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Basil (Ocymum basilium)

Basil belongs to the same family as mints and possesses the same square (quadrangular) stem that is so common to the mint family. The leaves are dotted with dark oil cells and when gently bruised, release a delightful aroma. There are several varieties differing in size, shape, odor, and color of the leaves such as sweet basil, opal basil, cinnamon basil, and anise basil.

          Basil is a familiar herb to most people. Used as a culinary herb in many styles of cooking, basil imparts a sweet, pungent aroma to food that is unmistakable. The derivation of the name Basil is uncertain but some authorities think it comes from the Greek basileus, which means king, because it is so excellent that it is fit for a king's house.
          In India the basil plant, known as tulsi, is sacred to both Krishna and Vishnu and cherished in the Hindu household. In villages in Greece, it is not uncommon to see a sprig of basil resting behind a person's ear to confer its protecting spirit on the wearer.

          Added to foods, basil helps with the digestion because of its essential oils and its warming and pungent properties. Warming and pungent actions in spices helps the digestion by releasing gas from the colon and increasing the absorption of nutrients.
          Basil helps with respiratory complaints by removing mucous and congestion from the lungs and nasal passages. For fungus infections, insect bites and sores, place the fresh crushed leaves directly on the afflicted area and secure it with some gauze. You can add honey to the leaves for its natural anti-biotic, anti-septic, and anti-microbial properties. For those afflicted with nervous exhaustion, make a tea to help lift the spirits.

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