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One plant that I often forget to mention is growing in my garden is basil. It’s just so well-behaved, and I hardly have to pay it any mind, so I sometimes forget it’s there. This year I have only one variety, but I have grown as many as six different types of basil, including sweet, purple, lime, lemon, cinnamon, and Thai basil.

After spending a little time researching this fragrant garden resident, I will never take it for granted again and wholeheartedly believe it belongs in an apocalyptic garden. This herb has been around since ancient times. The Egyptians used in as part of the burial process, the Greeks used it for its medicinal properties, and there are more than 35 varieties.

Here are the top five reasons basil is a must-grow:

Good for the Gut
Hidden inside the seeds and lush green leaves of the basil plant is a chemical compound called eugenol. This magical elixir has anti-inflammatory properties that can actually help to calm an upset stomach, settle acid reflux, and even cure a case of …begging your pardon…the farts.

You can either chew on fresh leaves or brew a tea by steeping fresh leaves in some hot water. And honestly, a couple of crushed leaves in a glass of water, lemonade, or, ahem, wine, sounds super refreshing, don’t you think?

Perfect for a Facial
You’ve been working all day. You’re sweaty, dirty, and all you want is a hot soak and a little TLC for your tired skin. Basil to the rescue. The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties found in basil are actually great for your skin. They can help to draw out impurities and calm or prevent acne breakouts.

Make a paste with a handful of fresh leaves and apply like a facial for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse. You could also distill your own essential basil oil and add a drop or two to some jojoba or coconut oil for a spot treatment.

Mosquitoes Hate It
Along with a handful of other fragrant herbs like lavender, mint, rosemary, and lemon balm, basil can be part of a chemical-free natural mosquito barrier. The same scent that drives me batty with desire for pasta is apparently very off-putting for the little blood suckers.

And since basil grows fantastically in pots, you can grow it where you need it.

Fights and Prevents Infections
Many of the same properties that make basil good for heading off skin breakouts, also makes it useful in fighting infection, both when ingested and when applied topically. A little basil paste applied to minor cuts and scrapes can help to disinfect and prevent infection.

And basil has long been used as a natural remedy for fighting off colds. In fact, according to a study published in 2013, basil oil proved effective in inhibiting growth of many strains of multi-drug resistant E-coli. (Holy Toledo, Batman! How cool is that?)

If you feel a cold coming on, try eating three or four leaves or brew some tea, and repeat every few hours.

Duh…It Tastes Amazing
Maybe it’s just me, but just the smell of basil has me daydreaming about pasta, pizza, and stir fry. I mean really, nothing else smells quite like it and whether it’s made into a pesto, eaten whole in a Caprese salad, stirred in to season a bright tomato sauce, or chopped into salad greens, eating it just makes me feel good. Turns out, it’s a source of Vitamin A and K, and a whole slew of antioxidants, so it’s nutritionally good for you too.

So, plant number one for your apocalyptic garden? One that is both practical and delicious? Basil in any one or more of of its many fragrant varieties.

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