The name basil is derived from Greek basileus "king",because of the royal fragrance of this herb,the Greek word basileus "king" means essentially "people's leader":bainein "go" and laos "people".
- Basil and Its Basic Botanical Info.
- Basil Plant Description.
- Basil:Cultivation and Havesting.
- Basil Etymology:royal fragrance and basileus,King's Herb.
- Basil:Its Origin and History.
- Main constituents and Phytochemicals of Basil.
- Uses Summary of Basil.
- Basil Applications and Preparation Tips.
- Basil and Class.
- Research Update:Ocimum basilicum.
Basil:Its Origin and History.:
Genus Ocimum is widespread over Asia, Africa and Central and Southern America; it appears to have its center of diversity in Africa. Basil was probably first put to cultivation in India. Herbaceous plant, coming from India and Indonesia, with its characteristic aromas, it is used as a condiment for foods, in ayurvedic medicine, herbal medicine and cosmetics
Basil (Ocimum Basilicum), belongs to the family of Lamiaceae (Lamiales), its leaves show an intense green color on the upper side and a green-gray color in the bottom side. The term "basil" derives from the greek word Basilikos meaning "herb worth of kings". Cultivated in all the countries of the world, rich in volatile oils which vary according to the composition even in the same variety and according to growing factors. The most aromatic leaves, sweet and fragrant, are the ones picked soon before blossoming, as they contain a higher quantity of oily substances determining the aroma, whereas the elder leaves tends to have a more piquant taste.
Today, basil is cultivated in many Asian and Mediterranean countries; main exporters (for the European market) are France, Italy, Morocco and Egypt. There is also significant basil production in California
Basil was known since the times of Egyptians, who used it, together with other essences, during religious ceremonies. It seems it was also used as an ingredient for the preparation of the balms used for mummification. In the Middle Age, it was believed to have magic properties, it was used as a defense against "basilisk", a monster which looked like a poisonous serpent. The origins of Basil are from India and Indonesia. It was probably introduced in Europe by Greeks and Romans, coming from the commercial routes which crossed the Middle East. Ancient Romans considered it the symbol of lovers, and it was also used as an aromatic herb in cooking. Apicius mentioned basil in a recipe with peas. In England was introduced around the sixteenth century, whereas in America will be introduced in the seventeenth century.
Green, fresh and aromatic: basil adds to recipes its unmistakable sign
In its homeland - India - the use of basil in cooking is pretty limited. A type of basil - Ocimum Sanctum - the famous "Tulsi" - is considered a sacred plant dedicated to Vishnu and Krishna, its seeds are used for the making of mala, and are being consumed by the ones who practice a vegetarian diet or want a more sound lifestyle. In ayurvedics, the traditional Indian medicine, basil is used as a remedy for many diseases. In India is pretty common to plant basil in order to check the salubrity of a soil: the good growing of the plant makes a place or soil good. Moreover, it is believed the presence of basil, or better to say, Tulsi, can keep evil spirits away while attracting divine blessings. The leaves are used during religious ceremonies dedicated to Vishnu, in particular the ones in favor of family wellness.
In India a plant of basil cultivated in front of the house, keeps unwanted insects away, although anyone knowing the Indian traditions, will say it is a sign of the culture and the religious beliefs of the family. The soil surrounding the plant, is manured with cow's manure, an animal considered sacred in India. In the most rich houses are being cultivated many plants of tulsi, in order to make a small sacred garden called tulsi-van or vrindavan. Sacred Hindu writings suggested to consider tulsi not as a simple plant, but as a natural representation of the gods Vishnu or Krishna. Whoever had the chance to travel to India will certainly have noticed many people use a series of small balls tied with a string (Mala), resembling the chain used by catholics: the small balls are made from a sacred plant, Indian basil, tulsi's mala. In order to understand the respect Hindus have for this plant, it is worth remembering that Englishmen, when they wanted an Indian to swear about something - and while not having an equivalent to the Bible - they forced Indians to swear on tulsi.
In the western world basil is the sign of fertility. Boccaccio told the story of Lisabetta who, after having hidden the head of her lover in the soil of a basil vase, she watered him with her tears. A different opinion had Van Helmont (1577-1644), a Flemish doctor, who believed basil left between two bricks made the plant to get transformed into a scorpion.
The derivation of the name Basil is uncertain. Some authorities say it comes from the Greek basileus, a king, because, as Parkinson says, 'the smell thereof is so excellent that it is fit for a king's house,' or it may have been termed royal, because it was used in some regal unguent or medicine. One rather unlikely theory is that it is shortened from basilisk, a fabulous creature that could kill with a look. This theory may be based on a strange old superstition that connected the plant with scorpions. Parkinson tells us that 'being gently handled it gave a pleasant smell but being hardly wrung and bruised would breed scorpions. It is also observed that scorpions doe much rest and abide under these pots and vessells wherein Basil is planted.' It was generally believed that if a sprig of Basil were left under a pot it would in time turn to a scorpion. Superstition went so far as to affirm that even smelling the plant might bring a scorpion into the brain.
'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 its 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 breed in his brain.'
In India the Basil plant is sacred to both Krishna and Vishnu, and is cherished in every Hindu house. Probably on account of its virtues, in disinfecting, and vivifying malarious air, it first became inseparable from Hindu houses in India as the protecting spirit of the family.
The strong aromatic scent of the leaves is very much like cloves.
Every good Hindu goes to his rest with a Basil leaf on his breast. This is his passport to Paradise.
This is the herb which all authors are together by the ears about, and rail at one another, like lawyers. Galen and Dioscorides hold it not fitting to be taken inwardly, and Chesippus rails at it with downright Billingsgate rhetoric.. Pliny and the Arabian physicians defend it.
- 1.The name basil is derived from Greek basileus "king",because of the royal fragrance of this herb,the Greek word basileus "king" means essentially "people's leader":bainein "go" and laos "people".
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