August 3, 2011

Herbally Speaking: Fresh Basil

{ image via Scum Doctor }
When I hear the word basil I immediately think of fresh pesto or a delicious Caprese salad. But ironically enough, the uses of fresh basil far outweight its common association with Italian cuisine.

In addition to being a sweet, pungent culinary seasoning, basil is also known as a medicinal herb. Basil is a household name, familiar in many a tomato-based dish. However, this herb does complement foods such as meat, poultry, salads, soups and pasta. Not only does basil enhance the flavors of these dishes, but it also is known to aid in digestion.

While doing my research on one of my most favorite herbs, I found it rather interesting that in past centuries basil was frequently used to purify the mind and open the heart, leading herbalists to consider basil a mild antidepressant. Nowadays, basil is recommended as an antispasmodic used to treat motion sickness, vertigo, nausea and other intestinal problems. There is also a connection between the use of basil and subsequent alleviation of headaches and migraines, head colds and other respiratory illnesses. Some use it to ease tension and induce sleep, while others use basil as a kidney and bladder detox.

Homeopathic Uses:

Essential Oil
  • Add several drops to your bath to ease tension and raise your spirits
  • Dilute oil and use on your skin to treat acne by applying with cotton balls
  • Create a tent over a pot of boiling water with several drops of basil oil and inhale for relief of a headache, chest and/or head cold
Basil Infusion Tea
Pour about 1/4 cup of boiling water over 2 tsp. of fresh basil leaves. Steep for 10 minutes and drink the infusion twice daily; after 8 days take a break for 2 weeks, and then repeat the treatment. This tea will aid in digestion as well as treat bladder and kidney inflammation.

My Favorite Recipes:

Over the course of August, I'm trying out your recipes that include this incredible herb! I'll be reporting back on my favorites and sharing them with all of you. In the meanwhile, here are a few of mine:

Homemade Pesto
1/2 cup pine nuts (pignolis)
3 tablespoons diced garlic (typically about 9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves (stems removed), packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the pine nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Serve, or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Tomato Basil Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 medium size onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
Large handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (approximately 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (I use my smaller Le Creuset oval oven). Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. (Do not let the garlic burn!) Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

Heirloom Tomato Sandwich with Basil Mayonnaise


  1. I love fresh basil especially when made into pesto pasta! I didn't realize that it has so many uses.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this, I believe that being healthy should start with what your eating.

  3. Supplementing medical treatments with the right diet is the best way to heal the body. Basil is a healthy herb, that tastes great, too!

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  4. Adding green leafy vegetable in your dishes can add lots of nutritional value to your meal.
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  5. Living a healthy lifestyle starts in our stomach. Green leafy vegetables are good for the body.