Holy Basil—Good to Cook With Too!


Posted by admin | Posted in Holy Basil | Posted on 22-05-2010

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Holy basil is used to make refreshing herbal drinks. Experiment with it in soups, fish dishes and desserts. Dried basil leaves should ideally be boiled or steamed because frying destroys the delicate fragrance. The leaves are occasionally added as a seasoning to fruit dishes and sweet yeast breads. The fresh leaves are added to salads to produce a sweet anise-like flavor. The fresh or dried leaves and even the flower tops add tremendous taste to meats, especially chicken and holy basil blends well with hot, spicy foods, giving a cooling effect. Thais use this herb in fish, chicken and beef curries. It can be used in herb vinegar, stir-fries, chicken salad and in Szechuan sauce used with grilled chicken or fish. The mucilaginous seeds are sometimes consumed as are those of sweet basil.


Tulsi Kadha (Hot Basil Tea)
2 cardamom
2 cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 ½ cups water
2 tsp holy basil leaves, dried
honey to taste
Remove the cardamom seeds from their husks, then roughly crush with the cloves. In a heavy-bottomed pan, dry-roast the cloves, cardamom, cumin and fennel. As soon as they start smoking, add the water and then the holy basil. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Sweeten to taste with honey. Serve hot. (The Indian Spice Kitchen)

Tulsi Ka Sherbet (Iced Basil Tea)
2 Tbsp tea leaves
2½ cups water
2 tsp dried, holy basil leaves
sugar to taste
2 tsp lemon juice
crushed ice
4 lemon slices to garnish
Make the tea by adding the tea leaves to boiling water Drop in the holy basil and remove from the heat. Allow to cool, then strain. Mix the tea infusion, sugar and lemon juice. Serve in tall glasses over lots of crushed ice. Garnish with lemon slices and a fresh holy basil leaf if available. (The Indian Spice Kitchen)

Thai Beef with Basil
Preparation time: 20 minutes (the rice)
Peanut oil for cooking
1 Clove Garlic chopped
½ lb Beef sliced thin
1 medium shallot sliced thin
¼ cup mushroom (fresh or rehydrated)
1 Dried chili chopped
1 Tbsp fish sauce
½ Tsp palm sugar
2 Tbsp Holy Basil chopped
Holy Basil leaves for garnish
Heat peanut oil to just under smoking – stir fry garlic and beef for 2 minutes. Combine shallot, mushroom, chili, fish sauce, sugar and basil and add to wok. Stir fry briskly for 2 minutes. Serve over rice with basil leaf garnish.

Pad Gaprao Neua / Gai / Muu
Beef / Chicken / Pork with Holy Basil
500 g minced chicken, beef or pork
2 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 Tbsp chopped shallots
1 tablespoon chopped red chilli
1 tablespoon chopped green chilli
1 teaspoon green peppercorns
2 tablespoons palm sugar
¼ cup fish sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped holy basil leaves
The meat should not be too finely minced or it is difficult to cook without it sticking together.   The garlic, shallots, red chili and peppercorns are pounded together with a mortar and pestle.  Briefly stir-fry this paste to bring out the flavor and aroma. Add the sugar and stir-fry to melt, then the meat. Stir-fry until the meat is cooked through. Add the fish sauce, green chili and basil and cook until the basil wilts. The result should be a fairly dry loose mixture.  Serves 4

Clams Stir-Fried with Roasted Chili Paste and Fresh Basil
½ cup small dried red chilies
½ cup unpeeled shallots, halved lengthwise
¼ cup unpeeled garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
2 lbs. small clams, well scrubbed
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nampla)
1 cup holy basil leaves
1/3 cup sweet red pepper slices
To make the chili paste, place the chilies in a wok over low heat and dry-fry them until they darken, about five minutes. Transfer to a plate. Place the shallots and garlic in the wok over medium heat and dry-fry until soft and blistered, about 5 minutes. Trim the shallots and garlic, discarding the peels and root ends and place in a mortar (or food processor fitted with a metal blade). Stem the chilies and discard most of the seeds. Cut into small pieces and add to the mortar (or food processor). Pound (or pulse) the mixture until you have a smooth paste.
To make the clams, heat a wok over medium-high heat. When hot, add the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic and fry until golden, about 39 seconds. Add the clams and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of the chili paste. Cook until the clams open and the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. When most of the clams have opened, add the basil and stir-fry for a few seconds. (Discard any clams that do not open; it means they are unfit to eat). Transfer to a platter and garnish with the red pepper.  Serves four.  Warning: This dish is very hot

Holy Basil Chicken
3 Tbsp peanut oil
2 large cloves garlic
2 chicken breasts, shredded into bit size pieces
2 Tbsp soy sauce
½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2-3 Tbsp dried holy basil leaves
Heat oil. Add garlic and when garlic turns golden brown, add chicken; brown quickly. Add mushrooms to chicken; cook a few minutes longer. Add soy sauce to taste. Put in holy basil leaves, lower heat and cover. All to cook 5 minutes more and serve with rice (Sage Advice)

Culinary Herbs (NRC) , Ernest Small, NRC Research Press, 1997; ISBN: 0-660-16668-2
Indian Spice Kitchen: Essential Ingredients and Over 200 Authentic Recipes, Monisha Bharadwaj, Dutton, 1997; ISBN: 0-525-94343-9
The Roots of Healing: A Woman’s Book of Herbs, Deb Soule, Citadel Press, 1996; ISBN: 0-8065-1578-3
Sage Advice, Herb Society of Southwestern Virginia, 1991

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Holy Basil—Medicinal Uses


Posted by admin | Posted in Holy Basil | Posted on 20-05-2010

The Ayurvedic Energetics are:
Rasa: pungent, bitter; Veerya: heating; Vipaka: pungent; Guna: light, sharp, dry. And the Doshas: VK -; P+

The Pharmacological Action: demulcent, expectorant, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic, anthelminthic

The Constituents: The leaves contain an essential oil which contains eugenol, eugenal carvacrol, methyl chavicol, limatol and caryophylline. The presence of flavones apigenin and luteolin, the flavone-7-O-glycoside, luteolin-7-O-glucuronide, the flavone C-glucosides orientin and molludistin and ursolic acid have been reported. Furthermore, gallic acid, gallic acid methyl ester, gallic acid ethyl ester, protocatechuic acid, vanillic acid, 4-hydroxy benzoic acid, 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, 4-hydroxy benzaldehyde, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid were also reported. Many phenyl propane glucosides have been reported viz. 4-ally-1-O-b-D-glucopyranosyl-2-hydroxybenzene (1) and 4-allyl-1-O-b-D-glucopyranosyl-2-methoxybenzene (2) (eugenyl-b-D-glucoside).

Uses: An infusion of the leaves is a quick remedy for bronchitis and colds and an infusion of the seeds is an excellent diuretic. A decoction of the roots is thought to relieve malarial fever. Leaves are diaphoretic, antiperiodic, bronchitis, gastric & hepatic disorders etc. A tea prepared with the leaves of O. sanctum is commonly used in cough, cold, mild, indigestion, diminished appetite and malaise. Anthelmintic, deodorant, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, cardiotonic, blood purifier, useful in skin diseases, antipyretic particularly in malarial fevers. Externally applied on chronic non healing ulcers, inflammation, skin disorders, useful in nausea, pain in abdomen, worms, allergic rhinitis, all types of cough, respiratory disorders. It acts as a powerful mosquito repellent.
Holy basil treats diabetes, normalizing both blood sugar and blood fats, including cholesterol and triglycerides. A significant placebo-controlled, crossover study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics showed a 17.6% reduction in blood sugar and led scientists to conclude that holy basil was of value in mild to moderate diabetes. Try a dose of 1 teaspoon of dry herbs, brewed into 1 cup of water, in a dose of 3 cups daily.

Postpartum tonic: 1 part blessed thistle, 2 parts vitex berries, 1 part dong quai root, 2 parts false unicorn root, 1 part St. Johns Wort, 1 part holy basil

As a tincture, take 25-50 drops, three to four times a day for two to four weeks. As a tea, simmer 3-6 tablespoons of the roots and berries, covered in 1 quart of water. Take off the heat, add in 2-3 tablespoons of the leaves and flowers, and steep, covered, another five to fifteen minutes

Active principle : Ursolic acid

Traditional Uses: The leaf infusion or fresh leaf juice is commonly used in cough, mild upper respiratory infections, bronchospasm, stress-related skin disorders and indigestion. It is combined with ginger and maricha (black pepper) in bronchial asthma. It is given with honey in bronchitis and cough. The leaf juice is taken internally and also applied directly on cutaneous lesions in ringworm. The essential oil has been used in ear infections. The seeds are considered a general nutritious tonic.

Indications: bronchospasm, cough, indigestion, catarrh

Formulations and Dosage: fresh leaf juice : 15-20 ml with honey tid; leaf infusion : 2-3 oz tid
For renal calculi: 50 ml. of juice of Raihan(Ocimum sanctum,Linn) mixed with 5 ml. of honey taken regularly for 3 months helps in dissolving the stone and cleaning the passage.

Since the ages elders have always worshipped the Tulsi plant. Special containers are made to keep this holy plant. On a certain day after Diwali people perform Tulsi Pooja. According to Ayurveda, plants have been found to have several medicinal properties. This leaves, seeds and roots of the Tulsi plants are used a variety of disease. The juice of Tulsi leaves can be used to bring down fever. Extract of tulsi leaves in fresh water should be given every 2 to 3 hours. In between one can keep giving sips of cold water. In children, it is every effective in bringing down the temperature. It is an important constituent of many Ayurvedic cough syrups and expectorants. It helps to mobilize mucus in bronchitis and asthma. Chewing tulsi leaves relieves cold and flu. For earache a few drops of tulsi extract, if instilled, relieves the symptoms promptly. The extracts are also helpful in digestive disorders. The juice of fresh leaves, flower tops and slender roots is a very god antidote for snake and scorpion bite. Its oil is rich in vitamin C, carotene, calcium and phosphorus. Besides, it has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Ayurvedic tulsi preparations have significantly reduced the symptoms of viral hepatitis. In diabetics it helps in lowering the blood sugar level. Its anti-spasmodic property can be utilized to relieve abdominal colics. In olden days tulsi leaves were used to treat tuberculosis (TB). It has an action similar to the currently available anti-TB drugs like Streptomycin and Isoniazide. However, tulsi leaves alone are not adequate but should be used as supplement to these drugs. Oil of tulsi has been used as a potent anti-malarial drug. It also has mosquito repellent properties. It raises the human body immunity by increasing the antibody production. Experimental studies on animals have shown anti-stress activity with tulsi extract. Tulsi has anti-fertility effect by reducing the estrogen hormone levels in females and decreasing the sperm count in men. It is also used to treat ringworm of the skin.

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Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)


Posted by admin | Posted in Holy Basil | Posted on 19-05-2010

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Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is of the Labiateae family.  The leaves range from dark green to almost purple and have uneven edges.  They are small and very ornamental.  The whole plant has a green, woodland perfume and the leaves taste peppery, almost like a cross between ginger and mint.  The branched, erect plant grows up to 2 ½ feet high and has small, fragrant leaves.  It bears spikes of tiny purple or scarlet flowers.  It develops into a subshrub (the base becomes woody).

There appears to be some confusion about the status of certain forms of Ocimum called “holy basil.”  One form of basil has purple leaves and stems and this variety has brown seeds without mucilage while the all-green form has black seeds with a little mucilage.  According to Richters much of what is sold as ‘sacred’ basil is actually spice basil.  Holly Shimizu, of the US Botanic Garden, notes that in India spice basil has been accepted as a holy basil.

All basil grows well in light, well-drained, fertile soils.  The best substrate is a sandy loam enriched with well-rotted manure.  The plants have a relatively high nitrogen and water requirement but does poorly if the roots are in water-logged soil.  A pH tolerance range of 4.3-8.4 but it’s recommended at 5.5-6.5. It is susceptible to frost and cold temperatures so should be seeded or transplanted into the field in late spring after danger of frost has passed.  It can be cultivated as a perennial by continually removing the flowers and harvesting frequently.  It requires full sunlight.  Holy basil can be reproduced from seeds or by division. The best way of preserving it is to dry the leaves and seeds by wiping them gently and then spreading them thinly on a plate to dry in a warm, shady place.  The leaves are delicate so do not crush them or leave them to dry in the sun or they will turn black.  Store the dried leaves in a clean dry jar.  Any trace of water will produce a fine, cottony fungus on the herb.  Dried holy Basil is too fragile to sustain long period in the cupboard, so use up within 2-3 months.

Holy basil has been grown for nearly 3000 years in Indian gardens, courtyards and temples.  It is the most celebrated of the bails in history and legend and the most sacred plant in Hinduism.  It is the important holy “Tulsi” or “Tulasi”, considered to be a reincarnation of the wife of Vishnu, and a symbol of fidelity or pure divine love.  The plant is dedicated to the Hindu god Krishna and is therefore planted in sacred places.  When the British colonized India, they allowed Hindus to swear in court on holy basil, because they had nothing equivalent to the Bible. In Curacao, leaves of holy basil strewn on the bed or stuffed behind the ears are thought to induce a good night’s sleep.  Holy basil is a symbol of love and fidelity and is woven through many daily rituals.  Touching and contemplation of the plant are said to free an individual from sin.  Washing the dead with basil water is believed to assure their entrance to heaven.

The tulsi plant is venerated by all householders as a symbol of their love for Vishnu or Krishna. There are 3 myths that explain the love Hindus have for this ordinary, wild-growing plant. The Padma Purana says that Tulsi was a gift the Gods received from the mythical churning of the cosmic ocean. Another legend says that Tulsi was a tribal woman in love with Vishnu. The third legend concerns the marriage of Tulsi with Krishna, which is celebrated during the Tulsivivaha festival. The tulsi plant is a repository of devotion and love. Its leaves decorate any gift given in generosity. It is the abode of all deities. The parents of a bride give away their daughter in marriage together with a tulsi leaf, sometimes made of gold It also has great medicinal qualities and is said to purify the atmosphere around the home.

Next post will discuss its amazing medicinal aspects.

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