Basil appears for the first time in India, and today, it is cultivated all over the world because of its benefits. The whole herb and most of all the leaves have a pleasant smell. They are used in kitchens around the world as a spice, religious rituals, and as a medicine in folk medicine.
It consists of antiseptic ingredients that serve as a preservative, because they prevent many microorganisms from growing and also destroys them. This is also the reason why basil is used to sprinkle holy water in religious rites.
These ingredients comprise only 0.4-0.8% of the whole herb however it has a very strong odor and gives a calming effect.
Tea, extract and fresh basil have many benefits for human health.
People have a lot of faith in this herb. France and other pharmacopeias officially prescribe it as a remedy.
Unfortunately, this herb needs further research to find out the true benefits of it.
What Is Basil?
The basil that people also call Saint Joseph’s Wort belongs to Lamiaceae or mint family. It has a lot of varieties, hybrids, and similar species. Тhe most famous is the sweet basil which is commonly used in cooking, lemon basil (hybrid), Thai basil, and holy basil (similar species).
Lemon basil tastes and smells similar to lemon and is very different from the others, because it contains citral chemical in its composition.
This herb usually has green leaves, white flowers and grows from 30 to 150 cm in places where the sun is abundant. The interesting thing is that the more the leaves of the basil are harvested, the more it gains strength and grows in height.
Benefits of Basil
Basil contains many useful ingredients that can improve human health. I would mention here antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-aging properties. It also has a high nutritional value because it contains large amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, and potassium. These benefits often apply to the most commonly used basil so-called sweet basil. How these beneficial ingredients affect the well-being of the human body, I will try to explain in more detail below.
Basil Antioxidant Activity
This study was done to prove that certain plants are a source of antioxidants because they are a major factor in human health and food preservation. In their study, they took basil as a great source of that ingredient and came up with some results.
Basil is the source of a number of essential oils that consist of polyphenols like anthocyanins and flavonoids i.e. natural products and phenolic compounds. It has also been shown to be much better than other antioxidants in the study.
There is another study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology that tested the same herb and found that it contained (E) -beta-caryophyllene (BCP) components. These components are used for inflammatory bowel diseases and the treatment of arthritis.
The Journal of Advanced Pharmacy Education & Research reported the results of a study done on an ethanol extract of basil that confirms the result of the first study. Again, more antioxidant activities have been found compared to other antioxidants.
From this, we can conclude that basil, along with other beneficial ingredients, has been proven to be a great antioxidant.
Basil Antibacterial Effect
If you put basil in a salad or any kind of dish, you will not only get a good taste but also make it safer to eat because it suppresses and destroys bacteria. The same thing happens when basil is added to holy water during religious rites.
Basil contains estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene in its volatile oils, and laboratory studies have shown that they are responsible for its antibacterial activity.
Basil Against Swelling and Inflammation
A study was presented at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s event that showed that basil, 24 hours after treatment, reduced swelling to 73%.
The anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat arthritis have been less effective than basil in treating swelling.
The Journal of Bone Reports & Recommendations published a study showing that basil really helps with inflammation especially for arthritis as I mentioned above.
The following three basil properties that contribute to human health are related more to the holy basil, about which I will write in more detail in the following blog.
Basil Against Oxidative Stress
Basil is similar to the thyme in how it works to reduce stress. I’ve written about thyme before, and I can say that both herbs have a great effect on stress. Often when I make tea, I know to mix these two herbs that have never let me down.
This is also shown by this study that observed stressed rabbits who were given basil leaves for 30 days. Based on the results of the monitoring of cardiovascular and respiratory adaptation, they showed a significant reduction in stress.
Basil Against Cancer
Tulsi or holy basil except possessing analgesic, antistress, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory activities, a study was done in 2013 shows that this basil actually works against cancer too. These studies have shown that thanks to the basil ingredients like apigenin, phytochemicals eugenol, β-sitosterol, rosmarinic acid, and carnosic acid prevent DNA damage and metastasis on oral, liver, lung, and skin cancer.
It has also been shown that the extract of this herb can protect against the tumoricidal effects of radiation and γ-radiation-induced damage.
These studies are not sufficient for the true effects of basil on cancer, further research is needed.
Basil Anti-Aging Properties
The British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) presented research which shows that the basil extract has аnti-aging properties.
They have shown that our ancestors using this herb as a youth-promoting substance is right as it prevents some of the harmful effects of aging.
Basil Side Effects
Basil is a generally safe herb for consumption. The following side effects are only theoretical and not scientifically proven, but it would be nice to be careful with them.
- Do not consume the extract for long.
- Pregnant women and children should be careful with the extract. If they feel any changes, they should immediately stop taking it.
- Due to the calming effect of basil, it lowers blood pressure. People who have low blood pressure can lower it further. (I personally have low blood pressure and so far I have no problem with basil tea.)
- Basil can increase bleeding, so people with bleeding disorders should be very careful with it. Stop taking this herb at least 2 weeks before surgery for the risk of bleeding.
There are no specific doses of how much basil should be used. The products containing basil have stated how many times they should be consumed, and you should prefer this dosage.
Pregnant women and children should be careful with dosing. Contact a doctor if you are unsure.
If not stated, take as much as you think is enough just to avoid unwanted consequences. For example, 1-2 cups of tea a day is enough.
Growing and Harvesting Basil
Basil grows outside while it is warm. Afterward, it is brought inside in a warm place throughout the winter, that’s why you should plant it in flowerpot.
Basil likes warm and sunny temperatures, so place it near the window. Irrigate it when you notice the soil is becoming dry.
Start harvesting the leaves when they are large enough for your needs. You can freeze them and have fresh leaves available every time, or you can dry them for tea or basil spice.
Interestingly, the more you harvest the leaves, the more the stem grows.
Sweet basil in addition to being used as a spice in the meal and thus having a wonderful taste can also make food safe to eat because it has antibacterial properties. The benefits of this herb are great and it barely has any side effects. It can be found everywhere and you can grow it at home and have fresh leaves at any time. I suggest you try basil tea, you will not regret it.
You may be interested in the following basil recipes: