You may think that the only thing basil can do is make a tasty pesto, but did you know that if applied topically, basil can soothe insect bites?

The scientific name is Ocimum basilicum, but common names are garden basil, St Josephwort and sweet basil.

Note, however, that research results on the safety and efficacy of basil is conflicting, and that strong recommendations cannot be made.

Traditional uses

  • Aromatic and carminative (stops formation of intestinal gas and expels any gas that has already formed)
  • Relieves mild nervous disorders
  • Relaxes muscles and smooth muscles
  • Can soothe insect bites if applied topically
  • Fights intestinal parasites
  • Basil is also a good source of antioxidants, so use in cooking is encouraged. These plant components help to prevent heart disease and cancer.

Interesting facts

Basil, meaning "be fragrant", is a member of the mint family and is native to Asia and India where it is considered sacred.

For medicinal purposes, a tea made with 1 to 2 heaped teaspoons of chopped herb per cup of water has traditionally been used.


Generally, the herb is regarded as safe. However, do not use the essential oil or medicinal concentrations during pregnancy, as safety hasn't been confirmed. Children and infants should also not take basil oil.

- (Health24, updated by Birgit Ottermann, February 2010)

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