I have decided to start a new series within the blog. I have had a deep and abiding love for herbs and gardening since I was a wee one (I used to try to collect dandelion roots to make my own coffee around age 12, despite the fact that I didn’t drink coffee. Anyway, I digress). As a result of said love, I have decided to really delve in and learn about an herb in depth each week or so (loose schedule until the baby is a bit older), and then I’ll hopefully try to use that herb to create something, be it edible, a body product, incense, or other.
Currently, my garden looks like this below, so I’ve got a lot to work with (basil, wood sorrel, marshmallow, licorice, oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, raspberry leaves, chives):
To start off this series, I collected basil from my garden last week. I have two types, sweet basil, and English basil, but I only used the sweet type.
Sweet basil, or (ocimum basilicum), is an edible herb of which we eat the leaf and flowering top. It’s other names include St. Joseph wort, arjaka, and luole.
- ocimum = ‘smell’
- basilicum = ‘kingly’
Historically in Europe it was a symbol of love/romance and of grief, and it has associations with the Basilisk (it was thought to be poisonous in the past).
To grow it you need rich, well-draining but moist soil, and full sun. It can grow well in containers too if you don’t let it flower. The season to grow it is in summer.
For food: It’s usually used in soups, salads, with eggs, most red meats, in tomato sauces, or in general cooking. I’ve also heard of it being used in ice cream though I have yet to see or try it. It combines well with vegetables such as zucchini, beans, and mushrooms.
It’s key constituents include:
- essential oils
- caffeic acid
- tannins (estragole and eugenol)
- estragole can have a sharp/hot and numbing effect
- eugenol is in cinnamon and cloves; it imparts a spiciness
- vitamin C
It can be used to make teas, tonics, poultices, etc.
It is used to help with:
- itches and pain (of bug bites and other small wounds)
- removing heavy metals and toxins from the body
- promoting the growth of hair, specifically oily types
- melancholy/low spirits and headaches/stress (due to its antispasmodic properties)
- fatigue if it’s steeped in wine (so if you are going for a glass anyway, might as well add some basil in there)
- deterring flies (though I am not sure how well that works)
- indigestion, stomach cramps, relieving nausea and vomiting, and easing gas (because it’s an aphrodisiac)
Given that basil is a pretty frequent herb in our savory meals already, (and because I can’t eat dairy currently for Fiona, so alas no basil ice cream), I decided I wanted to use it in a non-edible manner. As I’m always thinking about my skin, I decided to make it into a skin toner. I talked about it a bit in a recent post (korean skincare for eczema), but here’s a picture of it again:
The final product was lovely. It was refreshing and smelled delightful. The recipe I used is here, and I did add a little witch hazel. It’s fairly gentle on my skin and in the future I may try it without any witch hazel.
Just in case the above link ever gets taken away, the recipe was as followed:
- bring 3 tbsp freshly crushed basil leaves to a boil for 4-5 minutes
- remove from heat and let cool to room temperature
- strain leaves from mixture
- add teaspoon of witch hazel (optional)
- place liquid in a bottle (glass preferred)
- store in refrigerator for one week
- pour about a teaspoon onto a cotton ball and gently dab onto face as wanted, or
- freeze and then use the cubes on face as a pore minimizer after a wash