How To Use Fresh Basil in Four Surprising Ways

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How To Use Fresh Basil

I look forward to the time when our basil (Ocimum bacilicum) is ready to begin picking each year. We’re pretty close, so my thoughts have turned to all the wonderful things I’ll be doing with this versatile plant in the coming months. I think basil is one of those plants people tend to take for granted. I love to take a plant seen by so many as a mere seasoning herb, and reveal its medicinal side.

On our farm, we grow basil in between our tomato plants. It is a great companion plant and benefits from the small amount of shade that the large plants afford. All summer long I pick the leaves to put in fresh pizza sauce and to make a variety of pesto recipes. I also pick them to add to teas and household products.

How To Use Fresh Basil in Four Creative Ways

Here are some of my favorite ways to use basil:

Treating Acne

Basil is antibacterial. A basil tea, when used as simple soapless face wash, can be a refreshing way to banish break-outs.

Relieving Headaches

Basil is antispasmodic. Using fresh basil in a salad or sipping a basil tea can help relieve a headache. One of my favorite remedies for headache is a foot bath. I especially love to use lavender and hops. When I am visiting the house of a friend who isn’t quite as into herbs as I am these aren’t often available but I can usually count on them having basil in their spice cabinet.

How To Make a Basil Footbath:

  1. Heat 3 quarts of water till it is starting to steam (you don’t want it too hot).
  2. Sit your friend in a comfortable chair with their feet in a large bowl/tub/basin. It should be big enough that water will comfortably cover his/her feet.
  3. Add fresh basil to the foot basin.
  4. Pour in the hot water, being careful to test that the water is as hot as they can stand but not too hot.
  5. Wrap the top of the basin with a towel to keep in the heat.
  6. Massage, give a basil tea and/or cool cloth for the forehead, and most headaches will be history.

Relieving Nausea

Fresh basil in food or made as a tea can help to relieve nausea, motion sickness or morning sickness. Many references suggest that basil is not recommended during pregnancy. It can act as an emmenagogue (having the ability to start the menstrual cycle) when taken daily in a therapeutic dose. Occasionally using basil in food or as a tea does not constitute a large enough dose and therefore, it can be a tasty solution for the morning sickness sufferer.

Bug Spray for Plants

Every year I bring my tender plants inside during the winter. In the early summer when nighttime temperatures get warm enough everything gets to take a vacation outside. By that time some of them are struggling with a real bug problem. Basil is an easy, inexpensive solution and smells nice too!

How To Make a Basil Bug Tea

  • 1 quart water
  • 1 cup fresh basil (3-4 Tbsp dried basil)
  • 1 tsp liquid castille soap (find it here)

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and pour over basil. Cover your container and allow to steep until completely cool. Strain and add the castille soap. Place in a spritzer bottle and use against soft bodied, sucking insects.


About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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  1. Erin says

    Hi, I love basil! For the acne face “wash” do you make a new batch every time? I have gross acne and have tried using honey cleansing and more natural goats milk soap but it hasn’t seemed to improve much! Would you do this every time, or as needed? I really want a healthy natural way to fight acne! The benzoyl peroxide I almost have to use is harsh and bleaches clothing 🙁

  2. Dawn says

    Yes, that’s right! Pour hot water over 2-3 tablespoons of fresh basil. Make sure you keep the cup covered and let it steep for about 10 minutes.

  3. Kel says

    Likely a silly question from a beginning DIY’er; For the basil tea (not the bug spray version), do you just steep chopped basil in boiling water? Any specific basil to water ratio? Thanks for the great ideas!

  4. Deb says

    Since basil has a calming effect I use it as a sleep aid. I simply swallow about a half teaspoon of dried crumbled basil with a half glass of water. In about 10 minutes I am relaxed and ready to drift off to sleep.

  5. Becah D says

    For the plant spray-if I don’t have fresh basil on hand (it’s already been turned into pesto) could I use basil essential oil in its place, do you think? Or would it be too strong for the plants?

  6. Shelly says

    Basil is the first plant I ever used medincinally and I haven’t turned back. My son used to get his ankles bit by bugs in the yard and the itchyness kept him up at night. I bruised the leaves, wrapped them around his ankles and secured with sports wrap. The itchiness went away and they healed without itching again! I was sold!!!

  7. Ijaz Sharif says

    Lauren a 4% salve of Juniperus excelsa essential oil for topical application will good results. Juniperus excelsa essential oil is very good uric acid repellent.

  8. Lauren Joseph says

    Thank you for this info. I would request you to give me DIY remedy for gout or Uric acid.

    • Dawn says

      Hi Lauren, thanks for the idea! I’ll write up a complete post with several ideas and try to get it put into rotation in the next week or so. In the meantime, try a crampbark tincture (Viburnum trilobum or Viburnum opulus). It is one of my favorites for reducing uric acid levels in the blood.

  9. tameka says

    thanks for sharing this! for the footbath — how much basil is used? would any type of basil work in these recipes?

    • Dawn says

      This is a situation where a big handful will do ‘ya. You can’t overdo it. Yeah, I would probably use just about any variety with the same effect.

    • Betty says

      There is also a purple basil. I use to have some and lost it someway. I am sure I looked it up one time as the neighbor had it growing in her yard and didn’t know what it was and I told her I thought it was basil. I printed her out a picture of it. I will have to see if she still has some of it.

      • Betty says

        I will mark this site under my favorites so I can remember all the good uses for basil. Thanks