Chinese Herbs: Basil


Chinese herbs have been used for centuries. The first traditionally recognized herbalist, Shénnóng, is said to have lived around 2800 BC. There are roughly 13,000 medicinals used in China and over 100,000 medicinal recipes recorded in the ancient literature. In this blog post series, I highlight one Chinese herb and its healing properties: Basil.

While you might be familiar with basil’s use in cooking and think of it as the quintessential Italian herb, it’s healing history is much more complex and interesting. We often use basil in our Wilmington, NC office as part of a palette of traditional Chinese therapies, including acupuncture. If that is surprising, it is because many Westerners are unaware of basil’s role in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

As Paul O’Brien writes in his “How Foods Heal” column, basil has been cultivated in Asia for “over 5,000 years.”  Basil is a “cooling” herb, one that helps balance a body that has become overheated and led to an imbalance of qi. Qi, the natural energy flow within the body, needs to be balanced to ensure health and wellness, according to traditional Chinese philosophy. Since basil cools, it is often used as an herbal tea or topical antiseptic to soothe irritated skin and eyes. As O’Brien says, more recent Western medicine studies have revealed that basil has antioxidant properties and that enjoying naturally soothing foods like basil pesto “may be the fountain of youth.”

Do feel like you’re missing out on that fountain of youth? If your qi is imbalanced, illness can occur, so treatments like acupuncture and herbal remedies, including basil, aim to bring the body’s natural balance back into alignment. This can be done in a variety of ways, which is why I personally design an individualized plan for all the patients who visit our Wilmington, NC office. Call today to schedule your appointment with Acupuncture Associates.


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