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Cooking With Basil

Basil Ocimum Basilicium

A medicinal herb as well as a sweet, pungent culinary seasoning, basil is native to India, but is now grown in temperate regions all over the world. Basil is one of the most familiar herbs because it is widely used in Italian cuisine, particularly in tomato-based dishes. But it also complements many other foods, including meat, poultry, salads and soups. This is fortunate because not only does basil enhance the flavor of foods, it also aids digestion.

Indeed, this popular herb has a long history of medicinal use. In past centuries, the basil plant was accorded wide respect for its healing potential and was used to purify the mind, open the heart and even cure malaria. Today, herbalists recommend basil as an antispasmodic. It is therefore often used to treat intestinal problems, motion sickness, flatulence and nausea.

It also relaxes bronchial spasms and is thus helpful for treating various respiratory illnesses. A cooling beverage that does double duty as an appetite stimulant can be made from basil seeds. Use organic seeds or those that come from plants you've grown, because the seeds that are sold commercially may be chemically treated. To obtain basil seeds, let a few plants flower; once the blossoms fall off, you'll easily be able to gather them.

To make the drink, mix 1 tbsp. of seeds with 1 cup of non-sparkling mineral water or another beverage. Let the seeds soak in the liquid for a few minutes before drinking.