Herb: Sweet Basil

Latin name: Ocimum basilicum

Family: Labiatae

Medicinal use of Sweet Basil:

Sweet basil has been used for thousands of years as a culinary and medicinal herb. It acts principally on the digestive and nervous systems, easing flatulence, stomach cramps, colic and indigestion. The leaves and flowering tops are antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, digestive, galactogogue, stomachic and tonic. They are taken internally in the treatment of feverish illnesses (especially colds and influenza), poor digestion, nausea, abdominal cramps, gastro-enteritis, migraine, insomnia, depression and exhaustion. Externally, they are used to treat acne, loss of smell, insect stings, snake bites and skin infections. The leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season and are used fresh or dried. The mucilaginous seed is given in infusion in the treatment of gonorrhoea, dysentery and chronic diarrhoea. It is said to remove film and opacity from the eyes. The root is used in the treatment of bowel complaints in children. Extracts from the plant are bactericidal and are also effective against internal parasites. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Clearing".

Description of the plant:


45 cm
(1 foot)

August to


Habitat of the herb:

Long cultivated, its original habitat is obscure.

Edible parts of Sweet Basil:

Leaves and flowers - raw or cooked. Used as a flavouring or as a spinach, they are used especially with tomato dishes, pasta sauces, beans, peppers and aubergines. The leaves are normally used fresh but can also be dried for winter use. A very pleasant addition to salads, the leaves have a delightful scent of cloves. Use the leaves sparingly in cooking because the heat concentrates the flavour. A refreshing tea is made from the leaves. The seed can be eaten on its own or added to bread dough as a flavouring. When soaked in water it becomes mucilaginous and can be made into a refreshing beverage called "sherbet tokhum" in the Mediterranean. An essential oil obtained from the plant is used as a food flavouring in mustards, sauces, vinegars etc

Other uses of the herb:

An essential oil obtained from the whole plant is used as a food flavouring and in perfumery, dental applications etc. An average yield of 1.5% essential oil is obtained from the flowering tops. When applied to the skin it makes a good mosquito repellent. The growing or dried plant is an effective insect repellent. It is a good plant to grow in the home, where it repels flies, or in the greenhouse where it can keep all manner of insect pests away from nearby plants. It has been used in the past as a strewing herb.

Propagation of Sweet Basil:

Seed - sow mid to late spring in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. Germination is usually free and quick, prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If growing basil outdoors, plant out after the last expected frosts.

Cultivation of the herb:

Long cultivated, its original habitat is obscure.

Known hazards of Ocimum basilicum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.