Basil is an aromatic herb, which is widely used around the world, including Mediterranean, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisines. There are more than 40 different types of this pungent plant, each with its own characteristic color and aroma. Basil has three different colors depending on the variety, and some non-edible kinds are cultivated for ornamental purposes or to ward off garden pests.
You might be surprised about the medicinal value of basil, which is far beyond the humble pesto or Vietnamese spring roll. Just like other aromatic plants, basil contains essential oils and phytochemicals in the leaves, stem, flowers, roots, and seeds, all of which have biological effects on the body.
The ancient cultures have used herbal remedies to prevent and treat illness and disease. For instance, Indians have been using basil as a system of medicine to treat gastric, hepatic, respiratory and inflammatory disorders as well as a remedy for headache, fever, anxiety, convulsions, nausea and hypertension for centuries.
Fresh basil roots and leaves can be prepared as a tea, or as a topical treatment to speed wound healing. There is also evidence that traditional Chinese medicine used basil. After all these years of experiencing the therapeutically healing properties of basil, does modern science accept this wonderful herb today? Numerous research studies have proved that basil is not just for pesto, there’s MORE!
Basil has been found to exhibit antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties.
Traditional basil smell acquires its odor from a combination of linalool and methyl chavicol.
In nature these compounds defend the herb from hungry insects and invasive bacteria and fungi. So it is no surprise that they can help protect us.
Basil essential oils have demonstrated potent antimicrobial activity, likely inhibiting bacterial growth by degrading bacterial cell walls and inducing cell death.
Basil can benefit health is through its anti-inflammatory activity. Most anti-inflammatory drugs are derived from plants, and basil reduces inflammation by inhibiting the release of cytokines and mediators, substances in cells which increase inflammation.
Basil essential oils have been shown to lower blood glucose, triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Basil has been found to reduce circulating glucose levels in both normal and diabetic laboratory animals as well as in diabetic humans.
One of the most interesting research studies shows that basil has the ability to inhibit cancer. Phenolics, a group of organic compounds found in tea, herbs, fruits and vegetables, account for the majority of basil’s antioxidant properties (which is roughly half the amount found in green tea). Basil is also a good source of antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, all of which have been shown to inhibit cancer through similar mechanisms.
How to reap the benefits of basil?
First of all, basil is virtually calorie-free and, in addition to antioxidant vitamins and phenolics, is a rich source of vitamin K, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and dietary fibre. It adds a lot of flavour in a way that’s waistline-friendly.
#1 Western style: Chopped and toss on salad and pasta
#2 Asian style: Coarsely chopped and mix it into Thai curries, soups and stir-fry until wilted. Add some to your Vietnamese fresh spring rolls
#3 Sandwich them between fresh tomato and mozzarella salad, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, season with freshly ground black pepper
#4 Prepare a big batch of pesto sauce for quick dinners! Extra virgin olive oil, loads of basil, light roasted pine nuts, freshly grated parmesan cheese, salt and ground pepper. Get My Kitchen’s Best Pesto HERE!