It is not surprising as to why the Greeks refer to basil as the ‘king of the herbs’ since it has both culinary value and medical uses. Native to India, basil is used as a cooking staple in dishes all around the world, particularly in the Italian cuisine. It is also widely used in Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Generally, basil is used fresh and added at the last moment of cooking, because it destroys the flavor of the herb. Drying the herb also makes it lose its flavor and aroma, which is why fresh basil can only be stored for a short time in the refrigerator. The flower buds are edible and are also used to give flavor to dishes in place of the leaves.
In addition to its culinary applications, basil has numerous health benefits that range from promoting mental health to preventing bacterial infections. Here are 15 reasons why you should consider planting basil in your garden and start incorporating it into your diet.
15 Health Benefits of Basil Herb
Basil is believed to combat the onset of depression by acting on the adrenal cortex and stimulating the production of cortisol, the hormones responsible for fighting stress. Drinking it as a tea or chewing on the leaves can greatly uplift your mood and decrease your risks of experiencing depression.
Prevents bacterial infection
The abundance of essential oils in basil contributes to its excellent anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, making it an effective treatment for wounds and skin infections. The essential oils citral, citronellol, linalool, terpineol, and eugenol are all chemical components of basil that can kill infection-causing bacteria.
When it is steeped and made into a hot tea, basil can effectively relieve cough, asthma, and bronchitis. It is also used as an expectorant, which enhances the expulsion of phlegm from the air passages of the lungs.
Reduces risk of anemia
Basil is a rich source of iron, and a healthy diet that regularly includes basil will reduce the risk of having anemia, a deficiency of hemoglobin in the blood. Eating iron-rich food helps the blood enhance its oxygen-carrying capacity, thus preventing weakness and fatigue.
Prevents eye diseases
Zeaxanthin, a carotenoid compound, is responsible for filtering harmful UV rays from reaching the retina of the eyes. Since basil contains zeaxanthin, it can help protect the eyes from diseases such as age-related macular disease (ARMD), a common eye problem among the elderly.
Helps in blood-clotting
The vitamin K found in basil is important in the production of clotting factors in the blood, as well as in building strong bones.
Regulates blood pressure
Basil contains plenty of minerals that are needed by the body, such as manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium. Potassium is an essential component of body fluids, which helps regulate blood pressure and control normal heart rate.
Soothes insect bites
A teaspoon of basil juice can soothe the redness and itchiness caused by insect bites. Rub the juice generously on the affected area to reduce swelling and discomfort.
Counters bad breath
Due to its anti-bacterial properties, an herbal toothpaste made primarily from basil can kill the odor-causing bacteria in the mouth. The leaves can be ground into a powder and mixed with mustard oil, then massaged on the gums to prevent bad breath and other dental problems.
Acts as an aphrodisiac
The strong and pungent aroma of basil is believed to promote libido and arousal by increasing blood flow and stimulating the production of hormones responsible for happiness and energy.
Protects against radiation injury
The flavonoids orientin and vicenin are known to be good antioxidants found in basil. It inhibits the formation of free radicals in the body and protects against radiation injury.
The steam of basil leaves is said to cure mild headaches, as the aroma can calm the nerves, relieve pain, and reduce swelling. To do this, add a couple of basil leaves in a pot of water, bring to a boil, and inhale the steam for a few minutes until your headache subside.
Calms an upset stomach
Basil can also calm an upset stomach and treat bowel disorders. The beta-caryophyllene found in basil can effectively cure indigestion, relieve stomach spasms, and expel intestinal gas.
There are plenty of reasons that cause breakouts on the face: sudden hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and excessive sebum production. Whatever the reason may be, applying agel containing basil and orange essential oils on the affected area can clear up the skin from acne.
Improves mental alertness
An aromatherapy with basil, sandy everlasting, and peppermint oils is said to improve mental alertness, focus, and attention to people who have been experiencing feelings of mental exhaustion.
Basil Nutrition Facts
You can get the following nutrients in every 5 grams (2 tablespoons) of fresh, chopped basil leaves:
- 2 Calories
- 1 grams Total Carbohydrate
- 0 grams Total Fat (0% Daily Value)
- 6 milligrams Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- 8 milligrams Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- 2 grams Protein (0% Daily Value)
- 277 IU Vitamin A (6% Daily Value)
- 9 milligrams Vitamin C (2% Daily Value)
- 8 micrograms Vitamin K (27% Daily Value)
- 6 micrograms Folate (1% Daily Value)
- 3 milligrams Calcium (1% Daily Value)
- 2 milligrams Iron (1% Daily Value)
- 4 milligrams Magnesium (1% Daily Value)
- 9 milligrams Phosphorus (0% Daily Value)
- 5 milligrams Potassium (0% Daily Value)
- 2 milligrams Sodium (0% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Copper (1% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Manganese (3% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Cholesterol (0% Daily Value)
- 8 grams Water
- 1 gram Ash
Potential Side Effects of Basil
- Basil is safe when consumed as a food in moderate amounts, and as a short-term medicine in adults. However, it may cause low blood sugar in some people.
- The shoots of the basil should not be taken as a long-term medicine since it contains the chemical estragole. In a laboratory study of estragole, the chemical caused liver cancer to the mice used in the experiment.
- For pregnant and breastfeeding women, basil is safe when consumed as a food in moderate amounts.
- For children, basil is safe when consumed as a food in moderate amounts, but should not be taken as a long-term medicine.
- For people with low blood pressure, consuming basil might lower the blood pressure even more. Thus, extreme precaution should be exercised when consuming basil for people with this condition.
Basil Herb Fun Facts
- In the 16th century, a herbalist named John Gerard noted that those who were stung by scorpions would feel no pain if they ate a basil, possibly pertaining to basil’s anti-inflammatory properties.
- In the Jewish folklore, it suggests that basil adds strength during fasting periods.
- European lore claims that basil is the symbol of Satan, while a French physician said that smelling basil too much would breed scorpions in the brain.
- In India, people place basil in the mouths of their dying loved ones to ensure that they reach
- Certain regions in Mexico believed that basil draws fortune to their business. Shopkeepers would hang a bunch of basil by the window, and its growth would reflect how the business would prosper.
Delicious Basil Herb Recipes
Tomato, Basil, and Fresh Mozzarella Salad
Makes: 8 Servings
For basil sauce:
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 12 (1/4-inch-thick) slices yellow tomato
- 12 (1/4-inch-thick) slices red tomato
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
To prepare basil sauce:
- Cook 1 cup basil leaves in boiling water 15 seconds; drain.
- Plunge basil into ice water; drain and pat dry.
- Combine basil and broth in a blender; process until smooth. Let mixture stand 2 hours at room temperature.
- Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
- Add vinegar and salt, stirring with a whisk.
To prepare salad:
- Arrange yellow and red tomato slices alternately on a large platter.
- Drizzle with basil sauce; sprinkle with cheese and pepper.
- Top with 1/2 cup sliced basil. Serve immediately.
Salmon with Basil Sauce
Makes: 4 Servings
- 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Drizzle salmon with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside 10 minutes to absorb flavor.
- Meanwhile, combine basil, 1/2 cup olive oil, and remaining ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped, and set aside.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté salmon 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until desired degree of doneness. Place on serving plates. In the warm skillet, heat reserved basil sauce, and pour over salmon.
Perfect Pairing: California lifestyle expert Susie Coelho recommends Meridian Pinot Noir for the Salmon with Basil Sauce. A hint of lemon means the recipe would work equally well with Meridian’s Chardonnay. Another option is Meridian Sauvignon Blanc. Its bright, sunny quality matches the acidity of the tomatoes.
Recipe Credit: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/salmon-with-basil-sauce
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