Basil (Ocimum basilicum), also known as Saint Joseph’s Wort, is a herb belonging to the mint family Lamiaceae often used as a seasoning in cooking. Basil is native to India and other tropical areas of Asia.
The type of basil used in Mediterranean cooking – Italian large-leaf – pairs well with tomato flavours and consequently appears in a wide range of dishes from Caprese salad to marinara sauce. Other common basil varieties like sweet, lemon, Thai and holy basil are used judiciously in Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cuisine.
Basil has many health benefits, including; cardiovascular, anti-inlammatory, wight loss and anti-aging benefits. Read on to learn the health benefits of basil.
1. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Basil
The eugenol component of basil’s volatile oils has been the subject of extensive study, since this substance can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase (COX). Many non-steriodal over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), including aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as the commonly used medicine acetaminophen, work by inhibiting this same enzyme. (In the case of acetaminophen, this effect is somewhat controversial, and probably occurs to a much lesser degree than is the case with aspirin and ibuprofen). This enzyme-inhibiting effect of the eugenol in basil qualifies basil as an “anti-inflammatory” food that can provide important healing benefits along with symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.
2. Relieves Headaches
Basil makes a good medicine for headaches, as it works as a muscle relaxant. Mix pounded basil leaves with sandalwood paste and put it on your forehead for instant relief from a headache caused by tension and tight muscles. Alternatively, drink basil tea twice a day. To make the tea, put some fresh basil leaves in a cup of boiling water and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Sip the tea slowly and your headache will vanish away gently. For mild headaches, you can chew some fresh basil leaves or massage your head with pure basil oil.
If you do not have a basil plant in your home, consider buying one so you have fresh basil available when you need it to treat these common problems.
3. Anti-Aging Benefits
According to research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) in Manchester, basil has properties that can help prevent the harmful effects of aging. Holy basil extract was effective at killing off harmful molecules and preventing damage caused by some free radicals in the liver, brain and heart.
4. Eliminates Kidney Stones
Basil has a strengthening effect on kidney functioning. To improve overall kidney functioning, consume five to six fresh basil leaves with water on an empty stomach. If you have kidney stones, mix freshly extracted basil juice with an equal amount of honey. Drink it every day without fail for about five to six months. This will facilitate elimination of kidney stones through the urinary tract.
5. Blemish Eraser
Clear up that breakout with basil! The herb’s oil helps combat the bacteria that causes pimples, according to a study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.
Try this blemish-fighting fix from aesthetician Rena Revivo, chief executive officer of Spa de Soleil:
- Boil a handful of fresh basil leaves in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes; let the liquid cool.
- Dip a cotton ball into the liquid, pat it on your breakout zones, wait 10 minutes, then splash with water; repeat once or twice a day.
6. Basil Stops Stress
Feeling frazzled this summer? This herb can mellow you out. “Holy basil has antianxiety effects,” explains botanist James Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy. It contains phytochemicals that studies suggest may lower cortisol, a hormone secreted when you’re tense.
Simmer down on a hot, harried day by adding the herb to your iced tea: Add 2 or 3 leaves (per serving) while your tea is steeping. Lounge chair optional.
7. Boosts Immune System
Eating fresh basil leaves regularly will give your immune system a boost. Studies show that the various chemical compounds in basil may improve the body’s production of infection-fighting antibodies by up to 20 percent. For best results, use fresh basil rather than dried versions.
8. PMS Fix
You may want to eat more basil during that time of the month: The herb is a super source of iron—a little more than 2 cups of chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dried provides 10% of your daily value, making it on par with spinach.
Eating it during your period can replenish some of the iron lost when you menstruate, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet. Sprinkle some sliced basil over chopped pineapple (which helps combat bloat).
9. Improves Eyesight
Just 100 grams of fresh basil leaves provide the recommended daily dose of vitamin A. Vitamin A has antioxidant properties and is essential for healthy vision. Fresh basil juice is an effective remedy for sore eyes and night-blindness, which is commonly caused by Vitamin A deficiency. For sore eyes, put two drops of black basil juice into the affected eye daily before going to bed.
10. Cardiovascular Benefits of Basil
Basil comes complete with vitamin A (through beta-carotene), magnesium, and many other nutrients that can help protect cell walls from free radical damage (in the blood system and other body structures), improve blood flow and help stop cholesterol from oxidizing in the blood stream.
11. Weight Loss Benefits
Basil leaves taken with home-made fresh curd help in reducing excess weight and fight laziness by renewing your energy levels and facilitating new blood cells formation.
12. Calms the Stomach
The Italians may be on to something with adding Basil to everything. It is thought to have a calming effect on the stomach and 1/2 teaspoon of dried or fresh Basil Leaf in water can often help sooth indigestion and alleviate feelings of fullness.
13. Relieves Cough
Basil is a key ingredient in cough syrups and expectorants. But instead of buying those, you can make a home remedy that works just as well. Add eight basil leaves and five cloves to a cup of water and boil it for 10 minutes. You can add some salt for taste. Allow it to cool and then drink it to relieve coughing. For sore throat due to a cough, gargle with water boiled with basil leaves. Various compounds in basil help mobilize mucus, so it is also an effective treatment for other respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma.
14. Basil Treats Fever
Being rich in phytonutrients and healing oil, basil leaves are effective in curing malarial and dengue fevers. Tender basil leaves boiled with tea should be given to the patient. In case of very high fever, basil leaves boiled with powdered cardamom in 1/2 liter of water mixed with sugar and milk should be given to the patient at an interval of 3 hours to bring down the temperatures. Basil leaves form good germicidal and a natural disinfectant that protects the body against all types of viral and bacterial infections.
15. Helpful in Quitting Smoking
Chain smokers can try chewing basil leaves to get rid of their addiction. These can be more beneficial than nicotine patches, flavored gum or even plain candy to curb the urge. While the juice has a cooling effect on your throat, the chewing will distract you and the antioxidants will repair the damage caused due to years of smoking.
16. Prevents Hair Loss
Hair loss is a common problem which can occur due to itchiness and sweatiness of scalp. You can make a paste of basil leaves and add it to your hair oil. Applying this oil on your scalp will keep your scalp cool, reduce itchiness and promote hair growth by improving circulation in your scalp.