Edition 72: October 2014
Essential oil of the Month
Love washed in tears
BASIL essential oil has been highly valued since ancient times for its medicinal properties to protect the body and mind from disease and it reigned so supremely in this role it was dubbed the ‘royal oil’.
Its botanical name, basilicum, comes from the Greek word Basilicos meaning ‘king’ or ‘royal’.
Basil was used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine. The Indian variety was known as Tulsi and was a much favoured herb and it is still a common household remedy used in Ayurveda for respiratory conditions such as colds, coughs and bronchitis. This sacred or holy basil species should not be confused with Ocimum basilicum.
Basil has also been used in China for its medicinal properties for many centuries, particularly as a remedy against epilepsy.
Dioscorides, the Greek physician, used to prescribe it for headache, while according to Pliny, basil was an aphrodisiac.
In Crete, basil symbolises ‘love washed with tears,’ and in some parts of Italy it is a love token.
Basil’s popularity soared during World War II, when spices became scarce. It has also been used against epidemics and fever such as malaria.
Those women who suffer from menstrual difficulties will find basil an effective remedy.
It is an emmenagogue, which tends to mimic oestrogen activity so it helps to induce and normalise menstruation for those who are irregular or scanty. Its antispasmodic properties help prevent menstrual cramps, either used in a massage, bath or as a compress.
Respiratory complaints are well assuaged by basil’s oil beneficial action on the respiratory system. It may be applied on the chest as a compress to relieve some of the symptoms of sinus infection, bronchitis, asthma, and allergies.
Its penetrating smell breaks up congestion obstructing the chest and sinuses and is thus very effective when it is used in diffusers to improve breathing ability in the home as well as restoring the sense of smell. It is a cooling oil that reduces fevers and fights viral infections when used appropriately. Treat a myriad of digestive problems such as indigestion, nausea, motion sickness, constipation and other disorders - even hiccups - with gut-friendly basil.
Burners and vapourisers: basil oil can be used for migraines, headaches lung congestion and to help increase concentration and clear the mind.
Bath and massage blends: it can help relieve gout and arthritis, as well as muscular and menstrual pains.
Compress for menstrual relief: Add five drops of Basil oil to a basin of approximately two litres of hot water. Soak a hand towel in it and apply to the abdomen or lower back as a warm compress, repeat as often as necessary, without adding more oil. Engorged breasts respond well to this treatment and it will also help to expel the placenta after birth.
Under the guidance of someone experienced such as a natural practitioner, it may be taken internally to relieve these conditions - in particular flatulence, excess gas and bowel pain.
Include this stimulating oil in a stomachic blend to be massaged into the abdomen to combat bloat and discomfort. It is believed to cleanse the intestines and kidneys through its antiseptic action. Basil oil is also a good source of Vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium.
Basil possesses excellent antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties to treat skin ailments, burns and wounds and can be used directly on the skin if it is very well diluted or used in a bacteria-fighting compress.
Skin conditions such as acne and eczema respond well to such applications. Add very small amounts to facial preparations for an effective and refreshing skin tonic, rewarding the complexion with brightness and energy.
It will also add shine and lustre to the hair if added to hair products. In perfumery basil adds a certain high note, lifting a composition from the mundane.
Insects do not like the smell of basil and stay well away which is why you should add it to your insect repellent blends. Add a small amount to lavender, citronella and cedarwood, diluting them well in a carrier vegetable oil.
If you have already been stung, basil is the best to relieve the pain and itching, with its antiseptic, anti-venom qualities. Rub it on mosquito bites, wasp and bee stings and even some snake bites to relieve irritation and eliminate the risk of infection from the skin puncture.
Basil oil is a natural analgesic and makes an excellent pain-relieving massage blend for arthritic joints and sore muscles. Combine with black pepper oil to increase its efficacy. It also helps to relieve gout by minimising uric acid in the blood.
Some professional aromatherapists will prescribe basil oil internally for infections of the bladder and other bacterial and viral infections.
Basil is also a good headache remedy, and it can be applied directly to the skin or simply vapourised about a room to help relieve severe headaches or migraines.
Enlivening basil essential oil energises both body and mind, cheering up the depressed with its distinct aroma.
Basil is a superb nerve tonic that acts as a neuro-regulator, treating nervous disorders such as anxiety while it dispels the lethargy and mental fatigue that seem to accompany depression.
This balancing property responds to the individual body’s requirements while assuaging stress-related headaches, migraines and allergies. It is said to revive fainting spells and paralysis.
The scent will clear a foggy mind, relieving intellectual fatigue, imparting mental strength and in this capacity serves as a useful study aid, enhancing focus, concentration as well as improving memory.
Combine in a blend with peppermint and rosemary for this purpose.
The effect of basil on the emotional system counters the destructive actions of stress and neural problems. It eases sexual difficulties that are emotional in nature.
Did you Know?
BASIL essential oil comes from North Africa, Cypress, Seychelles and Europe.
The elements that impart the characteristic flavour and aroma to basil are eugenol, (which also occurs in allspice and clove), methyl chavicol (also in tarragon) and linalool (clary sage and lavender.) The basil plant originates from tropical Asia and Africa but is now cultivated throughout Europe and the USA.
Basil helps raise low self-esteem, self-limitation and the need to judge and always be in control.
When the mind is weak and indecisive, choose basil to restore will and direction and sharpen the senses. It encourages us to accept responsibility for our intentions and to realise the reality that we are creating.
Basil generates enthusiasm for life, letting us release the unnecessary burden of anxiety.
Energetically, it opens the sinus cavities and throat chakra so we can breathe in life’s essence more deeply into the root chakra to help ground us; such stabilising increases our exuberance to live life more fully.
Use basil oil when you have chosen to live each moment as consciously as possible. Basil oil nourishes the kidney meridian to support being in the moment and release unresolved emotions and fears.
Botanical name: Ocimum basilicum
The Plant: The herb is an annual growing up to 1 meter, with flowers that range from white to pink, depending on the species and it attracts swarms of bees in summer time. Basil has a unique flavor and aroma and actually belongs to the mint family; the plant contains about 1 percent essential oil.
Scent: The aroma of basil oil is strong, crisp and peppery, even slightly spicy and gives a sweet, green top note to blends with an undertone that is lightly balsamic. Basil oil is extracted by steam distillation of the leaves and flowering tops, producing a transparent, thin fluid that is a light lemony or yellowish-green in colour.
Blends well with: Bergamot, black pepper, cedarwood, clove bud fennel, ginger, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lime, lemon, marjoram, neroli, sandalwood and verbena.
Therapeutic Properties: analgesic, antidepressant, antispasmodic, anti-venomous, carminative, cephalic, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, insecticide, nervine, stomachic, sudorific, tonic and stimulant.
Precautions: Although basil oil usually stimulates, in excess it can have a stupefying effect and should not be used during pregnancy or with babies. It can irritate a sensitive skin because of the methyl chavicol that it contains, which can cause burning or redness on the skin if it is applied without diluting it properly. A recommended dilution for such people is two parts of basil essential oil mixed with 98 parts of a vegetable carrier oil.
What Herb is That?
Bird food invaluable for the skin
WHEN TIMES are at their toughest, chickweed has always been there to come to the rescue.
Traditionally, chickweed was harvested as a vegetable and during hard times in history was an available free food.
But it was the animal kingdom that gave humans a glimpse into the medicinal benefits of the herb.
More than 30 species of birds are known to regularly consume the seeds as well as the young tops and leaves. During Elizabethan times, chickweed was an important food for falcons and caged linnets.
The custom of giving chickweed to birds is a very old one, for Gerard tells us: “Little birds in cages (especially Linnets) are refreshed with the lesser chickweed when they loathe their meat whereupon it was called by some Passerina.”
Pigs like chickweed and rabbits, cows and horses will eat it; sheep are indifferent to it, but goats refuse to touch it.
It can be fed to companion animals to assist in the expulsion of hair balls, and sooth the digestive tract and act as an effective and gentle laxative.
In China, chickweed is used as a cooling herb in fevers and to stop nose-bleeds and heavy menstrual bleeding. It was also given as a tonic to under-nourished children.
Medicinally, it was used for all cases of bronchitis, pleurisy, coughs, colds, hoarseness, rheumatism, inflammation, as well as weakness of the bowels and stomach, lungs, bronchial tubes and any other forms of internal inflammation.
Chickweed was recommended as a specific for hydrophobia and the juice, taken internally, for scurvy.
Culpepper calls chickweed ‘a fine, soft, pleasing herb, under the dominion of the Moon.’
The plant was chopped and boiled in lard to make a fine green cooling ointment, good for piles and sores and cutaneous diseases. Chickweed water is an old wives' remedy for obesity.
Chickweed supports a healthy urinary system by providing antibiotic activity for relieving urinary tract inflammation and cystitis.
Chickweed cools inflammation and promotes healing for external irritations and is the ideal topical application in the form of an ointment, cream or lotion and even as poultices due to its saponin content.
Chickweed lotion proves very effective for skin problems, burns, abscesses and boils.
Use it liberally for stubborn rashes, particularly when associated with dryness and itching, eczema and other skin problems. Psoriasis may also be treated with this amazing skin remedy.
Problems such as varicose veins, haemorrhoids, vaginitis and pruritic disorders such as nettle rash - called urticaria - can be helped by washing or taking baths in a strong chickweed infusion made from the fresh or the dried plant.
This emollient infusion will help repair and regenerate traumatised tissues on the body. The ability to reduce scarring on wounds is another notable attribute of chickweed which may be utilised in many herbal medications. It also has cell-proliferating properties, useful in speeding-up the healing process.
Chickweed’s anti-inflammatory properties effectively heal and soothe irritated internal tissues.
The herb contains relatively high amounts of vitamins and flavonoids, which suggests benefits for rheumatic conditions.
It contains fibre that is helpful for treating constipation and improving digestion when taken as a decoction.
The irritated digestive tract can also be treated using the chickweed herb, taken in small amounts, bringing quick relief from digestive pain.
This drink will also help with cough, sore throats and hoarseness and reduce mucus build-up.
Chickweed is used to treat a variety of respiratory problems, including bronchitis, chronic coughing and colds. The chickweed herbal roots are used for the preparation of decoctions which can calm hot fevers, especially those connected to physical weakness during a period of chronic illness.
The young leaves when boiled can hardly be distinguished from spring spinach, and are equally wholesome.
They may also be used uncooked with young Dandelion leaves to form a salad.
Fresh chickweed is a good source of Vitamin C. It also contains mucilage, saponins, silica, minerals, vitamins A and B and fatty acids.
It has a refreshing, slightly tart flavour and is excellent green in salads. Chickweed is taken daily to assist in weight reduction programs and is very useful in the maintenance of clear complexion and the management of skin cancers.
Chickweed is considered an alterative, which means it is blood cleansing and detoxifying.
It is effective when combined with burdock root for its blood purifying properties to be used in blood poisoning or tetanus situations.
COMPRESS: The aerial parts of the chickweed plant can be used to prepare a herbal compress; the hot herbal decoction or tincture can be used to soak a pad or piece of cloth. This compress can be applied directly for relief from boils, abscesses or painful joints.
INFUSION: Made from the fresh or dried plant, a strong infusion can be used in the bath to help problems such as varicose veins, haemorrhoids, vaginits and pruritic disorders such as nettle rash.
Botanical name: Stellaria media
Common Names: starwort, little star lady and star weed.
The Plant: The chickweed is found through much of the world, growing as a wild weed, though originally it is a native species of Europe and Asia The plant is an extraordinarily prolific spreading annual with small white star-shaped flowers, a slender tap-root and matted to straight green stems growing in profusion over vast areas of land. Its bright green, smooth, teardrop-shaped leaves grow in pairs. It can grow in extreme conditions and the plant is so hardy that it has been known to be resistant to the majority of weed killers used in agriculture. Whole above-ground plant (aerial parts) is used medicinally. It is used both fresh and dried.
Therapeutic Properties: Astringent, Anti-rheumatic, vulnerary, emollient, alterative, demulcent, refrigerant, mucilaginous
Precautions: No side effects with chickweed have been reported. The internal use of this herb is contraindicated during pregnancy.