What is basil?

What is basil but a divine herb rich in sweet smelling eugenol oil, and strongly anti-inflammatory.

If I was hard-pressed to choose a favourite herb, it would be a choice between this beauty, and garlic or ginger.

When I have plucked half a dozen leaves, which I do every day to go with our green salad, I just love to crush them in my hand; and then take deep breaths of the sweet-scented aromatic oil.

I could get high on it. It is one of those heady-fragrances that touch the pleasure centres in the brain.

Sweet basil flowers.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 28th August, 2021.

In the summer months when we have plenty of the herb growing in the garden, I make pesto at least once a week; it's such a simple recipe but, without the chemicals the food industry adds, you really need to finish it within a few days.

It's an annual plant, much loved by the bees too; the tiny white-flowers are equally divine smelling. I wish I could find someone who grows a couple hectares where I could take a few hives; I am sure the honey would be equally heavenly.

What is basil?

-Sweet basil has been used as a culinary herb in Asia for thousands of years, known for good reason as the king; I think of many royal good reasons to use it in our cooking.

It's an annual plant that grows like a weed, but it is quite fragile; once damaged, say by hail, then if you live in a misty climate it susceptible to blight. Pick the leaves only when they are still green but quite dry; no moisture or you may lose the plant.

It's reputed to reduce the pain of insect bites; perhaps that is why I do not really feel bee stings, but I would not count on that. This week I donated blood, and hardly felt the prick; perhaps it was the sweet basil that we enjoy almost daily in our green-salad!

On the subject of blood, I don't think any donors find it a pleasant experience having someone stab a needle into you, and suck out a pint of blood. I am a fainter, but over the years I have learned to conquer it but eating a honey sandwich and a couple large cups of tea before I go; and stay on the couch for ten-minutes after the donation.

We do it for king and country; for those children with leukaemia and others desperate for blood after trauma or surgery. We could be next. It's not a nice experience but I do it; would you swell the ranks of donors? In most countries you are desperately needed.

Back to sweet basil; there are many cultivars but you probably have to take whatever is on the shelf at your garden shop. It's the perfect herb for every summer vegetable garden.

Photograph of sweet basil plant.

So, what's potting in your garden?

Growing basil

Sweet basil seedlings.

Growing basil is really simple; it grows like a weed. Prepare a small patch of ground, perhaps just a foot or two square. It needs some well matured compost and it's best to break down the soil uso there only no more clods.

The seeds are very tiny; just sprinkle them around, not too close together and cover with some fine-soil. Then all you have to do is water, weed and start to enjoy after a few weeks. Really, it's that easy.

I recommend growing it under the eves in pots as it's very susceptible to blight; try not to get the leaves wet when watering.


Pesto is divine in any salad; basil is the main ingredient.

You can enjoy your basil cooked as in a soup, or raw as in pesto. It's one of my favourite condiments to go with a green salad, enhancing the flavour of your lettuce and particularly tomato.

A mixture of sweet basil, pinenuts, olive oil and grated parmesan cheese. It takes no more than five minutes to rustle up a tablespoons of pesto; don't make too much as it doesn't keep and should be finished within a day or two.

Read more about recipe basil pesto. I particularly like to have extra virgin olive oil every day for its anti-inflammatory properties. Yes, chiropractors and certainly all gardeners can feel it in the lower back periodically.

Kale pesto is another favourite in our family.

Copy and paste "recipe basil pesto" into this search engine for more information.

I love to barbecue a chicken; I always include some sweet basil in the marinade.

If you're cooking with basil, then like garlic add it at the last moment; the aromatic oil is driven off by cooking it to death.

Helen always adds a half a dozen raw chopped leaves into her famous salads; each whole, unprocessed food has its virtues. We try to add at least eight different coloured fruits and salads to our diet every day; there is a 35 percent lower all cause of death. What is basil? Just one of the many natural ways that you can be more sure of reaching a sprightly eighty with all your marbles intact.

Fresh basil recipes

Fresh basil recipes are dependent on the fresh herb straight from the garden; it's not difficult to grow. Make sure you give an answer to what is basil.

If you want sweet basil available right through the summer like we do then I'd have several sowings. It's susceptible to blight in some climates and it's best in a new bed every month or two.

Sweet basil blight.

You really don't want to use leaves like these in your green salad in your pesto. It's so easy to start a new seed bed when you can see the plants are maturing; within weeks you'll be enjoying fresh sweet basil leaves in your cooking.

Eugenol oil

Eugenol oil is the active ingredient in what is basil.

Sweet basil is such a wonderful culinary herb because of many different aromatic oils. Just take a handful of leaves, crush them in your hand and take in a deep whiff. Ah, that's a lot better than sniffing petrol or snorting heroin!

There is a lot of research being done on one of those oils called eugenol; it's being used widely in dentistry and there are hopeful signs that it can reduce the nasty effects of osteoporosis. Healthy bone is continually being formed and broken down; it has been shown to prevent any over exuberant osteoclastic activity.

There is even research being done into the prevention of large intestine cancers by eugenol. So we try to eat from a wide range of fruits, salads, herbs and vegetables; there are tiny amounts of all these substances that we miss out if we are still on the B&W diet.

So, can you now answer the question, what is basil?


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Chronic stress, raising cortisol levels in the blood, is a feature of today's society and interestingly there's research showing that an extract, in which the active phytochemical was thought to be eugenol lowers the serum concentration of both the stress hormones and glucose; that's the divine stuff in basil.

This is highly significant as raised cortisol is associated with tissue inflammation, a lowered metabolic rate and an abnormal immune response, of huge interest to all doctors including chiropractors.

Chronic stress, with its associated raised serum cortisol, is almost certainly one of the underlying causes of the epidemic proportions of auto inflammatory diseases seen in today's world.

Researchers reporting in the medical journal Pharmazie report that an extract of holy basil, Ocimum sanctum, lowered the serum concentration of cortisol and glucose in mice. 1 What is basil is for everyone who has a stressful job, or is insulin resistant.

Have two blood tests, the haemoglobin A1c and a fasting insulin to see if you might be one of the many walking the streets undiagnosed.

What is basil has important ramifications for us all.

Useful links

  • Helen's 15 euro salad is the cure for the most stubborn constipation. Add five prunes and beetroot a day and I can absolutely guarantee, problem solved.

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Bit of a bookworm too?

Perhaps you'll enjoy this stormy scene from my latest book, A Family Affair. Janet has just discovered that she is pregnant of being raped, and Santie can't figure it out why she is hesitating about having an abortion. They're in the midst of making pesto. Conflict A Family Affair. Hang onto your hat!

Cover of A Family Affair by Bernard Preston.

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