Benefits And Nutrition Of Basil Herb (Ocimum basilicum) For Health

Benefits And Nutrition Of Basil Herb (Ocimum basilicum) For Health

Description basil herb

The king of herbs basil herb is one of the oldest and popular herbal plants brimming with notable health-benefiting phytonutrients. This highly prized plant is revered as "holy herb" in many traditions all around the world.

The scientific name for basil is Ocimum basilicum.

Basil is a highly fragrant herb most often used as a seasoning in cooking, but also basil has become increasingly popular for its various health benefits. Basil leaves and flowers contain many chemical compounds that are known to prevent disease and promote health.

Benefits And Nutrition Of Basil Herb (Ocimum basilicum) For Health
Basil Herb (Ocimum basilicum)

Basil has round leaves that are oftentimes pointed. They are green in color, although some varieties feature hints of red or purple. Basil looks a little like peppermint, which is not surprising since they belong to the same plant family.

There are more than 60 varieties of basil, all of which differ somewhat in appearance and taste. While the taste of sweet basil is bright and pungent, other varieties also offer unique tastes: lemon basil, anise basil and cinnamon basil all have flavors that subtly reflect their name.

Grown originally in Asia and the Middle East, basil traveled the world along the spice trail. It has been grown and used for 5000 years and has hundreds of varieties and is now cultivated in many countries. All of its varieties have unique and individual chemical make-ups; and yet the base medicinal properties remain consistent from one strain to another.

This low-calorie herb is rich with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. In addition, basil offers essential nutrients including vitamins A, C and K, as well as manganese, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium and omega-3 fats. All these nutrients are very good for your overall health.

History of Basil Herb

Basil herb now grows in many regions throughout the world, but it was first native to India, Asia and Africa. Basil is prominently featured in varied cuisines throughout the world including Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian.

The name "basil" is derived from the old Greek word basilikohn, which means "royal," reflecting that ancient culture's attitudes towards an herb that they held to be very noble and sacred. The tradition of reverence of basil has continued in other cultures. In India, basil was cherished as an icon of hospitality, while in Italy, it was a symbol of love.

Benefits Of Basil Herb For Health

Basil leaves hold many notable plants derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.

DNA Protection: The unique array of active constituents called flavonoids found in basil provide protection at the cellular level. Orientin and vicenin are two water-soluble flavonoids that have been of particular interest in basil, and in studies on human white blood cells; these components of basil protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage.

Basil herb contains many polyphenolic flavonoids like orientin and vicenin. These compounds were tested in-vitro laboratory for their possible anti-oxidant protection against radiation-induced lipid per-oxidation in mouse liver.

Benefits And Nutrition Of Basil Herb (Ocimum basilicum) For Health
Basil Herb (Ocimum basilicum) Picture

Various compounds in basil help mobilize mucus, so it is also an effective treatment for other respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma.

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.

Basil leaves compose of several health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene and terpineol. These compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

The herbs' parts are very low in calories and contain no cholesterol, but are very rich source of many essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that are required for optimum health.

Basil herb contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin A, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.

Zea-xanthin, a yellow flavonoid carotenoid compound, is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it found to filter harmful UV rays from reaching the retina. Studies suggest that common herbs, fruits, and vegetables that are rich in zea-xanthin anti-oxidant help to protect from age-related macular disease (AMRD), especially in the elderly.

100 g of fresh herb leaves contain astoundingly 5275 mg or 175% of daily required doses of vitamin A. Vitamin A is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. Basil is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A has been found to help the body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

Basil leaves can be used in the treatment of fever and common cold. Chew some fresh basil leaves for relief from colds and flus. During the rainy season, when there is risk of malaria and dengue fever, try to consume tender leaves of basil after boiling it in water. This will help you to keep yourself safe from these kinds of fever. When suffering from acute fever, a decoction of the basil leaves boiled with powdered cardamom in one cup of water must be consumed several times a day. The juice of basil leaves can be used to bring down high temperature.

Basil leaves also are regarded as an anti-stress agent. Various studies have shown that the leaves provide significant protection against stress. Health experts recommend chewing 10 to 12 leaves of basil, twice a day, to prevent feeling stressed and developing stress-related disorders. Chewing the leaves daily can also help purify your blood.

Vitamin K in basil is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood and plays a vital role in the bone strengthening function by helping mineralization process in the bones.

Basil herb contains a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

Benefits And Nutrition Of Basil Herb (Ocimum basilicum) For Health
Basil Herb (Ocimum basilicum) Picture

Basil leaves are an excellent source of iron, contains 3.17 mg/100 g of fresh leaves (about 26% of RDA). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

Basil can be used to strengthen your kidneys. In cases of stones in your kidney, the juice of basil leaves mixed with honey and taken daily for 6 months will expel them through the urinary tract.

Basil can be used preventatively insect bites and as a curative. A teaspoonful of the basil leaf juice taken every few hours is preventative. Rubbing the bites with juice can relieve the itching and swelling. Also a paste of the root is effective for treating the bites of insects and leeches.

Basil is widely used in ayurvedic medicines for curing a variety of common ailments, such as diabetes, respiratory disorders, impotence, allergies, and infertility.

Basil Storage Tips

While storing fresh basil leaves, refrigerate in airtight containers to retain their freshness and fragrance. Wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel, or place them in a glass of water and cover it with a plastic bag. Make sure that you change the water daily and use the basil leaves within a week.
Although basil keeps well for two to four days, it is advised to use the leaves as soon as possible, just like other fresh herbs.

Fresh basil makes a great option for freezing, whether whole or chopped. Simply blanch the whole basil leaves for two seconds, plunge into ice water, pat dry, and transfer into an airtight container in the freezer. Do not thaw before using, for a stronger flavor.

Alternatively, you can place whole or chopped basil leaves in ice cube trays and cover them with water or broth. Place them in the freezer and pop out the cubes into an airtight bag. Use the cubes as required, in soups, stews or sauces.

Store dried basil in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark, and dry place where it will last for up to six months.