Recent research suggests that basil can help fight bacteria, viruses, and chronic diseases. And you thought it was just for pesto!
This natural antibiotic is considered a holy herb in different cultures due to the amazing benefits it brings. The plant grows in warm and tropical climates. The plant is easy to maintain and can be grown indoors or outside – you just need to snip off budding heads to keep your plant full and rich.
Basil is surely one of the healthiest herbs on the planet. It’s best used fresh and has a nice aroma and pungent flavor. The plant is rich in essential nutrients such as vitamin K – just 2 tablespoons of basil provide about 29% of the daily recommended intake.
Basil also contains vitamin A and beta-carotenes, powerful antioxidants that can protect you from free radicals. These nutrients also prevent atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases.
Besides these vitamins, basil also contains magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, iron and other minerals and flavonoids. The plant possesses antibacterial properties as well.
Health Benefits of Basil
According to several studies, basil can protect you from numerous chemicals and carcinogens.
A natural antibiotic
Basil is a powerful antibiotic that can help you treat numerous diseases, especially if you combine it with some garlic.
Cleans your blood vessels
Basil can clean your blood vessels from LDL (bad) cholesterol, effectively preventing numerous cardiovascular diseases.
Other basil health benefits
Basil can help you treat headaches, diarrhea, constipation, cough, flu, parasites, warts, kidney problems and other diseases and conditions as well.
How to benefit from basil
So how much basil does one have to consume to reap the health benefits?
Researchers have not established an exact amount, but it is worth noting that herbs and spices contribute significantly to the total antioxidants obtained from the diet. 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.
Introduce basil into your meal plan by flavouring dishes with chopped fresh basil instead of cream-based sauces, cheese or salt. Add a few leaves and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette to spice up boring greens, or stick to the classic tomato-basil combo and toss in a handful of chopped basil to pasta sauce, Mediterranean-style pizza or tomato-mozzarella salad. For an Eastern flair, stir a few coarsely chopped Thai basil leaves into spicy curries, soups or stir-fries until just wilted.
If you can’t decide between dry versus fresh, opt for the latter whenever possible – much of basil’s health benefits (not to mention flavor and aroma) come from the antioxidant compounds and essential oils that are mostly lost during the drying process. Other options are basil teas and oils, which can be found in health food stores, although the scientific evidence for its efficacy in these forms is limited.
Whatever your tastes and preferences, basil can be a welcome addition to your kitchen, adding flavour and personality to dishes while providing an added health boost. And who knows – given the direction research is headed, basil may one day appear in spice racks and medicine cabinets alike. Pesto, anyone?