Basil: The Ultimate Health Guide

Noodles with basil on bowl

Basil has been well-loved in many kitchens, especially in Italian homes and food havens. Wherever you decide to add it, basil will bring the A game on!

And there’s more reason to enjoy basil in your dishes because apparently, they are brimming with health perks, too! From preventing free radical damage to fighting depression and reducing cancer risk, basil proves to be an herb worth savoring.

Find out how consuming basil can rid you of oxidative stress, enhance your mood, and prevent you from getting sick. We also have yummy tips on how to add basil to your diet for you!

What is Basil?

Basil, also known as Saint-Joseph’s-wort, belongs to the Lamiaceae family, along with other nutrient-dense herbs such as mint, rosemary, and oregano.

Native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Africa, this aromatic herb is being enjoyed in various cuisines across the globe.

Since cooking affects basil’s flavor, the herb is usually added just before serving the meals. It can be placed in plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator for a short period. A longer duration will require a quick blanch in boiling water and the freezer for storage.

Basil: Interesting Facts

  • Basil has a lot of different varieties and each has its own unique aroma. As its name suggests, cinnamon basil smells like cinnamon with a hint of sweetness, while sweet basil comes with a clove-like aroma.

  • Basil comes in both fresh and dry forms. This herb is widely used in Italian cuisine, commonly enjoyed in pesto, salads, soups, and chicken dishes.

  • While it is popularly used in savory dishes, fresh basil leaves are also incorporated into ice creams and chocolates in some countries.

What are the Health Benefits of Basil?

Hamburger topped with basil

Basil not only boasts an amazing taste but an impressive nutritional value and health advantages as well. Let’s take a closer look at these generous basil health benefits:

Basil fights free radical damage

The rich antioxidant content of basil combats free radical damage, a known contributor to a number of chronic diseases such as cancer.

Basil’s powerful antioxidants – anthocyanins and phenolics – help to protect the body against oxidative stress that commonly causes the formation of cancerous cells.

Basil improves cognitive function

Cognitive decline is a growing health concern in the world today. Several studies suggest that including basil in your diet will help prevent cognitive impairment.

The herb is rich in manganese, a vital nutrient that stimulates brain function. One of its known brain activities is linked with mental reflexes.

Basil can help treat cancer and arthritis

Aside from essential nutrients, basil also contains beta-caryophyllene, a natural compound that was found to contain anticancer and analgesic properties.

One research concluded that this compound can be used in alternative therapies for cancer or combined with standard anticancer treatments.

Beta-caryophyllene was also discovered to reduce pain without psychoactive effects, making it a valuable treatment for chronic pain such as arthritis.

Basil aids in stress management

Basil is also considered an adaptogenic herb that helps combat physical and emotional stress. Basil intake has been thought to be useful in balancing the body’s functionality, especially in stressful situations.

Holy basil also helps to reduce the levels of corticosterone, a major stress hormone produced in the cortex.

Basil helps fight signs of aging

Known to be chock full of powerful antioxidants, basil combats free radical damage that contributes to skin aging. The antioxidants found in the herb help to minimize the adverse effects of free radicals, preventing the mind and body from experiencing oxidative stress.

Basil promotes healthy bones

Bone density loss often causes bone fractures and other bone-related injuries. Women have a higher risk of experiencing bone conditions such as osteoporosis than men.

Basil helps to combat this risk as it is also a rich source of vitamin K. This essential vitamin helps to keep the bones healthy and aids in the optimal absorption of calcium.

Basil boosts metabolism

Basil is also helpful in the body’s metabolism. The rich amounts of manganese found in basil also help to stimulate the release of enzymes.

This is particularly beneficial in metabolizing carbohydrates, cholesterol, and amino acids. Manganese also aids in metabolizing glucose-related vitamins.

Basil helps to alleviate premenstrual syndrome

Many women are suffering from painful premenstrual syndrome (PMS) during that time of the month. During these pain periods, basil consumption can help to ease mood swings, cramps, irritability, and fatigue.

The PMS-alleviating effects of basil are also attributed to its manganese content, as the essential mineral also supports the body’s hormonal function.

Basil boosts energy levels

Basil’s copper content plays a vital role in energy enhancement. Copper is important for the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate, an energy storehouse of the body.

While promoting optimal energy, copper also combats exhaustion and fatigue. Adding basil to your breakfast smoothie is a great way to jumpstart your day!

Basil helps manage epilepsy

Basil was also found to have antispasmodic activities, which are beneficial in relieving involuntary muscle spasm.

Known to treat various health conditions like bronchitis and rheumatism, basil was also found to have therapeutic use for epilepsy, parasitic infections, and neuralgia among others.

Basil has antimicrobial properties

The beneficial herb also boasts a broad spectrum of antimicrobial properties that help fight several harmful pathogens. These antimicrobial effects suggest that basil and its extract can be used as a water purifier, mouthwash, and hand sanitizer as well as in wound healing and food preservation.

Basil improves eye health

Basil is also a potent source of beta-carotene, a vital antioxidant that reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This essential antioxidant also converts into vitamin A, a key nutrient that promotes healthy vision, and helps treat dry eyes.

How to Add Basil to Your Diet?

Baked pizza with basil and cheese

It’s best to grab basil while it’s in season! And when you do, you can use it to take your dishes to a whole new level. Here are some of the yummy ways you can add basil to your diet:

Make pesto

What’s a pesto without basil? Pesto is the traditional route if we’re talking about the culinary use of this aromatic herb. Making pesto is also one of the best ways to consume significant amounts of this nutritional herb.

What’s more, preparing pesto is so simple! You only need a few key ingredients, a food processor, and some blending! It’s perfect for your pasta, but you can also add it to your salad dressings, sandwiches, and omelets.

Add basil to your sandwiches and salads

Give your basic salads a boost by tossing some fresh basil leaves into them. You can also use it as a substitute for or an addition to lettuce in your sandwiches.

Since it’s a versatile herb, basil can also be a great addition to your sauces, soups, stir-fries, casseroles, and yaaasss – pizza!

Spruce up your butter with basil

Adding herbs to your butter will definitely make it more flavorful and interesting! If you’re planning to make herbal butter anytime soon, look no further than basil!

It can perk up just about any dish because both ingredients blend perfectly well with veggies and meats.

Make a basil tea

Basil tea, anyone? Not a lot of people know that you can enjoy tea made of basil, but it’s no secret anymore! What’s more, drinking basil tea can help relieve an upset tummy and stress!

Remember, though, to use the holy basil when making this calming drink and not the common variant.

Create basil vinaigrette

Basil plus vinegar? Why not? There are many basil vinegar recipes available over the internet. You can pick any from these recipes, and enjoy your basil vinaigrette in your salads and other dishes!

Enjoy a basil-infused cocktail

Yep, you can add this nutrient-dense herb in your cocktails, too! Toss basil into berry-based or lemon-based drinks to balance out the flavors.

What are the Potential Risks of Consuming Basil?

Basil is considered safe for consumption when taken short-term in appropriate amounts.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women, meantime, are advised to avoid excessive basil consumption as the herb contains estragole, which was found to have caused cancer in lab rats. The same advice applies to children.

If you have bleeding disorders or are scheduled for surgery, it is best to avoid basil consumption. Fresh basil, as well as its oils and extracts, contain vitamin K, which has a major role in blood clotting.

Basil intake may affect the clotting of blood, and increase bleeding.

Since basil also has a potential role in lowering blood pressure, people with low blood pressure are advised to take caution as well.

It is best to avoid consumption and seek the green light of your physician first before consuming basil if you have this health condition.

Takeaway

As with all herbs, spices, and “superfoods”, it’s best to speak with your doctor first before adding them to your diet. While basil boasts an abundance of health benefits, it may interact with certain medications and health conditions.

When it comes to caring for your health, it is best to remain at the safe side, and seek professional advice before changing anything in your diet. If you’re generally in good condition, though, you can enjoy basil in your dishes and the health perks they come with, too!


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