fever, 1 oz of leaves has been added to a pint of water which has been simmered for 20 minutes with 3 black peppercorns per cup. Steeped 10 minutes, then strained and drunk.
Has been used externally for acne, insect stings, snakebite and skin infections. The juice has been combined with an equal amount of honey as a wash for ringworm and itching skin, also for coughs. The crushed fresh leaves or a salve was applied to poison ivy rash.
The smell has been used to restore smell lost due to sinus congestion.
Boiling water poured onto the leaves and the steam inhaled has been used for head colds.
Has been combined with motherwort (or several cups basil tea alone), an infusion being prepared and drunk immediately after childbirth to prevent retension of the placenta. It was also taken as a tea several days before labor began to assist with childbirth.
Cold infusion has been taken before starting out for travel sickness. Also used for stomach cramps.
A cool tea has been taken for constipation.
Infusion has been used for gout, bad breath, kidney ailments.
Decoction has been used for fever, asthma, earache, ringworm, hiccups, nasal polyps, ulcers.
A warm tincture of basil or the juice from the leaves was used for earache.
The juice has been combined with a decoction of cinnamon and cloves for chills.
Basil and borage tea taken for a tonic effect as a mid-morning pick-me-up; fresh plants are used.
Leaves have been rubbed on insect bites to reduce itching and inflammation. Crushed leaves were also once applied externally to rheumatic parts and a cup of tea taken internally several times per day. Crushed leaves also applied to warts - leaf placed over wart, then covered with a bandage and changed daily for 5 to 7 days.
In the Ayurvedic system of medicine, it is said to be useful for the lower 'chakras' to 'ground' the person.
A poultice of the seeds has been used externally on sores for the antibacterial effect. Has been used as an antispetic in aerosol form. Seed also said to remove film and opacity from eyes.
Was burned as incense in sick rooms.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
30 to 60 grains
FRESH INFUSION = 2 tsp in 1 cup water and steeped 7-10 minutes.
DRIED HERB = 1 tsp in 1/2 c. water; steep, strain and take 1 to 2 cups daily as needed.
TINCTURE = 10 to 30 drops.

Traditional herb of Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cooking.
The flavor tends to increase when cooked.
Add to melted butter sauce when grilling or broiling fish.
Use to season poultry, pork and veal.
Pound with garlic and use as a sauce.
Used for pesto, teas, seasoning. Add to tomato and eggs, mushrooms and pasta dishes, tomato sauces, vegetable dishes, soups and stuffings (especially for duck).
Fresh leaves used in salads and oil & vinegar dressings.
Sprigs served fresh in a small vase with water at the table by Italians to keep leaves from darkening.
Florets are edible and make a good garnish.
A leaf in tomato juice will improve the flavor.
Used in the north of Germany to season famous Hamburg eel soup and in the preparation of gherkin pickles.
Used to flavor wine.
In the Near East, the seeds are eaten alone or added to bread dough.
Mucilaginous coating of the seeds was once made into a tonic drink.
For RECIPES see Cooking with Herbs and Wild Foods

Used in the herbal bath to refresh and stimulate.
Oil is used in perfumery.
Added to hair rinses to bring luster to hair. Can be combined with rosemary (brunettes) or chamomile (blondes).

Massage oil used for overworked muscles and in diffusor for mental fatigue and to clear the head.

Added to potpourri and sachets.

Plant to repel flies and mosquitos.
The essential oil diluted in a carrier oil is used as an insect repellant.
Rub leaves on skin for insect repellent.

Plant around manure piles to reduce odor.
Use strong decoction on cabbage and tomato plants as insecticide. Bee plant.

Grown commercially in France, Hungary, Bulgaria, former Yugoslavia, Italy and Morocco; also California.
Oil is used in dental preparations and in commercial insect repellants.
Used to fragrance soaps and cosmetics such as bath oils, toilet waters, lotions, shampoos, and perfumes.
One of the ingredients in the liqueur Chartreuse.
Used by the Greeks for flavoring 'must' (juice from grapes before it has fermented).
Used as a 'magickal' herb in rites of initiation and for spells associated with a need for courage and in aiding the soul on its final journey. Used by some earth religions to invoke the presence of dragons by use as incense or as a ritual drink. Is said to remove fear of having a psychic vision and said to protect from the unknown and from fears associated with spiritual growth. In rituals involving Tarot, is used as a compliment to the death card (13). Used in blessing a new home by adding to the cleaning water used for scrubbing floors and walls and cleaning in general which takes place before unpacking. Used in rituals of purification.

Plant near peppers and tomatoes.

Love. Good wishes.

©2000 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH