Basil, Ocimum basilicum, also known as Common Basil or Sweet Basil is native to India, the Middle East, and some Pacific Islands. The species and common names are derived from the Greek basileus, meaning king. It has been cultivated in the Mediterranean for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians burned a mixture of basil and myrrh to appease their gods. In India, basil was believed to contain divine essence, and natives chose this herb upon which to swear their oaths in court. In Elizabethan times sweet basil was used as a snuff for colds, to ease headaches, and clear the mind.
Basil tea is often used to help with nausea. Due to their anti-bacterial and fungicide action, basil leaves are used on itching skin, acne, and insect bites and are extremely effective in treating skin disorders.
An infusion of basil leaves and flowers has been used to stimulate dull skin and clear complexions. Basil has a toning and refreshing effect on the body. In oriental cultures, the soil of basil gardens is used as a mud bath to relieve skin ailments.
In hair care, basil stimulates hair follicles, increases scalp circulation, and promotes hair growth. The magnesium in basil helps protect hair from breakage, and its anti-inflammatory properties help soothe the roots. Basil adds luster to dull hair.