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Ocimum basilicum

Mediterranean cuisine seems unthinkable without Basil, but apparently the ancients did not share our modern passion for this herb. Dioscorides and Galen both did not think it fit for human consumption. In Egypt the fresh leaves were scattered on fresh graves and in India some leaves are placed on the bodies of the dead to serve as a key to heaven's gates. In Tudor times it served as a farewell present, small pots being presented to visitors upon departure. In Crete it served as a symbol for 'love washed with tears' while in Italy, it had a more lurid connotation. Here it was known as 'Kiss-me Nicholas' and daring young girls would decorate their hair with it, wafting a fragrant hint to passing Nicks. In India, the local Basil known as Tulsi, was considered a most holy plant. It is sacred to Vishnu and Krishna as Vishnu's wife Lakshmi transformed into the holy Basil, Tulsi. Holy Basil is greatly honoured and often grown in temple gardens and near dwellings. Sacred jewellery is fashioned from the roots.

In aromatherapy Basil is mainly used as an uplifting, energizing, nerve tonic that chases away dark emotional clouds and mental fatigue. The heat of the oil acts well on muscular aches and pains as well as on rheumatism and arthritis. It also aids digestive problems, especially when associated with lack of heat. It is good for dyspepsia, nausea, cramps, and flatulence. It promotes menstrual flow and should be avoided during pregnancy. It acts as an insect repellent and soothes their bites.

Sprinkled around the temple or house, or used in cleansing rites prior to ritual it will attract good spirits and give courage to the practitioner. Basil can be used in the last rite of passage to easy the journey of the soul to the Otherworld. It can also be used to confer courage to the novice during initiation rites. Basil is associated with money magic. Sprinkle the place of business or the till with basil oil or carry some leaves in your pocket to attract money. It can also be included in love philtres and potions to attract lovers, though the unions that ensue may be fiery and short-lived.

An alluring, dark, vaguely balsamic, yet fresh and spicy scent. Blends well with Clary Sage, Oakmoss and Hyssop.

Common basil, Great basil, Sweet basil, St. Joseph's wort, American dittany.

Country of origin