Species: O. basilicum
Binomial name: Ocimum basilicum
Basil – The eugenol and rosmarinic acid in basil boost the brain’s production of dopamine and serotonin. According to Indian researchers, this could lead to sunnier moods in as little as three days.
There are three types of basil:
- Sweet basil
- Purple basil (less sweet)
- Thai basil (more licorice).
Basil is easy to grow. I usually plant it and then forget about it as it needs nothing else to thrive (except water if it is dry). Of course, it should be planted in fertile garden soil in full sun.
Plant spacing should be about 1 per square foot. I sometimes practice intensive gardening, or square foot gardening, and plant more per square foot, up to four plants per square foot. You will deplete the nutrients in the soil quicker this way as well as moisture. The plants will be a little more crowded and often will grown taller rather than wider. Production is increased, overall, with intensive gardening like this but you will need to watch your plants more closely.
When you see a flower head beginning to form pinch it out. This will prevent the plant from going to seed and make it continue to produce more leaves.
Basil is tender and does not handle cold at all. The plants will die with the first frost, or even before. Plant in the garden after the last frost date for your area.
Plant seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost in 3 inch or smaller pots or six packs.
Basil as all herbs is best when used fresh. That however is not always possible, such as in the winter.
- Freezing is the way to retain the most flavor during storage.
- Drying is good, but expect some flavor loss. I like to cut the roots off of the plant and then hang them upside down in a well ventilated area out of the sun until the leaves are dry. Once the leaves are dry crumble them and put them into an air tight container.
Basil improves circulation. It also reduces inflammation and cholesterol. It is a booster to your immune system. Basil can reduce stomach cramps, headaches and nausea.
Cilantro – The carboxylic acid in cilantro binds to heavy metals such as mercury in the blood and carries them out of the body. Their removal reverses the toxin buildup that causes chronic fatigue, joint pain and depression.
Four Health Benefits of Cilantro
Fresh coriander leaves are helpful to treat some skin disorders due to its anti-fungal, anti-septic, detoxifying and disinfectant properties. To get relief from hives, drink it as a juice or make a paste to apply to the skin.
Essential oils & rich aroma of fresh coriander leaves act as an excellent appetizer & helps to stimulate secretion of enzymes & digestive juices iin the stomach,. Thus, it helps to stimulate digestion & peristaltic motion.
Essential oils of coriander contain citronelol, a component which has an excellent antiseptic property. Additionally, other components of coriander (such as essential oil) have anti-microbial & healing effects which prevent the worsening of wounds & ulcers in the mouth. They freshen breath & hep in healing of ulcers.
Fresh cilantro leaves are good sources of oleic, linoleic, stearic, palmitic and ascorbic acids (vitamin-C), all very effective in decreasing cholesterol levels in the blood. They also decrease deposition of cholesterol along the inside layer of the arteries & veins, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack.
Cayenne – The fiery capsaicin in cayenne deactivates substance P. a neurotransmitter linked to inflammation. The result: less sinus congestion and pressure.
Often used as a sweetener, or for flavor balance, dill makes for a great tea or herb blend.
Dill – Indian scientists found that dill’s limonene works as well as prescription antibiotics at killing harmful intestinal bacteria such as E. coli.
Wild yarrow is often used for tea but any of the varieties are useable. Perhaps best in a blend, but again, this is personal preference. Yarrow is easy to grow and make tea.
Years ago there was a lot of chatter about stevia and it wasn’t all good. I guess it was being promoted as a replacement for sugar and many felt it had other side effects that made it a possible danger. I haven’t heard any more of this chatter over the years. I only mention it here because I always remember that when I hear of stevia.
Stevia is a natural sweetener. The claim is that it is 300% stronger than sugar cane is. Stevia is more often used to sweeten a batch of tea than to use it on it’s own, where you’ll find it simply super sweet. Try a few leaves in a mixture and see how it livens things up. You’ll need to experiment to your own taste. Overall the flavor is like licorice or anise and a frequent complaint is its aftertaste.
It may come as a surprise, since you always think of catnip to use inside toys for your feline friends but catnip makes a fine tea as well.
Catnip can be strong on its own and as such is often used in a blend. The flavor, or scent, often described as musky makes for a very soothing tea when blended with mint or chamomile or both.
Mint is very easy to grow and is a favorite for making tea as well as using for a spice. Mint can easily take over a garden as it is invasive when in the right conditions. Provide some shade in the hottest of summer sun as well as watching for it to dry out. It likes plenty of moisture but not to be over watered or constantly wet.
Mint is perfect for container planting as this will curb it’s tendency to take over an area yet allow it to flourish. Use a container as large as you need, or multiple containers, for the amount of mint you need to grow.
For tea you should try spearmint, peppermint, apple mint and chocolate mint as well as the commonly known mint itself.
Use the leaves and bruise them slightly to release the essential oils. If you are saving tea for the long haul dry them leaves first and then crumble slightly to facilitate release of the oils.
The flowers are used for making tea, and the German type is best for tea making. Provide lots of sun and a well drained and sandy soil is best. Chamomile can dry out though, so be prepared to compensate for the sandy soil with plenty of watering during the heat of summer. As the flowers fade and dry save them in an airtight contained. If you collect them and the are fresh, or have a noticeable moisture content, dry them on a flat surface with a little sun. Chamomile often self sows so you may easily have a new crop year after year.