Commonly referred to as basil, this extraordinary herb has been revered throughout the ages for its intoxicating aroma and potent medicinal benefits. You may have had the experience of rubbing just-plucked basil leaves between your fingers, inhaling its majestic panoply of intertwining scents and feeling instantly refreshed. It is no wonder that basil’s common name is derived from the Greek βασιλεύς (basileus), meaning "king." At once sweet and fresh, spicy and herbaceous, the mention alone of its name evokes precious memories of hand torn leaves destined for a fresh salad or pasta sauce, of timeless summer days and clear blue skies that seem to last forever.
An herb with a rich history:
Basil’s use as a medicinal plant is perhaps the best documented in the botanical kingdom, and its potent remedial powers have been cultivated across the globe for millennia. In ancient Egypt, basil was believed to have been used in embalming and preserving mummies, and has been found in ancient tombs beneath the pyramids. It was also thought to ensure a safe journey to the afterlife, a belief shared in Ancient Greece.
Basil’s use in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for all manner of prevention and cure is trumped by no other plant. In Indian traditional medicine, basil has been used for the treatment of anxiety, nerve pain, neurodegenerative disorders, as an anticonvulsant and a potent anti-inflammatory. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes speculations that basil may have once been used in "some royal unguent, bath, or medicine." Basil is still considered the "king of herbs" by many culinary authors, and in French is colloquially referred to as “l’herbe royale” - the royal herb.
Why do different basils smell so distinct
from one another?
Not all ocimum basilicum are created the same. There exist an estimated 50 to 150 different species of basil, with wide variations in appearance, flavor, and scent. The various basils - Thai basil, purple opal, lemon basil, African blue, Pluto, and others - have such varying scents because each expresses different aromatic molecules in its essential oils.
The strong clove scent of Thai basil comes from eugenol, the same compound that is found in actual cloves. The citrus scent of lemon basil comes from citral and limonene, which gives lemon peel its characteristic aroma. African blue basil has a strong camphorous smell because it is rich in camphene. Licorice basil contains anethole, the same compound that makes licorice and absinthe smell like anise.
What all basils have in common is a flexible and complex combination of linalool, myrcene, 1,8-cineole, and other aromatic compounds. Contemporary scientific studies continue to shed light on the organic makeup of basil, and how its components affect the human body. While formulating the PROTECT candle, we carefully evaluated the olfactory fingerprints of a dozen varieties of basil, and settled on a linalool-rich organic basil essential oil to take full advantage of the compound’s myriad therapeutic properties.
What are the benefits of linalool in organic essential oil?
Research indicates that test subjects exposed to linalool vapors show reduced levels of anxiety, and fewer depressive behaviors. In these tests, subjects exposed to linalool vapors were able to spend more time than their control counterparts in stress-inducing environments, and continued to work to solve difficult tasks.
Recent scientific studies indicate that linalool makes the immune system more resilient to the destructive effects of stress. Stress causes a shift in the distribution of white blood cells in the body. In this shift, the percentage of lymphocytes decreases, and neutrophils increase. Linalool has been shown to prevent this shift, and in doing so, prevents the stress-induced changes in the expression of our DNA - in other words, it has a positive long-term effect on our body’s ability to manage stress. Interestingly, the authors of this study reasoned that this protection was mediated by linalool’s ability to activate the body’s parasympathetic response, which is also activated when the body is at rest - fitting nearly poetically with linalool’s anti-anxiety effects.
Recent studies have gone so far as to suggest that linalool vapor may have pain-relieving effects. In one study, patients who underwent invasive surgery were either exposed to linalool-rich vapor, or an unscented control. Only 46% of the patients who inhaled the linalool vapor required post-operative opioid medication, compared to 82% of the control group. Further, the morphine needs of those in the linalool group were nearly half that of the control group, together suggesting that linalool can reduce the need for post-surgery opioid-based pain treatment.
It is little wonder that humans have long held reverence for this botanical powerhouse. We bow before the royal basil plant for perfectly embodying the simultaneous beauty and function of nature. Find basil prominently featured in our PROTECT candle, with notes of basil and sweet orange - the apotheosis of a deep breath.
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