Basil For Everything

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When you hear the word basil, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Well, I think of a caprese salad of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil leaves or a simple bowl of angel hair pasta with a pesto sauce. But would this herb be effective in the world of skincare, too? The answer is definitely, 'Yes!'

Basil contains antibacterial compounds that make it a good cleanser and has a scent that can sooth your stress and even your sinuses. The oils found in basil have also been proven to act as an anti-inflammatory agent as well. Basil boasts pro-vitamin A and vitamin K., both essential to healthy skin inside and out. The flavonoids in basil have been found to provide protection at the cellular level against bacterial growth. When paired with other essential oils, herbs and even fruits, basil becomes a well-rounded herbal remedy for body, mind and the soul. Today basil is becoming a stamp of quality and pampering in health and beauty products.

Basil extracts paired with mint are found in shampoos and can increase scalp circulation that is crucial for hair growth and re-growth. This results in lustrous, shiny hair that is more manageable and strong. Basil tea can be used as an after-shampoo rinse and will leave hair silky and the scalp feeling fresh.

Facial masks are being made with basil along with avocado and olive oil that will moisturize in ways you won't believe. You can make your own (of course!); it can be messy but well worth it.
Since basil is a natural astringent, it is found as a main ingredient in toners that are starting to show up on the shelves, but this, too, can be made at home. After cleansing the face, splash some of the homemade basil toner on, let it air-dry then moisturize as usual. Your face will appreciate it, especially if the air you live in is polluted. Before using a mask, try a basil face steam to open up and cleanse those pores

In aromatherapy, a basil essential oil massage is given to calm down the mind and get rid of tensions that have occupied the mind. It is one of the most rejuvenating experiences that can truly cheer the heart. Its refreshing aroma provides soothing effects and takes away melancholy from life. Basil pairs nicely with lemon or lime to tone and deodorize the skin so this makes a nice shower gel to get that morning started in the right direction.

I know some of you have basil in your yard. It grows so well here in Arizona since it loves warm climates. If you have an over abundance of it, try using it for some of my suggested beauty products. I have also provided a couple of my family's favorite recipes with basil as the Star Ingredient.

Basil Beauty Products

Shower Gel

4 oz liquid glycerin soap
20 drops basil essential oil
10 drops lemon essential oil

Put ingredients in 4 oz. plastic bottle and shake.

Basil Hair Rinse and Face Toner

This recipe can be used for both the hair and face.

Pack about three tablespoons into a sturdy mug and pound lightly with a pestle to bruise the leaves and release the oils. Put  in a cup, pour boiling water over the leaves and cover the mug with a plate or anything else that will keep the steam from escaping. Let the 'tea' steep until it's a clear, grass color, about 20 minutes. Strain and discard leaves. I use my coffee press for this; that way I can make more than just a small cup's worth.

Hair Rinse: shampoo as usual, finishing with basil hair rinse.

Face Toner: Splash face after cleansing but don't rinse off toner. Let air dry and moisturize as usual.

If traveling, you can take dried basil to use as a skin and hair booster. Pour about a cup of hot tap water over two teaspoons dried basil, cover, and let sit overnight for use the next morning.

Face Steam

Add a fistful of basil leaves and handful of mint leaves and heating them in a pot of water. Remove the pot from the heat when it starts emitting steam. Secure your hair with a band, take a thick towel over your head and bend over the pot with your eyes closed so that your face is fully exposed to the steam emanating from the water. Take the steam this way for around 3-4 minutes. Afterward you can apply a facemask. If not, splash cold water on your face or gently rub an ice cube wrapped in a cloth to close the pores.

Face Mask

Basil-Avocado Mask

Gently mash up 1-2 TBS of basil to release oils. Mix in half of a ripe avocado and enough olive oil to make a nice paste. Apply to cleansed face and leave for 15 minutes. Rinse with water or try using a basil toner you made yourself!

Basil-Egg White Mask

Put 1-2 TBS of basil leaves in blender or food processor. Process until the basil becomes a chopped mush. Put mush in a bowl and mix it with  a teaspoon of sea salt and one egg white. Rub onto cleansed face gently (the salt can be very abrasive so be careful!), paying attention to problem areas with acne or other blemishes you want to get rid of. Leave mask on for only 5-7 minutes; rinse with lukewarm water or some of that basil toner you made!

To have basil during the winter months when it doesn't grow as well or it's too expensive at the grocery store, try making pesto and freezing it. You can put the recipe in one container for the freezer, or put in an ice cube tray to freeze. Each cube equals about one tablespoon and can be used in future sauce or soup recipes.

Basil Pesto

2 cups packed, fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Combine basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. While food processor is on, slowly drizzle olive oil in opening until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container, cover and freeze up to 3 months. If using ice cube trays, place pesto in each cube and freeze overnight. Take cubes out of tray and put in freezer zip-loc bag, freeze and keep for later use. Each cube equals around 1 tablespoon.

How to Freeze Fresh Basil

If you want to save some of that extra basil and you're not interested in making pesto, you can freeze it (mixed with olive oil) to be used later.

Wash leaves very well and put in salad spinner. Spin them as dry as you possibly can. Lay them in a single layer on dry paper towels and leave until completely dry. If you don't have a salad spinner, just wash your basil leaves in the sink and dry them well with paper towels. Then do the same as if you had spinned them by laying them in a single layer on dry paper towels and leave until completely dry.

Put enough basil leaves in a food processor, using the steel blade, until the bowl is full, but not tightly packed. Pulse food processor with one hand and drizzle olive oil into the feed tube with the other hand, just pulsing until the basil is coarsely chopped. You should also make sure that all the basil is coated with the oil, which keeps it from turning dark in the freezer. I use about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil for each batch in the food processor when I'm making coarsely chopped basil like this to use for pasta sauce, soup, or stew recipes.

In freezing, transfer to airtight containers, cover and freeze up to 3 months. If using ice cube trays, place pesto in each cube and freeze overnight. Take cubes out of tray and put in freezer zip-loc bag, freeze and keep for later use. Each cube equals around 1 tablespoon.

And just for giggles I have supplied two favorite basil recipes:

Basil-Lemon Sorbet

4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup basil, fresh leaves and lightly packed
1 cup lemon juice, fresh
2 large basil leaves

In saucepan, bring water, sugar and basil leaves to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Let syrup cool to room temperature. Add lemon juice and refrigerate until completely chilled.  Strain liquid and discard basil leaves. Put half of liquid in blender. Add two basil leaves and blend until basil is completely incorporated and is the size of 'specks.'  Transfer to sorbet/ice cream maker. Follow manufacturers instructions to prepare sorbet.

After sorbet has completed its cycle, remove sorbet from freezer container and place in airtight container. Cover sorbet with plastic wrap, pressing wrap to surface of sorbet to prevent ice crystals from forming. Cover tightly and place in freezer. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. You can also leave the sorbet in the sorbet container if you want to take it to a friend's house. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap to surface and put in freezer until ready to transport. Wrap container in a large towel to keep it cold. It won't melt and it will be perfect for scooping later.

Caprese Salad

Many hot evenings, my husband and I have this along with a small green salad and it's all we usually need. This is usually enough for two people.

1 avocado, sliced thin
1 heirloom tomato, sliced thin
Mozzarella cheese, fresh and sliced thin; about 6+ slices
6-10 basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
coarse salt and pepper

Layer avocado, tomato and cheese slices, alternating each one, on a nice serving platter. Sprinkle sliced basil leaves over ingredients. Sprinkle olive oil and balsamic to taste. Salt and pepper to taste.