A curious sight in India during the 19th Century was that many Englishmen had adopted the use of a necklace made of the wood of the Basil plant like the ones worn by Hindu holymen. This was not to claim affinity to those over whom they ruled, but rather for more practical reasons for it was scientifically determined and proved that basil provides immunity to electrical impulses and hence acts as preventive to thunder-bolts (lightning). The plant itself is full of electrical energy and hence aids in stimulating blood-circulation. It is said that if one wears the stalk of the basil around the waist, the wearer will be free from afflictions of the waist, liver, spleen, and the generative organs. Because of this property, the basil-stalk necklaces are worn around the neck, hands, and over the heart; and, therefore, it is not surprising that the practice was adopted by the English.
Culpeper, the English physician of old makes a few interesting observations: “This is the herb which all authors are together about, and rail at one another (like lawyers). Galen and Dioscorides hold it not fitting to be taken inwardly; and Chrysippus rails at it with downright Billingsgate rhetoric; Pliny and the Arabian physicians defend it” (Complete Herbal 15). He further adds: ...it was an herb of Mars, and under the scorpion, and perhaps therefore called basilicon, and it is no marvel if it carry a virulent quality with it. Being applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it. Every like draws his like. Mizaldus affirms, that being laid to rot in horse-dung, it will breed venomous beasts. Hilarius, a French physician, affirms upon his own knowledge, that an acquaintance of his, by common smelling to it, had a scorpion bred in his brain.... To conclude. It expelleth both birth and after-birth: and as it helps the deficiency of Venus in one kind, so it spoils all her actions in another. I dare write no more of it. (15) So much for Culpeper.
In India, the basil (known as Tulsi or Vrinda) is widely used and several myths have grown out of its use both, as a medicinal herb and for religious purposes. The ancient treatises on Ayurveda speak highly of this plant saying that its regular use keeps palate, throat, teeth, gums, bronchus and lungs free of infection. Most traditional Hindu homes grow the plant and believe that an invisible oil permeates the atmosphere thus keeping it clean and free of germs. Further, no snake or scorpion will come near a basil plant and I have personally verified that it also keeps mosquitoes at bay. It is no wonder that the Hindus have accorded spiritual status to the plant and revere it almost as a deity. In fact, the basil is considered to be sacred by many and it is believed that this plant sprouted on its own over the grave of Christ. Christians in Eastern Europe still look upon the plant as a gift of Christ and on St. Basil’s day, the womenfolk plant basil seedlings in their gardens with the same fervor as a religious rite. Taking a cue from Christ’s resurrection, some even plant basil over the graves of their dear departed in the hope that it might revive the dead!
Uses of Basil
The uses of basil are many and varied. Most of its claims have been verified scientifically, while others remain in the borderline of scepticism and disbelief. The general uses for which it is prescribed as a home remedy ranges from the common cough and cold to blood-pressure symptoms and even paralysis and hemiplegia. I give below some of the more common ailments and their treatment with the use of basil alone or in combination with other herbs.
Grind equal amounts of the dried blossoms of basil, bark of the Neem (Margosa) tree, and black pepper into a homogenous mixture. Take a level teaspoonful of this powder morning and evening with a draft of water, but do not drink milk immediately after. The acidity will be removed from the body with the sweat and urine.
- Blood pressure:
The drinking of basil-leaf tea keeps the blood pressure even.
Mix a little honey with the juice of the basil leaves and apply over the eyes every morning and evening. Fresh cases are dissolved without surgery, while chronic ones are rendered "ripe" so as to be surgically removed.
- Colds & Cough:
Make a fine powder of the following:
--Basil leaves (dried in shade) 300 gms
--Cinnamon 50 gms
--Bey leaf 100 gms
--Aniseeds (fennel) 200 gms
--Cardamom 200 gms
--Red sandal-wood 200 gms
--Dried orange-peel 25 gms
Take two teaspoonfuls of this mixture and boil it with about 500 ml water till half the quantity of water is left. Add honey (and milk if preferred) and drink it like tea twice a day.
Add a little tincture of camphor to the juice of 10 leaves of basil. Instill a drop or two of the mixture in the ear for instant relief.
- Eye troubles:
The juice of basil leaves mixed with honey is recommended for all sorts of eye troubles associated with pain and burning sensation. The mixture may be stored in an air-tight bottle. In the case of trachoma, grind ten leaves of basil with a clove and apply to the eyes every four hours. For swelling of the eyes, the juice of the leaves of basil with a pinch of alum applied to the eyes is prescribed.
Massage the body daily with the juice of basil leaves (a massage oil may be made with a mineral oil base and the essential oil of basil). Make a habit of smelling the blossoms of basil (essential oil of the blossoms) kept in a handkerchief; also grow a basil plant somewhere near the bedroom. During loss of consciousness during an attack, grind 11 leaves of basil, add a pinch of salt to it and instill a few drops of this juice in the nostrils of the patient.
Mix together 10 gms of basil juice, 10 gms of dry ginger and 20 gms of jaggery (raw sugar); make small tablets/pills/capsules from this mixture. Take a pill/capsule swallowed with a little water three times a day. It is advisable to either fast or to eat only easily digestible foods during the period of the treatment.
- Female disorders:
Basil juice is a good tonic for women and its regular use keeps them free from the disorders of the female generative organs.
Boil about 10 gms of basil leaves in 250 ml water till the water is reduced to 125 ml, then add a little rock salt to taste. This tea produces immediate sweating and relieves the fever. An option is to drink tea made of basil leaves, black pepper, and candy sugar.
Add a little honey to the juice of 10 basil leaves and lick slowly. A spoonful is sufficient to restore the voice.
- Hair loss:
Massage the scalp evenly with the oil of basil and after an hour or so wash the hair with cold water. Good for dandruff too.
- Heart ailments:
As basil has a positive effect over blood pressure and also a de-toxicant, its regular use prevents heart attacks. A tonic may be prepared by mixing 1 gm of dry basil leaves with a spoonful of butter and some candy sugar or honey. Take twice a day; first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night. The wearing of a garland of basil stalks is said to prevent heart attacks. It was common to see Englishmen wearing these “necklaces” during the 19th century in India.
Smell the crushed leaves of basil and drink the juice of five basil leaves.
Crush a few basil leaves with a little rock salt and swallow with a little water. Drinking the tea made of dried basil leaves also gives quick relief by inducing sweating and urination.
The best solution to this tricky problem is to place a few leaves of basil inside the pillow; a specific number of 51 is prescribed, with 50 being placed inside the pillow case and the 51st being chewed upon by the patient. Basil leaves may also be placed around the corners and head of the bed under the bed sheet.
Massage the itching areas with the juice of basil leaves. In chronic cases, make a massage oil by mixing two parts of basil juice with one part of sesame/mineral oil and warming over a water bath; cool and store in a bottle. Use this oil for itches of any type for local relief. For a permanent cure, see a qualified Homoeopathic physician.
Add two teaspoons of basil juice to 50ml of radish juice; sweeten with a little jaggery (raw sugar). Drink this juice twice or three times a day for a month for total relief.
- Kidney ailments:
Basil juice is unparalleled in the treatment of all sorts of kidney troubles. Soak overnight about 5-7 gms (one teaspoonful) of Basil seeds in water; next morning grind the seeds with candy sugar and drink the combination. Copious micturition will be induced and soon the congestion will be relieved and infection (if any) will be removed.
- Leucoderma (vitiligo):
(a) To a little basil juice add a few drops of lime-juice and apply on the affected area.
(b) Grind 10gms of basil leaves with a clove of garlic and apply the paste on the affected area daily for 10 days. It is also advised to chew 5 basil leaves every morning, afternoon, and evening or licking a mixture of basil juice and honey in addition to the local application.
The tea made from dried basil leaves is an instant pick-me-up and drunk regularly, keeps one free from colds and other ailments associated with phlegm in the body.
- Male sexual problems:
The regular consumption of basil leaves maintains an even blood pressure and keeps a man’s urges well within control, making him neither lecherous nor impotent. Venereal diseases are said to be cured with the use of basil juice in combination with cardamom and yogurt drink. Further, the stalk of the basil plant worn around the waist prevents lower-back pain and maintains sexual health.
Dry some basil blossoms in the shade and grind to a fine powder; mix two grams of the powder with a dessert-spoonful of honey and lick it slowly. A second dose, if needed, may be taken in the evening. An excellent remedy, when others have failed (AKN)!
Grind 1gm of black pepper in 10 gms of basil juice and administer at two hour intervals for 5 to six days. In addition give the patient basil tea. The fever along with the malarial symptoms will be totally relieved in a couple of days. This treatment should be effective in Dengue too (AKN).
- Nose-bleeding (epistaxis):
Keep some basil blossoms with you and smell them every now and again. In chronic cases, a drop of the essence of basil blossom put in the handkerchief and smelt at intervals cures the problem almost totally. Drinking basil juice with honey is also recommended.
- Paralysis/hemiplegia :
Massage the affected limbs with the oil of basil or boil a few leaves of basil in 200ml of water; when cool, strain and use this water for massage. The internal intake of the juice is also recommended.
Rub the oil of basil on the chest of the patient and give internally the juice of 5 leaves of basil mixed with a little ground black pepper at six hourly intervals. This will induce sweating and relieve the patient.
Basil leaves’ juice is an astringent and excellent tonic for the skin.
- Sluggish liver:
Grind the following into a homogenous powder: Basil leaves 5 nos; Cummin seeds (roasted)2 gms; Rock salt (black)2 gms. To this mixture add an equal amount of the kernel of wood-apple and then combine the whole with 100 gms of yogurt and eat it with a meal or by itself. For most digestive disorders, a spoonful of a mixture of basil juice and ginger juice gives prompt relief.
- Stones (bladder):
Make the patient sit on a steam bath prepared with about 100 gms of basil blossoms to a liter of water. Continue treatment daily for a week. Depending on the size and nature of the calculii, they should dissolve and be flushed out with the urine.
(1) Grind 5 gms each of basil leaves and black pepper; instill a drop of this in each nostril of the victim. (2) Grind the root of the basil plant in a little butter and apply on the bitten part. (3) Administer a spoonful of basil juice internally every hour.
Grind 5 gms each of basil leaves and black pepper and mix with a spoon of honey. The patient should take this twice daily for about two months. In the winter, a little ginger juice and a pinch of salt may also be added. Externally, a mixture of basil and ginger juice may be rubbed over the chest.
- Urinary troubles:
Soak overnight about a teaspoonful of basil seeds in water and in the morning grind them with a little candy sugar and drink in two doses--morning and afternoon. A week’s treatment should clear up all symptoms.
- Whooping cough:
Grind together equal amounts of basil leaves and black pepper and add a little honey so as to have a consistency to make small tablets. These tablets, sucked slowly, should be taken four times a day. In the case of dry cough, take a mixture of equal amounts of the juices of basil seeds, ginger and onion. In the case of loose cough, add candy sugar.
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, and English Physician. Leicester: Magna Books, 1992.
Dr. Anjan K. Nath is Associate Professor of English Language and Literature at Tunghai University and Providence University, Taiwan. He has been actively involved in Homeopathic studies for over 25 years and is currently pioneering the teaching and propagation of Homeopathy on Taiwan; he has held several seminars and workshops at the Department of Acupuncture, China Medical College, Taichung. His other interests include psychology, myth and mysticism, and Yogic and Vedantic philosophy.