Basil is a much-loved and very often-used herb these days, but clearly Culpeper and his antecedents thought it a herb that was only to be used with caution, if at all.
The greater or Ordinary Bazil rises up usually with one upright stalk, diversly branching forth on all sides, with two leaves at every joint, which are somewhat broad and round, yet pointed, of a pale green colour, but fresh; a little snipped about the edges, and of a strong healthy scent. The flowers are small and white, and standing at the tops of the branches, with two small leaves at the joints, in some places green, in others brown, after which come black seed. The root perishes at the approach of Winter, and therefore must be new sown every year.
Place. It grows in gardens.
Time. It must be sowed late, and flowers in the heart of Summer, being a very tender plant.
Government and virtues. This is the herb which all authors are together by the ears about, and rail at one another (like lawyers). Galen and Dioscorides hold it not fit to be taken inwardly; and Chrysippus rails at it with downright Billingsgate rhetoric; Pliny, and the Arabian physicians defend it.
For my own part, I presently found that speech true:
Non nostrum inter nos tantas componere lites
(‘It is not ours to settle such disputes between us’; interestingly Culpeper didn’t translate this.)
And away to Dr. Reason went I, who told me it was an herb of Mars, and under the Scorpion, and perhaps therefore called Basilicon; and it is no marvel if it carry a kind of virulent quality with it. Being applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it; Every like draws his like. Mizaldus affirms, that, being laid to rot in horse-dung, it will breed venomous beasts. Hilarius, a French physician, affirms upon his own knowledge, that an acquaintance of his, by common smelling to it, had a scorpion bred in his brain. Something is the matter; this herb and rue will not grow together, no, nor near one another: and we know rue is as great an enemy to poison as any that grows.
To conclude; It expels both birth and after-birth; and as it helps the deficiency of Venus in one kind, so it spoils all her actions in another. I dare write no more of it.