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Basil History

Basil was used to embalm ancient Egyptian mummies

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Basil

© 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
Basil is one of the most widely-used herbs in the world. With so many varieties from which to choose, it is no wonder. From pesto to spaghetti sauce to dessert treats, basil runs the gamut in the kitchen.

Basil History

A member of the large mint family, basil is known botanically as Ocimum basilicum. It has long been used as an embalming and preserving herb, found in mummies of ancient Egypt. Perhaps because of its embalming usage, basil was also a symbol of mourning in Greece where it was known as basilikon phuton, meaning magnificent, royal or kingly herb.

Most likely basil is native to India, but there are some indications it may have originated even farther east. Ancient records from 907 A.D. indicate sweet basil in the Hunan region of China. It migrated westward as whole plants, since it could be grown easily indoors away from frost exposure. Basil is also known as St. Joseph's wort.

Today, basil is not only used as a food flavoring, but also in perfumery, incense, and herbal holistic remedies.

More about Basil and Basil Recipes:

Basil Selection and Storage
Basil Cooking Tips
Basil History
Basil Lore and Legends
Basil Recipes
Basil Photo © 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

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The Herbfarm Cookbook
The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices
The Spice and Herb Bible
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