Natural Health Tips

Ibn al-Qayyim: Healing Through the Sweet-Scented Plants Myrtle and Basil

Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned the health benefits of plants with a sweet scent, in his Prophetic Medicine. He described how two scented plants, myrtle and basil were beneficial for the body.

Ibn al-Qayyim said that myrtle had cleansing properties and was beneficial for the head and haemoptysis (coughing up blood). He mentioned that the leaves of the myrtle plant could be crushed with vinegar and used to stop a nosebleed, or that the dried leaves when crushed were beneficial for ulcers. He also said the plant could strengthen weak organs and when it was rubbed on the body, it dried out excess moisture and sweat, and dispelled odor from the armpits. Another benefit he mentioned was that it reduced hair loss and darkened the hair.

Ibn al-Qayyim said that the sweet-scented basil was beneficial for headaches when inhaled, and that it could help to aid sleep, control diarrhea, calm the stomach, and strengthen the heart.

What Is myrtle?

Myrtle (Myrtus) is a species of flowering plants, which are usually shrubs or small trees. It has fragrant leaves and essential oil is extracted from them. Myrtle is usually grown as an ornamental garden shrub, which produces flowers and berry-like fruits in the summer. It can also be clipped to form a hedge.

What Is basil?

Basil (Ocimum basilicam) is a herb belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae). There are many varieties of basil, differing in shape, size and color. It is usually grown for culinary purposes.

Basil is rich in rosmarinic and caffeic acid, two phenolic compounds with strong antioxidant properties. Other phytochemicals in basil include orientin and vicerin, flavonoids that protect cells from damage, oils such as camphor and 1,8-cineole, that have antibacterial properties, and carotenoids such as Beta-carotene.

Health Benefits of Basil

  • Anti-adhesion Basil has been shown to make platelets, a component of red blood cells, less "sticky"- a process that may reduce the chance of blood clots forming.

  • Immune Response A study showed that rats that were given a particular variety of basil, holy basil, had decreases in immune responses to allergens.

  • Antibacterial Properties Oil of basil has demonstrated strong antibacterial properties, even with antibiotic-resistant types. It has been found particularly effective in killing harmful bacteria found in produce.

Tips on Using Basil

  • Choose leaves that are bright green and free from any brown or yellow spots.

  • Fresh basil can be prolonged by placing stems in water on a windowsill. Sprigs should remain fresh for at least a week.

  • When stored in a cool, dark, dry place, dried basil should last for up to six months.

  • Add basil to tomato sauces, stir fries, pasta, etc just before serving.

References

  • Mediratta PK, Sharma KK, Singh S. Evaluation of immunomodulatory potential of Ocimum sanctum seed oil and its possible mechanism of action. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002 Apr; 80(l):15-20.

  • Opalchenova G, Obreshkova D. Comparative studies on the activity of basil - an essential oil from Ocimum basilicum L.- against multidrug resistant clinical isolates of the genera Staphylococcus, Enterocuccus and Pseudomonas by using different test methods. J Microbiol Methods. 2003 Jul;54(1):105-110.

  • Tohti I, Tursun M, Umar A, Turdi S, Imin H, Moore N. Aqueous extracts of Ocimum basilicum L. (sweet basil) decrease platelet aggregation induced by ADP and thrombin in vitro and rats arterio-venous shunt thrombosis in vivo. Thromb Res. 2006 Feb 7; 118(6):733-739.