Herb of the week: Sweet Basil

Sweet basil is commonly known as a culinary spice used to season Italian dishes like spaghetti; it is also a main ingredient in pesto. Did you know, however, that sweet basil can heal insect bites or stings? This common kitchen spice packs a powerful punch when it comes to healing skin and nourishing hair.

Sweet basil’s species name, basilicum, is derived from Greek and means “kingly” or “royal herb” due to the fact that is was used as an ingredient in salves for royalty.

Sweet Basil for Anti-Aging
Sweet basil has antibacterial properties and contains high amounts of Vitamin C and beta-carotene. Beta carotene is an antioxidant that protects the skin from UV rays when taken internally. This process is called “photoprotection.” Antioxidants are highly sought after in skin care products because they reduce UV ray skin damage which cause premature skin aging. In short, sweet basil can be effective with anti-aging.

Sweet Basil for Insect Bites and Stings
We’ve all experienced the annoying pain of an insect bite or even a sting. This is where sweet basil can help. Due to its antibacterial properties, applying sweet basil to the skin can help “relieve itchiness, swelling, and pain caused by insect bites or stings” (Gladstar). You can use fresh sweet basil in poultice and apply it directly to the bite (instructions below in "How to use section").

Sweet Basil for Hair Care
Here’s another reason why sweet basil is more than just a kitchen spice; it can be used to nourish your hair. Sweet basil naturally moisturizes and adds shines to dull, lackluster hair. It also promotes hair growth and protects your natural hair against breakage. You can use sweet basil in a hair tea rinse or add sweet basil essential oil to your prepoo treatment or scalp massage.

How to Use Sweet Basil

Fresh basil chopped

Basil Essential Oil
  • Add 5-6 drops to carrier oil and apply to scalp

Basil Poultice
  1. Mash a handful of fresh leaves until soft
  2. Apply leaves directly to the bite or sting
  3. Add fresh plantain leaves to boost remedy
Basil tea can be drank to:
  • Benefit dry and flaking skin (due to the beta-carotene content)
  • Relieve headaches and stress
  • Treat insomnia, depression
  • Ease digestive system, nausea, and prevents vomiting

This herb was featured in my Herbs for Skin and Hair Care Workshop in Indianapolis, IN. To receive information about future events, subscribe to my newsletter!

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Photo credit
Michalun, Natalia, and M. Varinia Michalun. Milady's Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary. Australia: Milady Thomson Learning, 2001. Print

Source: Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2012. Print.

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