Ocimum basilicum var. basilicum
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Exotic basil (Ocimum basilicum var. basilicum) is an annual plant of the Lamiacea family native to Asia.
There are more than a hundred varieties of basil, including "camphor basil" and "holy basil". All species are highly fragrant. Thirty to fifty centimetres high, exotic basil has branching and hairy square stem that often becomes woody. The dark green leaves are small, oval and lanceolate. The white or pinkish flower spikes are grouped along the stems and appear in summer. The seeds are black, fine and oblong. The name basil is derived from the Greek basileus (king) and indicates its royal plant quality. It suffered from homonymy in Antiquity. Pliny who recommended it against epilepsy, confused it with the fabulous serpent, basilisk, and stated that if one placed pieces of the plant under a stone exposed to the sun this formidable reptile will eventually come out. He assigned to basil numerous properties and aphrodisiac qualities: "it is for this reason that it is introduced in the vulva of jennies at mating time". Basil is always presented as an ornamental and medicinal plant in the West. The Italian Mattioli, physician and botanist, observed in the 16th century: "There are few gardens or windows which are not covered with basil in wooden crates or terracotta pots. "In India, where mysticism goes hand in hand with gastronomy, the plant is dedicated to the wife of Vishnu and has a religious status.
Cultivation and production
Exotic basil is cultivated in Madagascar; in its different species, it thrives all throughout the Mediterranean basin where it is included in many recipes. In France, it becomes "sauce basil" and in the South "pistou" from the Niçois verb meaning "pound", because it is pounded in a mortar to turn it into a paste used in cooking. In Sub Saharan Africa it is given to children as a vermifuge or used against migraines.
/ Exotic basil has a herbaceous and fresh odour with an anise note not found in "common basil" used traditionally for cooking.
Extraction and yield
Essential oil of Ocimum basilicum is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves and flowers. The yield of the order of 0.1%, is of one hundred grams of essential oil per one hundred kilograms of plant.
Essential oil of basil contains monoterpenes, monoterpenols, sesquiterpenes, oxides and ketones, among others, however its essential component is a phenol-methylether, methyl-chavicol or estragol (approximately 80% to 90%).
Essential oil of basil is a powerful antispasmodic: it is very effective against menstrual pain. It is also a nervous system regulator. It treats all depression and fatigue conditions as well as spasmophilia. On a digestive level, it soothes spasms (hiccough) and gastric or enteric pains.
Camphor basil (Ocimum canum camphoriferum), Eugenol-containing holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum eugenoliferum), lettuce leaf basil, Genovese basil, small-leaf basil.
Excerpts from the book « Aromatherapia – Tout sur les huiles essentielles », by Isabelle Pacchioni. Aroma Thera Editions.