USES.—All three species possess a characteristic camphoraceous odor and are commonly grouped under the one name, albahacas (sweet basil). Some natives call them solasi and others balanay, but many are able to distinguish the various species correctly. All three have analogous properties, but the most widely used is the O. basilicum. These properties are stimulant, diaphoretic, and expectorant, and the infusion is used commonly for flatulent colic and painful dyspepsia. The dry powdered leaves of the O. sanctum are taken as snuff by the natives of India in the treatment of a curious endemic disease characterized by the presence of small maggots in the nasal secretion; this disease is called peenash, and possibly exists in the Philippines though I have never encountered it.
Martins states that in Brazil they use a decoction of the mucilaginous leaves of the O. gratissimum in the treatment of gonorrhoea and Dr. Waitz highly recommends a strong decoction of these leaves for the aphthæ of children, which he claims to have cured by this means after all European drugs had failed. This fact and the action of the snuff above mentioned, demonstrate the antiseptic properties of the plant, due doubtless to its abundant aromatic principles.
O. basilicum contains a green essential oil, very aromatic, becoming solid; it is a sort of camphor (C20H166HO, Raybaud) and crystallizes in 4-faced prisms.
All the plants are used to prepare aromatic baths for cases of atrophy and debility in children (Waitz) and for the treatment of rheumatism and paralysis.
BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—O. gratissimum is a plant 2–3° high, stem straight, downy. Leaves medium lanceolate, finely serrate from the middle upwards, with short hairs and transparent dots. Flowers in long terminal racemes. Calyx, upper lip horizontal, round; lower lip 3 pointed parts, the middle one subdivided in two. Corolla yellowish, inverted, one lip cleft in 4 obtuse lobes; the other longer, narrow, serrate. Stamens didynamous, 2 shorter. Anthers semilunar. Stigma bifid.
The O. Americanum has leaves lanceolate, ovate, acute, full of pores, somewhat downy. It is more fragrant than the other species and its flowers are bluish-white in racemes.
The O. sanctum is the most sacred plant of the Hindoos, dedicated to Vishnu; its branches are wavy or cauliflexuous, leaves obliquely ovate, obtuse, serrate, nearly glabrous.
HABITAT.—All species are very common and universally known.
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