Basil is a culinary herb, originally native to India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5000 years and sometimes know as Saint Joseph’s Wort. The name "Basil" is Greek and means King. It is believed that Basil may have been used by the Greek and English royalty for their baths and medicine. Basil is still considered the “king of Herbs” by many world renowned chefs. There are many varieties of Basil but the most commercially in cultivars is the Sweet Basil.
Basil leaves can be used in cooked recipes, either fresh or dried. Fresh leaves are added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. Fresh Basil leaves are also widely used in salads. The fresh herb can be kept for a short period of time in plastic bags in the refrigerator or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. The dried herb also loses most of its flavor, and what little flavor remains, it tastes very different. Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto, a green Italian oil and herb sauce.
Basil has religious significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, as it is used to prepare the Holy Water. Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks believed it would open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.
Basil is an excellent source of Iron, Calcium, Potassium and Vitamin C. It is renowned for its soothing and sedative properties and is useful to calm the nervous system and aid digestion. Basil is used for medicinal properties in Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India. Basil essential oils are traditionally used as supplementary treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes.