Cousin Plants – Basil Vs Holy Basil

Basil is widely known. Holy basil is not. However, lest you think you can just throw the idea of the latter away as just another one of those other definitions for the same thing, you should know that there are some big differences between these two plants. Basil is commonly used for cooking. In fact, there is very little else that it is used for. While it does have many beneficial health properties typical of most leafy green plants, it is not nearly as rich in health benefits, or in spiritual and cultural significance, as its “holy” cousin. Both of these plants go in the group Lamiaceae, which is to say the mint family, and yet they are still quite different. Basil has broad, dark, shiny leaves that are spread far apart. Holy basil looks like a clove with dull, hairy leaves that are grown close together.

The way in which people treat these plants is also quite different. Basil is seen as merely a culinary herb no matter where you happen to find it. Its “holy” relative, by contrast, is revered by Hindus. It has only been in the recent times that the plant has been used as an herb, for up until that time, and even now, where the common basil is found growing in herbalist shops, holy basil is found growing around the sacred temples and in shrines. It, unlike the garden-variety basil, was used in order to sanctify the dead, to purify important structures, or simply as part of a daily routine of meditation and prayer. It also has a very much higher concentration of essential oils and very important vitamins than its cousin.

For all of the differences between these two plants, probably the most glaring one is that basil is widespread, used everywhere and commonly known, whereas you would be hard-pressed to find a common person, at least in the United States, who would even know what the holy basil was. This sacred mint, while certainly gaining in popularity and being used more and more in medicine and in cuisine, is still gradually coming into the public consciousness, after countless years of being passed around only by Hindu priests, and used for a very specific number of things. Now, however, it is beginning to dawn on people that the number of things this plant can do will by far outstrip its closest relative.

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