Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is also known as great basil or Saint-Joseph’s-wort. Others, on the other hand, know it as the king of herbs, as it comes from Greek words with literal meaning of “royal plant”. Basil has been cultivated in India for more than 5,000 years. It does have several varieties, such as sweet basil or Genovese basil (Ocimum basilicum) which is often used in Italian food, Thai basil (Ocimum thyrsiflora), lemon basil (Ocimum citriodorum), as well as holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum).
The nutritional contents of basil is as follows:
|Energy||94 kilojoules||Cholin||11.4 mg|
|Carbohydrates||2.65 gram||Vitamin C||18 mg|
|Dietary fiber||1.6 gram||Vitamin E||0.8 mg|
|Fat||0.64 gram||Vitamin K||414.8 mcg|
|Protein||3.15 gram||Calcium||177 mg|
|Water||92.06 gram||Iron||3.17 mg|
|Vitamin A||264 mcg||Magnesium||64 mg|
|Thiamine||0.034 mcg||Manganese||1.148 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.076 mg||Phosphorus||56 mg|
|Niacin||0.902 mg||Potassium||295 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.155 mcg||Sodium||4 mg|
|Folate||68 mcg||Zinc||0.81 mg|
Nutritional value of basil per 100 g (3.5 oz)
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Having such royal ‘title’ certainly does not disappoint as Basil boasts a long list of health benefits:
1. Prevents blood clotting
Basil is rich in vitamin K, which is essential in preventing blood clotting. Just 2 tbsp of Ocimum basilicum can provide 29% of daily recommended value of vitamin K. In addition, basil has the abilities to lower triglyceride and cholesterol, a combination which clogs blood vessels. Thus, by reducing the level of triglyceride and cholesterol, it can help prevent cardiovascular disease to a certain extent. After all, having high triglycerides and LDL cholesterol also increase the risk of having atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. All of these are partly stemmed from having clogged blood vessels.
2. Strengthens bones and relieves arthritis
Basil is abundant in calcium and magnesium. These components are critical for strong bones and thus, consumption of basil helps strengthen the bones. In addition, Ocimum basilicum contains a certain type of essential oils named eugenol which is capable of blocking the activity of the harmful enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX). It is also high in (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP). Both of these ingredients give basil its anti-inflammatory properties and provide relief from joint problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
3. Boosts immune system
It is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, all of which are useful in boosting immune system. There was a study shows there are more antioxidant activities than other standard antioxidants at the ethanol extract in Ocimum basilicum, suggesting that it might be a more powerful antioxidant agent than other antioxidant agents out there.
4. Prevents heart problems
Basil also contains vitamin A, powerful antioxidants which protecting body structures. This is also including the blood vessels, from free radical damage. This helps prevent cholesterol in blood from oxidizing, and in turn, helps prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and stroke.
5. Treats early and advanced cancers
Although it is unknown how large monoterpenes dose this plant has, monoterpenes is found to prevent carcinogenesis process at initiation and progression stages of cancer. As such, regular consumption of this royal plant might as well help prevent cancer from occurring.
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6. Alleviates stress and soothes oneself
It contains 0.2 to 1% of essential oils, mainly linalool and methyl chavicol (estragol), but also cineole and methyl cinnamate. Linalool is widely used to reduce stress and whilst it might cause allergic reactions to certain people, its presence in basil is unlikely to trigger such reaction. Overacll, this herb has mild soothing and sedative effects which we can use to treat nervousness, irritability, anxiety, stress as well as insomnia.
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Basil is rich in antioxidants, components which are effective in getting rid of harmful molecules and preventing damage caused by free radicals. Therefore, it can combat aging and skin problems by alleviating those free radicals. Studies done by researchers in India also validated the use of this herb in promoting youth in Ayurvedic medicine. It is said that basil also acts at cellular level to address ageing issues. Another way of using it is to ground the fresh leaves and apply them on problematic skin.
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8. Combats skin problems
This aromatic herb is said to get rid of acne too, which again is not surprising considering its antioxidants and antibacterial properties. This means that the antioxidants will prevent free radical from damaging the skin and thus preventing more acne from occurring, and at the same time eradicate the bacteria or inflammation which induces the acnes in the first place.
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9. Anti-inflammatory agent
Basil contains sesquiterpenes, essential oils which are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. They work as a liver and gland stimulant and contain caryophyllene and valencene. This is hardly surprising, because Ayurvedic medicine extensively uses this herb for its antiseptic and viral-inhibitory properties.
10. Acts as antiseptic
In addition, you can also use it to get rid of warts and skin blemishes, thanks to its antibacterial properties. If you go to places where there are many insects, you can even use its fresh leaves as insect repellent and use its juice to treat snake bites as well as insect stings. Highly multi functional, isn’t it?
11. Restricts Bacteria
The antibacterial properties of basil can be attributed to its volatile oils content, such as estragole, cineole, linalool, limonene, etc., all of which are capable of restricting the growth of harmful bacteria. For instance, basil restricts the growth of Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli O157:H7.
12. Prevents bacteria growth
What is even more amazing is that studies suggested that basil can inhibit some antibiotic-resistant bacteria and reduce the negative effects of those resistant bacteria. As mentioned above, this means that adding this herb to fresh veggies not only enhances flavour, but also decreases the number of harmful bacteria that we consume.
13. Treats abdominal cramps, constipation and diarrhea
The fibre content of basil can help with constipation, whereas its eugenol content helps with stomach pain. Again, its content of (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP) which might be useful in treating inflammatory bowel disease and other inflammation-related disease. Another study also showed that the presence of basil could greatly diminish the number of infectious bacteria which causes diarrhea. As such, consuming basil while eating other fresh vegetables such as salad can help reduce the risk of getting diarrhea as well as ensuring the safety of the fresh produce that you will consume.
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14. Treats cold and its related symptoms
As it contains essential oil, you can use this royal plant to treat nausea and prevent vomiting, both of which are cold symptoms. Its antiseptic, expectorant and antibacterial properties are also useful to treat migraine, tension headaches, and fever. On top of those, you can also use Basil to relieve cough and sore throat.
15. Increases diuretic activity
It has diuretic effect so it can be useful in treating urinary problems. Diuretics help eliminate salt and water from the body through urine. The excretion process removes both sodium and water, and thus, reduce the pressure on the walls of arteries by decreasing the amount of fluid flowing through blood vessels. The reason why diuretic is useful is that it might treat illnesses such as heart failure and kidney disease which occurs along with having excess fluid in body.
16. Increases breast milk production
Traditionally, family encouraged the use of basil to increase breast milk production in lactating mothers, as well as promoting blood circulation after childbirth.
17. Promotes good blood circulation after childbirth
Still, lactating mothers should discuss its long-term usage and possible side effects with doctors before starting to consume basil on a regular basis.
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18. Reduces blood sugar level
A study of diabetes patients showed that basil consumption did lower the glucose level of patient than those who did not consume it. Other research has also found that it might have the potential to inhibit diabetes by affecting the glycemic index. Whilst these are promising to diabetics, the researchers need to conduct more studies to make sure its effects on reducing glucose level. Still, surely consumption of basil will still benefit you whether or not it is effective in combatting diabetes, because there are many other benefits that it can have in your life.
19. Gets rid of bad breath
Has foul-smelling breath? No worries now, you can just chew fresh basil leaves for fresher breath. The reason why fresh basil works is because it reduces intestinal gas production. Furthermore, basil has strong pleasant smell which will mask your bad breath. Killing two birds with one stone, eh?
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20. Treats respiratory diseases
Other studies have also found that basil can treat respiratory diseases, including tuberculosis symptoms. Even so, we need to have further studies to test its effectiveness once researchers finish formulating basil-based medication to combat tuberculosis.
21. Improves Vision
100 gram of fresh basil leaves provide the recommended daily dose of vitamin A (264 microgram per 100 gram). Vitamin A has been long known to have antioxidant properties and is highly important for vision health. For instance, regular consumption of these greens can get rid of sore eyes and night-blindness. After all, Vitamin A deficiency normally causes these two vision problems. The best health benefits of basil.
In conclusion, most of the health benefits of basil can be attributed to the presence of essential oils and many other vitamins as well as minerals that it has. Basil can be eaten fresh, cooked in soup like in Vietnamese and Thailand cuisine, used as pesto, its fresh leaves chewed, its fresh leaves dried and so on. See, we have plenty options to incorporate basil into our daily lives since there is a wide range of possibilities to use and consume it. Now the next time you go on groceries shopping, you know which herb to buy.