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Basil (Ocimum Basilicum & Spp), also known as St. Joseph’s Wort or Albahaca, is a soft, hairy-stemmed herb with either white, pink or pale purple flowers. There are also several varieties such as Lemon Basil, Holy Basil, Thai Basil etc.
It is indigenous to India and is thought to have been brought to the Middle East via Greece by Alexander the Great around 350BCE. It is very easy to cultivate, but thrives best in hot and dry conditions. It is very sensitive to cold and should be well protected or brought indoors if there is any chance of frost.
In the home, a pot-plant of Basil or a potpourri of the dried leaves will help in controlling flies and mosquitoes. It also has anti-larval properties. Because of it’s antibacterial and anti-larval properties, it is also useful added to household cleaners.
The healing properties of Basil include an aid to digestion and prevention of flatulence. A tea made from the leaves is also useful where a calming effect is desired, such as in the treatment of stomach cramps or the pain of gas. Common or Holy Basil is much used in Ayurvedic medicine to strengthen the body’s resistance to stress and to enhance renal functions. The essential oil of Basil has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and can be used as a topical application for minor skin irritations.
Its magikal uses include settling the mind and bringing about a sense of harmony and peace. As such, a few drops of the essential oil in a bowl of warm water are a useful addition to any ritual, especially those concerned with love, peace or astral traveling. I have found that the scent of basil in the bedroom also promotes pleasant dreams, perhaps for these very reasons. It is also said that carrying a leaf of Basil in your wallet or purse will attract money, and sprinkling a water infusion of fresh leaves around windows and doors will deter thieves and encourage only those with peaceful intentions to enter. Serving a meal containing Basil, or drinking a tea of the fresh leaves will also promote peace especially after a period of strife.
I’m not even going to go into the culinary uses of Basil. Suffice to say that any lover of Italian or Middle-Eastern food will never be without it in the kitchen!
Basil is known far and wide as a culinary herb, but it also contains some interesting magical properties. In Mediterranean countries, it is strewn on floors to purify a home. It also can bring luck to people moving into a new residence - a gift of a potted basil plant guarantees good fortune. Maud Grieve's Modern Herbal says that the name "basil" may come from the Greek basileus, a king, because 'the smell thereof is so excellent that it is fit for a king's house.' Basil plants are also said to attract scorpions, and in some cultures it was believed that smelling the plant would cause a scorpion to grow in the brain.
In some countries, however, basil is considered something that real men don't eat -- why? Because it's associated with teas that are used to provide relief from painful menstrual periods.
Magically, basil can be used in love magic and in love divination. Scott Cunningham says in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs that two basil leaves placed on a live coal will give you an indicator about the state of your relationship: if they burn to ash quickly, the marriage will be harmonious, but if they crackle and hiss, your marriage will be disruptive.
Basil can also be used to guarantee fidelity -- or detect the lack of it. If you suspect your lover has been stepping out, place a fresh basil leave on their hand. If it wilts right away, chances are good they've been spreading the love around. To keep your spouse or partner faithful, sprinkle powdered basil in the bed while they sleep -- especially around the heart -- and they will remain true to you.
Other Names: St. Joseph's Wort, Witches Herb, American Dittany
Deity Connection: Mars, Krishna, Vishnu, Ares
If you decide to plant some basil, don't worry -- it's very easy to grow. However, it's cold sensitive, so make sure you wait until after the last frost, and harvest all your plants before chilly weather returns.
Fresh basil leaves were chewed by the Greeks to naturally freshen the breath.