Basil as an aphrodisiac

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basil aphrodisiac

The generic name, ocimum, derives from the ancient Greek word, okimon, meaning smell, which suggests the impressive nature of basil's fragrance. The specific epithet, basilicum, is Latin for basilikon, which means kingly/royal in Greek. Similarly, the word basil comes from the Greek βασιλευς (basileus), meaning "king", as it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross. Henry Beston suggests that basil was so named for the regal "Tyrian" purple color of its flowers. According to Parkinson, basil's scent was "fit for a king's house". The Oxford English Dictionary quotes speculations that basil may have been used in "some royal unguent, bath, or medicine". Many authors suggest that basil's negative associations stem from the similarity of its Latin specific epithet, basilicum, to the name of the basilisk (or basilicus), the mythical serpent with the lethal gaze.

Basil has been associated with many legends and folklore, several of which have something to do with love and sex, the ones we are interested about.

For centuries, people said that basil stimulated the sex drive and boosted fertility as well as producing a general sense of well being for the body and mind. The scent of basil was said to drive men wild -- so much so that women would dust their breasts with dried and powdered basil. Basil is one of the many reported aphrodisiacs that may have the property of promoting circulation.

Basil's love symbolism isn't limited to India. It has been considered an aphrodisiac by some, is associated with the pagan love goddess, Erzuli, and is used in love spells. In Italy, where sweet basil is called "kiss me Nicholas," "bacia-nicola," it is thought to attract husbands to wives, and a pot of basil on a windowsill is meant to signal a lover. In Moldavian folklore, if a man accepts a sprig of basil from a woman, he will fall in love with her. As is typical for its folklore, while being linked to love and attraction, basil has also conversely been associated with chastity. In Sicilian folklore, basil is associated with both love and death when basil sprouts from the head of [L]isabetta of Messina's slain lover.

Basil has a long history as a medicinal and poisonous herb, some of which have been totally farfetched. The first mention of basil was by Chrysippus (pre-206 B.C.E.) who said: "Ocimum exists only to drive men insane". Parkinson, a seventeenth century author, claimed basil could be used "to procure a cheerful and merry heart". Other classic herbalists such as Gerard praised basil as a remedy for melancholy but also warned that too much basil dulls the sight and causes indigestion. Along with him, Culpeper claimed basil would cure scorpion and bee stings, and Gerard mentioned that basil could spontaneously generate worms if chewed and left in the sun. Basil was also reputed to cause the spontaneous generation of scorpions and to cause scorpions to grow in the brain. This connection with scorpions persists to this day in basil's association with the astrological sign, Scorpio.

The Greek physician Dioscorides prescribed basil for headache. Pliny thought it was an aphrodisiac; his contemporaries fed it to horses during the breeding season.

Today basil has been used as a sedative, an expectorant, and a laxative but it is not used much in herbal preparations today. Still, adding basil leaves to food is an aid to digestion. The essential oil of basil is used to treat skin conditions such as acne. In modern aromatherapy, basil is used to cheer the heart and mind. The sweet, energizing aroma seems to help relieve sorrow and melancholy.

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