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Basil - Nutritional and Cooking Uses 0708

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years ago
Basil - A Nutritious Plant for the Body?
Chelsea McDougal


Description and Rationale


    Malnutrition is a large problem here in the Philippines. There are many people in the Philippines that cannot afford to eat a nutritious diet. (Due primarily to the lack of eating healthy plants and vegetables. Therefore depleting many vital nutrients for the body.) The Filipino diet consists primarily of rice and meat. Although it gives the body adequate levels of protein and carbohydrates, it is missing many important nutrients, necessary to maintain a healthy diet. Children seem to be the ones most greatly affected by this eating habit. Studies have shown that between 6 months to 5 years of age, is the most important time children need in order to promote growth and brain development. A great plant that would give the right nutrients to these children, or others with low nutritional diets would be basil.


    What is basil? Can it be cultivated well in the Philippines? What nutritious values are in it? What are its uses? Can it be grown anywhere? Why grow basil instead of another plant? Do Filipinos already grow basil in their own homes? Are there benefits to growing basil, or is it just a pretty, fragrant plant to have in your home? Does it grow better in certain climates than others? Are there different types of basil to grow? Is it inexpensive to grow? Can they gain profit from the basil?


    Are there ways to incorporate the basil plant into the Filipino’s diet? Are there places within the “squatter villages”(low level income housing) where they can be grown? Are there cheap ways for them to eat the basil? How will basil benefit the Filipinos? Will it help prevent health problems? Will it help with the growth and health of Filipino children? If so, what would be the best way to communicate this to the Filipino parents and community?


    The initial purpose of this project will be to research the basil plant and how it can be grown and benefit the Filipinos. Through Internet research and firsthand observations and interviews with people who cultivate Basil, a compilation of facts about the basil plant, will help give a better understanding as to how it can help the Philippine community.


    The goal of this study is to see how the basil plant can best assist the Philippine community and health issues.



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Common Names and Synonyms


    Sweet basil (Ocimum Basilicum) is one of many varieties of basil plants. It is commonly known as Mediterranean Basil since it is often found and used in the Mediterranean areas. Other synonyms include Balaoni (Philippines); Albahaca (Spain, Mexico); Horapa (Thailand); and Basilie (US).




Kingdom:  Plantae

Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants that produce seeds enclosed in an ovary)

Class: Magnoliopsida  (comprising seed plants that produce an embryo with paired cotyledons and net-veined leaves)

Order: Lamiales (flowering plants whose seed typically has two embryonic leaves or cotyledons.)

Family: Lamiaceae (aromatic herbs and shrubs having flowers resembling the lips of a mouth and four-lobed ovaries yielding four one-seeded nutlets – mint family)

Genus: Ocimum (basil)

Species: O. basilicum (sweet basil)


    Sweet basil’s scientific symbol is OCBA.  There are at least six main other species under the name Ocimum which are also classified as a basil plant. Although there are still many more varieties, many have not yet been classified with a species name and acquire a scientific symbol instead.




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Morphology and Physical Description




    Sweet basil is a perennial herb that grows in warm tropical climates. When set in colder climates basil herbs act as annuals and need to be replanted each growing season. Sweet basil grows between 50- 80 cm tall, and 30- 60 cm broad. The stems are 5-10 dm long, sparsely to densely villous, meaning covered with villi, and are square and green. Leaves are 3-5 cm long, and 1-3 cm broad. Their shape is mostly ovate and pointy at the end. They have a bright green tint and a fresh, strong smell to them. Leaves grow decussate, or opposite of each other in pairs and are puberulent, or silky.


    Sweet basil is known for its strong scent. This fragrance comes from the different oils found within the plant’s leaves. The most important aroma oils are 1,8 cineol, linalool, citral, methyl chavicol (estragole), eugenol and methyl cinnamate. Of them, the main oils which produce sweet basil’s fragrance are 1,8 cineol, and linalool.



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Getting Food


    Sweet Basil is an autotroph and therefore gets its food through Photosynthesis. It also thrives off the water in tropical areas and the nutrients found within the soil. The best pH balance of the soil should be around 4.3- 8.2. Even if the soil is not within that range, it will not make a large difference. Basil has a vigorous root system and therefore can grow larger and faster and provide the plant with its needs. Sweet basil is best cultivated in climates between 7°- 27° Celsius. It develops best under a full sun with well – drained soils. Sweet basil can also be grown beneath more shaded areas, yet will not contain as many nutrients and oils within the leaves as would have if grown under a full sun. It is best grown in hot tropical climates (especially the dry season) and produces fast and efficiently.




    Sweet basil reproduces through entomophilous pollination. Entomophilous pollination is where an insect (butterfly, bee, beetle, or wasp) transfers pollen grains (containing the male gametes) to the plant carpel, or the part that contains the ovule (female gamete). Both the pollen-bearing male and ovary- bearing female are present on the plant. This then fertilizes the ovule so that it is able to produce fruit or seeds. The corolla then falls off and four round achenes (small fruit/seeds with thin walls) develop inside the bilabiate (two lipped) calyx. Since the pollen is heavier and stickier, it cannot be wind pollinated. The plant’s seeds can then be removed and saved or they can self- seed themselves. The only problem with self-seeding is if there are different varieties of basil present they can cross breed.


    Sweet basil produces small white flowers. These flowers grow in a terminal spike, or in clusters of six. Flowers are 5-parted and produce small black seeds. (These seeds can be both taken off of the plant and dried, or dried within the plant)


    In addition to seeding, sweet basil can also be reproduced through division propagation, or vegetative cuttings, which is taking a part or section of the plant and replanting it in a new area. These cuttings can then be placed within separate individual pots and grown into full new basil plants.



Environmental Factors


    Because of sweet basil’s strong smell, many bugs and insects that usually feed on green plants will not feed on the basil plant. Although there are a few pests: aphids, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, root- knot nematodes, slugs and whiteflys all of which will eat off of the sweet basil plant. Many of these insects are not found in tropical regions, except for leafhoppers (which spread viruses across leaves), and root- know nematodes (which attack the underground roots).  There are also some diseases, which affect the sweet basil plant. All of these diseases, Fusarium Wilt, Gray Mold, Root Rot, and Leaf Spot are all due to high humidity and low air- circulation. Sweet basil does also not need fertilizer. If it does get to much fertilizer it may in fact hurt the plant in that the basil loses some of its taste and smell. (This applies for not enough sunlight.) If sweet basil plant is in the shade to often, plants will contain blander taste and smell. It is also a plant where if you keep on removing blossoms and flowers, and harvesting leaves, the plant will not die for about 2-3 years and continue to produce more crops. You can also never feed sweet basil too much. It will eat anything that is given to it. (Compost, compost tea, animal manure, fish fertilizer, mulch, etc.) 


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Origin and Distribution


    Sweet basil is said to have originated  from Africa and tropical regions of Asia. It is now widespread over Asia, Africa, Central and Southern America. It is said to have first been cultivated in India. Although it is now cultivated in many Mediterranean and Asian countries, the main manufacturers being France, Egypt, Morocco, and Thailand.




Importance to People


Sweet basil is an excellent source of many key nutrients, particularly Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin C, and phosphorous. It is also a great source of magnesium, ascorbic acid, potassium, and iron.


    Sweet basil is a particularly good source of Vitamin A and therefore helps give strong eyesight, plus healthy skin and hair. Sweet basil also contains high concentrations of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, and these are then converted to Vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is known to also be an antioxidant and provides stronger benefits than Vitamin A. By being an antioxidant, it helps prevent cell damage caused by free radicals in the body. Free radicals have a natural presence in the body, yet when they get out of control, they begin to cause cell damage, which can lead to cancer. Many doctors and researchers are now claiming that the damage caused by these free radicals can be prevented through eating a higher antioxidant diet.


    The essential oils, leaves, seeds, flowers, and roots of sweet basil are also used for medicine. The leaves and oils have been shown to have antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enteritidis and Escherichia coli. They also have antiseptic activity and antifungal activity against many other common diseases such as Proteus vulgaris and Candida albicans. Traditionally and in many cultures these plants are used in treatment of headaches, coughs, diarrhea, stomachaches, and kidney malfunctions. Sweet basil’s leaves are also used to draw out the poison secreted by insects or bug bites.


    The sweet basil leaf also tends to have large aromatherapy uses due to the numerous chemical compounds found within it. Strong basil tea is used to relieve and soothe sore gums, or aid digestion. A basil leaf tucked into the mouth over an ulcer helps to ease the pain. It can also be put into baths, or the oils can be put onto body in order to relieve stress, or relax one.



Survivability and Endangered Status


    Sweet basil is not in an endangered status; because of its fast reproduction rates and its ability to survive in hot humid regions.


    There are variations as to whether to plant basil should be grown with other plants or not. Because of sweet basil’s vigorous root growth and ability to spread rapidly, it is best not to grow in companionship with fragile plants, or plants who do not have root systems as strong as sweet basils. It is said that when placed with other plants who usually attract bugs and insects, the basil will repel off those bugs, and in this way, keep the companion plant free from pests.





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Potential Solutions

    It is commonly known that the basil plant grows well in tropical regions and has many great nutritional aspects to it. So why aren’t any of the Filipinos using it? The basil plant has many important nutrients contained within it that are lacking in the Filipino’s diets. Below are many different ways in which the Filipinos could use the basil plant in order to get the best outcomes from them. Each possibility has an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each


Possibility 1- Extract Oils from Within the Plant.


    Extracted oils have great benefits. Because of the many nutrients and helpful oils found within the plant, it makes great fragrant oil. This oil can be used in either medicinal treatments, or as a perfume or soothing oil for the skin.




1.    Basil is a large source of Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps restore and moisturize the skin. It also includes beta-carotene which helps fight off free radicals from cell and tissue damage within the skin. Therefore by rubbing basil oil onto their skin, it would help restore their skin and keep it healthy.

2.    Because natural oil’s are quite expensive, Filipino’s could sell basil oil at a good high price and gain much profit from it.

3.    When the oil’s are burned it acts as a natural pesticide and will keep unwanted flies and pests away.

4.    It can act as a medicine and can be used in a number of different ways. It is antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal. It also has soothing properties and is also used for other common sicknesses (colds, coughs, headaches, stomachaches, sore throats).




1.    Since Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it stays within the fat tissues for a few days to six months. Therefore if taken in high quantity it will begin to store itself in liver and cause health problems.

2.    The process of extracting the oil from the basil plant requires some manufacturing. Many of which Filipino’s cannot acquire.

3.    Many different Filipino’s do not recognize the many medicinal properties of oils. If they were told them they may forget them quite easily and therefore would not use the oil for this particular use.




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Possibility 2 - Plant The Basil Plant Next to Other Plants


    The basil plant contains many oils within it ( 1,8, cineoul, linalool, eugenol, methyl cinnamate) which help give the plant its strong fragrance. This fragrance repels off many unwanted pests and insects. If the basil plant were planted next to another plant which had problems with bugs and pests, it would repel off those bugs and would help keep the companion free from pests.




1.    There would be no need for insecticide to be used. Instead of spending money on insecticide, the Filipino people could use the plant for this use, therefore saving money.

2.    They could sell the plant as a natural pesticide and it would cost them nothing, therefore being all profit.




1.    Because of the basil plant’s vigorous root system and its rapid growth rate, it would not grow well with other plants that are weaker than itself. It would over power other plants and eventually cause the other plant to die out.

2.    People may not believe the fact that a plant can be used as a natural pesticide and therefore may be hard to get them to start using it as one. It would also be hard for them to promote the product as a natural pesticide if it was seen as unbelievable.

3.    Since it repels off bugs it may repel of pollinators from the plant therefore not enabling the plant to reproduce.


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Possibility 3 - Create Cheap Recipes with Easy Ingredients (Action Step)



    If Filipino’s were given the plant yet not educated in how they could eat it, it would not benefit them quite as much. The recipes cannot be elaborate, expensive recipes either whose ingredients can only be found in some areas. I cooked two different recipes of which both included the fresh basil herb. The first recipe included fish stuffed with fresh basil, tomatoes, and onions. It was then seasoned with kalamansi juice, salt and pepper, and then grilled. The second recipe included a Filipino pesto recipe. Since the actual ingredients of pesto are to expensive for Filipinos I substituted in other variations of things. The recipe included grinding up fresh basil, peanuts, coconut oil, and cheese. Both were then served on top of rice and sampled by different Filipino people. I explained my project and talked about how basil was a nutritious plant, how it was easy to grow in the Philippines, how they could easily use it, and how I made cheap recipes from it that they could also make. I then had them decide on which one they preferred and then sign a recipe sampling sheet. Out of the five that I asked, three  preferred the fish with basil




1.    Through using cheap ingredients and a nutritious plant it gives people the right nutrients that they need, meanwhile also costing them about the same price that a regular meal without the basil plant would cost them.

2.    By giving these recipes to other Filipinos it helps them to eat healthier and to help raise their children in that way, meanwhile giving them the right nutrients needed for their growth.


1.    The Filipinos may not find a large difference between putting basil in a recipe and not and therefore may not feel an urge or need to use it.

2.    They may cook it in the wrong way so that the basil plant begins to lose some of its large nutrients.

3.    Some people may not like the taste of basil, or may not like the recipes and therefore think lowly of it and not care to use it in anything.


Biblical Rational


    Genesis 1:26- “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on earth.’” Genesis 1: 29a – “ And God said , ‘ See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth.’” God has so graciously given us all these things that are on earth in order for us to use them. We are to be in control of them and make good use of what God has given us. We were given a responsibility. And by fulfilling that responsibility and following God’s command we are glorifying God, which is our main purpose here on earth. 1 Corinthians 10:31- “ So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Peter 4:11- “Whoever serves, [let him do it] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and dominion forever.” It is so awesome that we can glorify God through his creation. That by taking care of what he has given us and being good stewards of what he has given us will reflect his own glory. Even his creation shows God’s glory. Habakkuk 2:14- “ For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”  I would love to be part of sharing the glory of God to other people through plants and God’s creations. God wants us to take responsibility of the task that he has given us and not abuse it, but use it to our best abilities. Through doing this we are also glorifying God. 





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