Basil, also known as St. Joseph’s wort or by its scientific name Ocilum basilicum, is a sweet-smelling herb that serves a number of functions in aromatherapy, culinary, and medical applications. This herb has been around for at least 5, 000 years and was used to address a number of ailments including impotency, snake bites, epilepsy, gout, and digestive issues among many others.
There are more than 100 varieties of basils which slightly differ in appearance and taste. Basils belong to the genus Lamiaceae and is a close relative to the mint. Common varieties include sweet basil which is mostly present in Italian dishes and holy basils in Asian cuisine. The origin of the basil remains a moot point, although many believe it was first cultivated in India.
Basil symbolizes love in Italy while it symbolizes hospitality in India. Ancient cultures held basil as a symbolism of nobility and sanctity. Basil was hailed as the ‘King of Herbs’ and was used during interments of monarchs. Its name is derived from the word basilikohn, which means ‘royal’ in ancient Greek. The usefulness and versatility of this herb simply makes it worthy of its title.
Nutrition Info (per 100 g)
Energy 23 Kcal – 1% RDA
Carbohydrates 2.65 g – 2% RDA
Protein 3.15 g – 6% RDA
Total fat 0.64 g – 2% RDA
Dietary fiber 1.60 g – 4% RDA
Folate 68 mcg – 17% RDA
Pantothenic acid 0.209 mg – 4% RDA
Pyridoxine 0.155 mg – 12% RDA
Riboflavin 0.076 mg – 6% RDA
Thiamin 0.034 mg – 2.5% RDA
Vitamin A 5275 IU – 175% RDA
Vitamin C 18 mg – 30% RDA
Vitamin E 0.80 mg – 5% RDA
Vitamin K 414.8 mcg – 345% RDA
Potassium 295 mg – 6% RDA
Calcium 177 mg – 18% RDA
Copper 385 mg – 43% RDA
Iron 3.17 mg – 40% RDA
Magnesium 64 mg – 16% RDA
Manganese 1.15 mg – 57% RDA
Zinc 0.81 mg – 7%
Health Benefits of Basil
1. Basil is Anti-inflammatory
Inflammation is the biological response of the body towards foreign substances or harmful stimuli. Acute inflammation is your immune system’s way of eliminating these irritants which is fine; however, chronic inflammation is extremely problematic and can interfere with daily activities. Chronic inflammation can also lead to numerous conditions like hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, etc. and is often associated with other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Basil’s volatile oils contain a substance called eugonel which blocks the activity of cyclooxygenase similar to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. This enzyme-inhibiting power of eugenol in basil qualifies itself as an anti-inflammatory food and provide symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory issues.
2. Basil Helps Prevent Cancer
Basil has high amounts of beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin A which scavenge reactive oxygen species and free radicals that hasten the aging process and cause cells to mutate. Basil helps in inhibiting the growth of these abnormal cells and prevent cancer.
3. Has Anti-Bacterial Properties
Basil has the capacity to inhibit certain pathogenic bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotic drugs. According to the Journal of Microbiology Methods, basil demonstrated the ability to suppress Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, and Enterococcus bacteria despite imposing high levels of resistance against antibiotics. Food Microbiology also mentioned that a solution containing basil can inhibit the growth of Shigella, an infectious bacteria that cause diarrhea.
4. Protects the Liver
The liver’s primary function is bile production and excretion of cholesterol, bilirubin, and hormones; enzyme activation; metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein; blood detoxification; synthesis of plasma proteins; and storage of vitamins and minerals. If the liver is unhealthy, these functions won’t be executed properly. Basil can help increase the production of enzymes that neutralize toxic properties, effectively reducing the liver’s workload.
5. Relieves Stress
Basil is an adaptogen, which means it has the ability to stabilize physiological processes and metabolic equilibrium such as decreased cellular vulnerability to stress. This tender aromatic herb provides a refreshing feeling of tranquility and is used in perfumery and aromatherapy for its benefits.
6. As an Aphrodisiac
Basil has become a symbol of love due to its aphrodisiac qualities. This herb is a popular choice among couples for its ability to stimulate one’s sex drive, improve sperm quality, and help address erectile dysfunction.
7. Relieve PMS Related Symptoms
Three out of four menstruating women experience at least one or two PMS symptoms a few days before their monthly period. These symptoms include increased appetite, breast tenderness, pain, fatigue, mood swings, and depression. Adequate levels of manganese and magnesium in the body prevent occurrences of these symptoms. Basil is a good source of these minerals and is beneficial in correcting hormonal imbalance.
8. Boosts Energy
Basil contains copper, a mineral that is crucial for producing adenosine triphosphate. Adenosine triphosphate, also called as the energy-transferring molecule, captures chemical energy obtained from food molecules and release it to fuel cellular activities.
9. Promotes Eye Health
Basil contains high amounts of beta-carotene despite its green color. The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, an essential vitamin which promotes good eyesight and prevent xerophthalmia, night blindness, and other eye conditions caused by vitamin A deficiency. Likewise, basil contains ascorbic acid and zeaxanthin, a flavonoid which help filter UV rays from reaching the retina and protect it from age-related macular disease.
10. Promotes Proper Absorption of Nutrients
Proper absorption of nutrients starts with good digestion. Basil contains manganese which help promote better absorption of fats, vitamins, and minerals. It also promotes faster digestion and helps prevent constipation.
11. Healthy Thyroid Glands
Basil contains manganese which aids in the proper functions of the thyroid gland. Thyroid glands produce hormones responsible for controlling metabolism, muscle strength, etc. Inadequate manganese levels may lead to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
12. Prevents Cognitive Decline
Vitamin K present in basil promotes sphingolipid metabolism and produce sphingolipid molecules to protect the brain from oxidative stress. Basil also contains manganese which causes neurotransmitters to conduct faster electric impulses for sharp mental ability and better reflexes.
13. Helps Prevent Bone Loss
You need strong bones for structure and proper movement; however, bones deteriorate and become brittle as you age. Basil is among the best sources of vitamin K which help increase bone density. Calcium cannot be absorbed without the presence of vitamin K in the body.
14. Has Anti-aging Properties
Harmful UV light, free radicals, and pollution can greatly affect the quality of your skin. Basil is rich in potent antioxidants that combat free radicals that hasten the process of aging.
15. Helps Blood Clotting
Slow coagulation increases the risk of excessive bleeding or hemorrhage. Basil helps heal bruises and cuts faster owing to its high amount of vitamin K, an essential component for the activity of proteins needed in forming blood clots. Hemorrhagic diseases can be prevented with the help of this vitamin.
16. Provides DNA Protection
Apart from its antioxidants, basil features a special array of active components called flavonoids such as orientin and vicenin, two flavonoids which can provide protection at a cellular level. These flavonoids were tested in-vitro laboratory and showed possible antioxidant protection against oxygen-based damage and radiation.
17. Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Basil is abundant in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that can be converted into vitamin A in the liver. A potent antioxidant such as the beta-carotene protects epithelial cells from radical damage. Epithelial cells are responsible for forming the lining of the blood vessels and other body structures. In addition, beta-carotene stops free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol that could lead to atherosclerosis, the narrowing of arteries due to fatty deposits.
Free radicals are also contributing factors in asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Beta-carotene from basil may help decelerate the progression of these conditions and prevent further damage.
Basil is also rich in magnesium, a mineral that help blood vessels and muscles to relax; thus enhancing the blood flow and lessen the risk of spasms and irregular heart rhythm. The King of Herbs is also a good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, copper, manganese, iron, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids that are all beneficial to heart health.
Basils are low in calories and contains no cholesterol. This herb is among the finest sources of vitamins and minerals vital to optimum health. In addition, basil leaves contain essential oils proven to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. Basil leaves are highly prized since the time of antiquity because of its amazing benefits and can be rightfully hailed as the ‘King of Herbs’.