BY LISA S.T. DOSS
The cultural knowledge of herbs is not entirely lost. Tea drinkers seek warmth through sips to find a remedy for the onset of an ailment or to relax. Once upon a time, herbal lore was instinctual, just like the hand wanders into a cupboard to find oregano written on a glass bottle. The basic knowledge of medicinal plants may still be in our genes, urging to take root and blossom. You, too, can appreciate the versatile quality of herbs by first loving plants, their colors or fragrance. Take it one step further! And, the gardener in you can make teas, salves, tinctures and poultices to promote good health!
With 150 culinary varieties of basil from connections to cinnamon and lemon, sweet and spicy, it’s no wonder the Greek derivation of the word is “smell.” A lover of Caprese salad and flavorful pasta sauce has a keen sense of its distinctive scent and taste. You, unknowingly, benefit from vitamins A, C and K as well as manganese, iron, omega-3-fatty acids and calcium. Medicinal chemicals in the leaves treat wounds, especially cuts and skin infections. Consuming the leaves in salads or teas help promote energy, relieve headaches, ease indigestion and treat insomnia. Despite all the benefits of basil, holy basil is known for its medicinal value.
What is Holy Basil?
Dating back 5,000 years in India, the reverent description of “holy” attributes to its promotion and protection for long life. The term “adaptogen” protects the body against physical, emotional and mental stress, such as soothing anxiety and mending the body.
Growing and Harvesting Basil
As a woody, branching annual that thrives in the tropics, holy basil, fortunately, grows in zone 7; therefore, plant when the soil is warm and receives eight hours of direct southern exposure. A handy trick to encouraging leaf production is to pinch off the top branches when your plant reaches six-inches tall. And, eliminate blooms to prevent it from going to seed.
Tip: If you love holy basil, consider cutting a five-inch healthy stem and place it in water. Within a few days, roots and new leaves will form.
Tip: Allow excess leaves to dry and place in a sealable glass jar for future use!
Enticed by the desire to overwhelm your bed with favorite fruits, vegetables and herbs, it’s important to define the purpose to grow beyond the three plants. With enough fresh leaves to serve a family of four, consider one of the following medicinal recipes:
Grandma, as you may recall, mashed a handful of leaves with water, and placed the soft poultice on an insect bite or sting for, at least, 20 minutes. It relieved the pain, itching and reduced inflammation.
Pinch off a few leaves (depending on the desired strength) and cover with a cup of boiling water. Allow steeping for five minutes and strain before drinking. You can add lemon or honey to your tea. The result is to ease stress, energy and concentration levels. You may even welcome social interaction.
Try adding dried leaves to hot milk to encourage sleep.
When flu and a sinus cold reach their limits, inhaling the vapors from steam is a viable option. Boil two cups of water. Add a tablespoon each of holy basil and peppermint tea. (Use the contents from a teabag if the dried form is not on hand.) Essential oils work equally well. Inhale the steam in 10-minute increments.
Superstition may be just enough to surrender to this sacred herb. Just a leaf carried in your pocket offered protection during your travels. A pot of basil in your home or garden supposedly attracted wealth in many forms, possibly a long-term relationship, luck or revenue. Try planting holy basil this year to see if its magic works to improve your mind, body and spirit!
Next Month: The Rose