Basil health benefits are truly impressive! Basil (Ocimum basilicum), also called Saint Joseph’s Wort, is a herb that comes from the mint family Lamiaceae. Basil is a versatile and commonly used aromatic herb. It’s an annual plant that is really easy to grow from seed, however, it is very sensitive to cold.
Basil health benefits are widely spread and many people around the world are using this herb regularly in preparing various meals. Basil is best known for its use in Italian cuisine – it’s the main ingredient in pesto sauce. Moreover, basil is also commonly used Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian cuisine.
The word “basil” comes from the Greek word “basileus” that means “king”. Actually, there are many different beliefs linked with this aromatic herb. In Jewish folklore, this herd is believed to give strength while fasting, and the French refer to basil as l’herbe royale (the royal herb). Basil health benefits are also used for medical purposes 1 .
There are different types of basil that actually differ in smell and taste. The most commercially available basil that is used in Italian food, known as sweet basil, has a strong clove scent due to its high concentration of eugenol (a potent chemical agent). Whereas lemon and lime basil have a strong citrus aroma because of their high concentration of limonene.
Basil, as well as some other similar herbs, have essential oil compounds, which help the plant protect itself from certain predators like rodents, bugs, and from bacteria in the soil. What’s interesting is that when we ingest these defensive oils, we experience related benefits: a protection from diseases and boost in immunity 2 . So, here are some of the most impressive basil health benefits:
- Reduce Swelling and Inflammation
- Rich in antioxidants
Ethanol extract Osimum basilicum have more antioxidant activities than regular antioxidants, according to results of a research published in the Journal of Advanced Pharmacy Education and Research 5 6 .
- Anti-aging properties
Basil has properties that may help prevent the harmful effects of aging, according to research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference 7 . Holy basil extract was effective at preventing damage and killing off harmful molecules caused by free radicals in the heart, brain, and liver.
- Fights Cancer
Some clinical studies show that this herb contains phytochemicals that can help naturally prevent cancer, such as chemical-induced skin, oral, lung, and liver cancers 8 9 . Basil can increase antioxidant activities and stop cancerous tumors from spreading.
- Reduce Stress
- Fights Depression
Basil health benefits also apply to people with mental disorders or mood-associated conditions, including anxiety and depression. This herb is also considered as an antidepressant because it can positively impact the function of the brain, helping stimulate neurotransmitters that control the hormones responsible for making us energetic and happy.12
- Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food, basil could help the muscles that stimulate blood vessel function to contract and unwind, promoting normal blood pressure. Health benefits of basil include its abilities to prevent harmful platelet aggregation, plodding together of blood platelets, which can form a clot in the arteries and thus, cause cardiac arrest.
- Helps Detoxify the Body and Supports Liver Function
According to a research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, rats that consumed basil extract over a period of 5 days experienced significant improvement in producing detoxifying enzymes, greater antioxidant defense, and a reduction of fat build-ups in the liver, which can cause liver disease.13
- Improves Digestion
This herb helps balance acid in the body and restore the proper pH level in the body. This can improve immunity and digestion by helping “good” bacteria flourish in the gut microflora, while also eliminating “bad” bacteria that could cause disease.
Moreover, basil has been also traditionally used to help reduce water retention and bloating, loss of appetite, acid reflux, stomach cramps, and even to destroy stomach parasites or worms.
Basil Nutrition Facts
Basil is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Nutritional value of basil per 100 grams (3.5 oz.):14
- Energy: 94 KJ (22 kcal)
- Protein: 3.15 g
- Dietary fiber: 1.6 g
- Fat: 0.64 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.65 g
- Water: 92.06 g
- Vitamin A: 264 mg
- Niacin: 0.902 mg
- Thiamine: 0.034 mg
- Folate: 68 mg
- Riboflavin: 0.076 mg
- Vitamin C: 18.0 mg
- Choline: 11.4 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.155 mg
- Vitamin K: 414 mg
- Vitamin E: 0.80 mg
- Calcium: 177 mg
- Manganese: 1.148 mg
- Iron: 3.17 mg
- Phosphorus: 56 mg
- Potassium: 295 mg
- Sodium: 4 mg
- Zinc: 0.81 mg
How to Use Basil?
- Add fresh basil to smoothies, herbal teas, salad dressings, pizza, or your favorite pasta sauce.
Basil will not only give any dressing, dish, or drink a great flavor but could also help destroy any microbes that may be hiding in the greens or other food. Here in our Your Health Tube-office, we really love adding a sprig or 2 of basil to our green drinks in the morning meetings!
You can also use dried basil that also has numerous health benefits of the above listed, but the best bet is of course, fresh! You can try growing some in your garden just like we do (see the photo of the article) and add fresh basil to pasta, pizza, and other raw dishes at the end of the cooking process in order to preserve its nutrients and beneficial properties. Pesto sauce is made with basil as the main ingredient and is also a great classic basil dish that you can try.
- Add basil essential oil to your cleaning products:
Adding basil essential oil to your organic cleaning supplies or body/hand soap in a low concentration (about 1% or less) can add natural anti-bacterial properties.
Pineapple-Basil Smoothie Recipe
Here is a delicious green smoothie with basil and pineapple. Pineapple has also incredible health benefits, here you can find more about this tasty fruit: LINK It has so much flavor and sweetness on its own, and it matches perfectly with the basil. This is an easy and healthy recipe, and very little else is required. Chia seeds and pistachios bulk up the drink ideally, and the pistachios contribute to the dark green color.
- ¼ ripe and peeled pineapple (around 6 ounces)
- ¼ cup basil leaves
- ¾ cup of plain yogurt
- ½ teaspoon chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon pistachios (heaped)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2-3 ice cubes
- Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Voila!
Nutritional analysis per 1 serving
346 calories; 12 grams’ fat; 0 grams trans-fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 1.9 grams polyunsaturated fat; 52 grams’ carbohydrates; 4.9 grams’ dietary fiber; 38 grams’ sugars; 12 grams’ protein; 21 milligrams cholesterol; 87 milligrams sodium
Basil Side Effects
Holy basil is SAFE when used for short periods of time, up to 6 weeks. It is not known if long-term use is actually safe.
Special Precautions and Warnings: Not enough is known about the use of this herb during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Therefore, stay on the safe side and try to avoid it.
Surgery: Basil may slow blood clotting, so there is some concern that it may increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using basil at least 2 weeks before a surgery.
Basil health benefits are probably one of the best between herbs. This is also one of the most used herbs in the world. Everything from pasta to pizzas can be made simply better with the addition of its fresh, spicy leaves. It also has been found to contain flavonoids and oils that protect the body from infection and illness. Very small concentrations can destroy harmful bacteria, but still be very beneficial, even preventing stroke, heart attacks, and atherosclerosis.