Basil : Sweet or Spicy – which is your pick?

In India, it is believed that that no disease will visit a house, which has Tulsi plant at its doorstep.

This could be because of its power of purifying the atmosphere and that it acts as a de-polluting agent for the atmosphere. The sanctimonious or holiness of the Basil is the instant reference that comes to mind to anyone who mentions 'Basil'. This is why most Hindu households in India will have a Tulsi plant in the courtyard.

Of course, the more popular use of Basil is in food. If you are an Italian food lover, you will know that Italians love their basil and use it in almost all their preparations. Be it a Pasta, a Pizza, a salad or even a refreshing lemonade, basil is an ubiquitous ingredient found. Its flavour has hints of mint and clove and therefore, adds a spicy and peppery note.  Avid Thai foodies will know that both dried and fresh tulsi leaves are used especially in meat preparations. In India, a few sprigs of tulsi are added to tea, juices etc. Tulsi leaves are also a go-to home remedy  to cure cough and cold.

Let's now get to understanding the herb better?

Basil is part of the mint family; and there are more than 40 varieties across the world.  Ocimums are important groups of aromatic and medicinal plants which yield many essential oils and aroma chemicals and find diverse uses in perfumery, cosmetic industries and in medicine systems like Ayurveda.  Native to India, primarily, we find Basil (Ocimum basilicum) and Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum). Basil varieties all have strong flavor and aroma with the leaves emitting their characteristic scent.

Ocimum basilicum also known as Sweet basil, French basil or Common basil grows across India, most abundantly in northern part of India.

Basil leaves are deep green and tend to be smooth with smooth edges having typically, white coloured flowers. The oil from Basil is pale-yellow in colour, with odour that is floral yet has a spicy note.

With methyl chavicol as a major component, Basil oil is significantly rich in nutrients and has anti-oxidant properties.

Ocimum sanctum or Holy Basil (Sacred Basil) is a biennial or triennial shrub, mostly growing in South India.

The leaves of holy basil are shaded green in color with reddish/purple appearance, and they are coarse to the touch, with rigged edges. The flowers are lavender in colour.

The growing areas are lesser and the herb finds use as such for its religious use; hence less herbage is available for production of Holy Basil oil; this makes the price much higher than common Basil oil. Holy Basil oil is pale yellow in colour and has a characteristic sweet fragrance.

The major components in the essential oil are eugenol, eugenol, methyl ether, carvacrol etc. It has a high potency as a drug and used to treat colds, cough and prevents inflammation. It is considered a holy plant in India and known to ease stress.

Both essential oils and extracts of Basil are used as flavouring agent in food, cosmestic and as ingredient in traditional medicine. Basil extract is made by solvent extraction of the dried leaves of basil.  It is a greenish brown powder with a pleasant aroma and a sweet and delicate taste. Its application in the food industry is minimal  (herbal tea, to flavour sorbet and ice cream, etc). It is used in pharma industry to cure infections, acne, mouth ulcers, etc. Another area where it is used is the dental field, where it is used to treat bad breath, bleeding gums, tooth decay, etc.

BHOOMI offers essential oils and extracts of BASIL and HOLY BASIL.  

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