I have an abundant crop of basil in my garden this year. I put in a lot of plants because normally slugs and snails destroy some of the seedlings, or I neglect it and it goes to seed. But this year, I’ve managed to keep it growing well and now it’s at the perfect stage to harvest. Last year I simply picked off the leaves and froze it, and that was OK, although it tended to lose some flavour and dry out as the year went on. This year my plan is to make a good supply of basil butter to freeze, which hopefully preserves the flavour and qualities better.
Basil is more than just a nice flavoured herb to add to your food. It has a number of useful medicinal properties, particularly for mental and nervous system health. Generally a warming aromatic herb, basil is recommended for people who are physically or mentally exhausted, suffer from nervous depression and have become complacent and melancholic. The herb and essential oil has uplifting, awakening, clarifying and stimulating effects.
My focus for the first part of 2018 is to put together a workshop or programme for brain and mental health. Studying herbs, nutrients and lifestyle practices that enhance mental health and performance and help reduce stress is part of the plan, so basil fits in well here.
Basil is considered a ‘cephalic’ herb, one of the best remedies for clearing the head, and promoting concentration and clarity of thought. It is also useful for relieving intellectual or mental fatigue. Eating basil pesto with cheese and crackers may be a good afternoon tea snack to keep you going, or help clear your head after a hard day at the office.
Some references consider basil to be calming and relaxing. In Salvatore Battaglia’s Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Mailhebiau is referred to as saying, ‘We recommend it for people with schizoid tendencies as it soothes, calms and relaxes; it is the anti-stress essence par excellence’.
Basil is a common ingredient for pizza and pasta dishes. It’s been suggested that because of its ability to soothe stomach and digestive upsets including indigestion and bloating, it may help to improve digestion of carbohydrates such as bread and pasta.
Another traditional use for basil is to help reduce fevers. It’s considered a diaphoretic, which means it increases sweating, to help break a fever. It also has antispasmodic and expectorant properties, which are beneficial for the respiratory system and is used to relieve sinus congestion, asthma, bronchitis, influenza and whooping cough.
There are some safety considerations regarding basil essential oil (as with most essential oils), and large quantities of fresh basil are possibly unsafe in (early) pregnancy due to its uterine stimulating activity.
Basil is best used fresh, as the essential oils contribute much of its therapeutic or medicinal properties. Add it liberally to pasta dishes, egg dishes, or casseroles. Make up basil pesto in olive oil, or basil butter and keep it refrigerated or frozen so you have it available all year round.
If concentration or focus, digestion, or respiratory issues can be a challenge for you, consider adding basil into your diet on a regular basis and see if it makes a difference. Here’s the basil butter recipe for you to try:
½ – 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
3 – 4 cloves fresh garlic
250 g butter
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blitz until it becomes a smooth and even consistency. Refrigerate or freeze to store, or enjoy it as it is.