Basil, Sweet Basil

Ocimum Basilicum

Basil, (Ocimum basilicum) of the family Lamiaceae (mints). The word Basil (basileus) comes from the Greek meaning "King", as it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross. In Mexico it's believed to keep a lover's eye off others, and is considered a powerful protector in Haiti.  Basil is part of the mint family - some other common herbs in the mint family are oregano, rosemary and lavender.

The word "basil" comes from the Greek word meaning "king", showing that it was held in very high regard, and today it's still considered by many chefs to be the "king of herbs". In ancient Egypt it was used to embalm and preserve mummies, in Mexico it was believed to keep a lover's eye off others and in Haiti it was considered a powerful protector. In Italy, basil symbolised love, while in Romania a man would give basil to his sweetheart and they would officially be engaged. Originally from India, basil features prominently in Italian and southern Asian cuisines and it's used in perfumes, soaps and shampoos. There are more than 60 varieties of basil including sweet basil, Thai basil, lemon basil and holy basil, and they vary in colour from dark green to purple. Basil is used as a fresh herb in salads and savoury dishes and is the main ingredient in pesto. The leaves have a powerful, sweet smell and taste like anise and should be added at the end of the cooking process to impart the most taste. It's the perfect candidate as a flavour for infused oil and it's one of the flavouring ingredients in the liqueur, Chartreuse.

Health Benefits

Sweet basil can be used in aromatherapy for ailments such as colds, hay fever and stress. It's also effective for tension, exhaustion and digestive problems like stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhoea. Basil is an excellent source of iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C and can help boost your immune system. Natural antioxidants help protect the body against free radicals, preventing cellular aging, common skin ailments and forms of cancer.

Anti-inflammatory Benefits

  •  Inflammation is your body’s biological response to harmful or irritating stimuli.
  • It is your immune system’s way of removing that stimuli or getting rid of foreign bodies.
  • Therefore, acute inflammation is a good thing, and its response is key to your survival.
  • On the other hand, chronic inflammation can actually cause illnesses, rather than treat them.
  • Chronic inflammation can lead to a number of conditions (including atherosclerosis, periodontitis, and hay fever).
  • Basil has a component called (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP) that sooths inflammation.
  • A study has shown that holy basil can reduce swelling by up to 73% in less than 24 hours. Other studies mirror these results.

Protects Against Arthritis

  • Arthritis is pain in the joints (or joint disease). More than 50 million adults (and 300,000 children) suffer from arthritis, which can affect people of all ages, sexes, and races.
  • Arthritis involves stiffness, swelling, and pain. Some kinds of arthritis can affect organs, such as the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys, and skin.
  • In the United States, it is the most prominent cause of physical disabilities.
  • Basil contains high amounts of beta-caryophyllene. A study conducted at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology revealed that beta-caryophyllene can treat arthritis.
  • And another study showed that the chemical effectively cured rats of arthritis.

Antibacterial Properties

  • Basil has a combination of different essential oils. These oils can protect you from harmful bacteria and microbes.
  • Pathogenic bacteria can cause various illnesses, such as strep throat, cholera, tuberculosis, staph infections, and food poisoning.
  • These bacteria and microbes can infect you if you’re living in unsanitary conditions, and they can replicate very quickly.
  • But many studies have proven that basil can prevent these bacteria from taking over.
  • The essential oils in basil (such as ecogole, inalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene) inhibit the growth of bacteria. Similarly, they can protect you from yeast, MLD, and viruses.

Rich in Antioxidants

  • The main purpose of consuming foods that’re sources of antioxidants is to balance the number of free radicals in your body.
  • Free radicals are highly reactive molecules. They can cause oxidative stress, which can damage the proteins, molecules, and genes that are necessary for your health.
  • Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals in your bloodstream, and repair damaged molecules.
  • With its high vitamin C content, basil has been shown to effectively counter oxidative damage.
  • By regularly eating basil, you can ensure that you’re adding to the natural antioxidants produced by your body.
  • And it protects your cells and organs from deterioration.

Helps Fight Cancer

  • Cancer occurs due to abnormal cell growth.
  • Mutated cells can multiply and invade different tissues, causing you to lose normal bodily function.
  • There are more than 100 different types of cancers, which all have their own symptoms.
  • The treatment for cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.
  • But these treatments are only successful a fraction of the time.
  • In addition, these treatments are costly, and they might have side effects and complications.
  • But with basil, you can take a preventive approach. Basil prevents the spread of malignant cells and supports the death of harmful cells.
  • Studies have shown that it also protects normal cells during chemotherapy or radiation.
  • So it’s beneficial for those who already have cancer and are undergoing treatments.

Helps Treat Diabetes

  • Diabetes is a condition that causes high blood-glucose levels.
  • Symptoms include frequent urination, unusual weight changes, intense hunger and thirst, fatigue, slow healing of wounds, numbness, tingling in the limbs, and male sexual dysfunction.
  • Basil has been shown to reduce glucose levels. In addition, it alleviates the unhealthy levels of cholesterol and triglyceride that diabetes can cause.
  • Azad University of Agriculture and Technology in India conducted double-blind clinical trials to test the benefits of basil.
  • They found that it can be safely used for treating or preventing diabetes.

Protects the Liver

  • Some of the primary functions of the liver are bile production and excretion; excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones, and drugs; metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates; enzyme activation; storage of glycogen, vitamins, and minerals; synthesis of plasma proteins (such as albumin) and clotting factors; and blood detoxification.
  • If you get liver disease, these functions cannot be carried out properly.
  • So you may experience fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice. However, basil has been proven to protect your liver.
  • A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food conducted an experiment on rats with liver disease.
  • It found that basil extract significantly increased the production of detoxifying enzymes and reduced the buildup of fat

Helps Relieve Stress

  • In herbal medicine, adaptogens are natural substances that help you adapt to stress.
  • They protects you from the negative effects of all kinds of stress.
  • In particular, holy basil is an adaptogen, which improves strength, stamina, energy, and mental clarity
  • An experiment conducted on rabbits showed that fresh basil leaves could significantly reduce stress.
  • The rabbits were placed in a high-stress environment, then given two grams of basil each day for an entire month.
  • They displayed improved respiratory and cardiovascular protection, and decreased blood sugar levels and oxidative stress

Basil is an Aphrodisiac

  • Infertility can be due to poor sperm quality or erectile dysfunction.
  • An inability to maintain an erection isn’t a big problem if it only occurs once in a while, but it can poorly impact your confidence and relationship if it happens frequently.
  • Historically, basil has been considered an aphrodisiac.
  • In Italy, it was considered a symbol of love, and in Ayurveda, it is thought to improve arousal. In Portugal, it’s still a romantic gift given to lovers.
  • Research has also indicated that it can improve problems with erectile dysfunction

Anti-aging Properties

  • One of the consequences of oxidative stress is both physical and mental aging.
  • It can lead to signs of aging and reduce your cognitive abilities.
  • However, basil can keep you looking and feeling youthful
  • Free radicals can damage the quality of your skin, while exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays can cause wrinkles and dark spots.
  • Because it’s rich in antioxidants, incorporating basil into your regular diet can combat these effects

Improves Bone Density

  • Your bones are very important for your health.
  • They support your structure, and they’re needed for proper movement.
  • As you age, your bones can lose density, which can particularly impact women after menopause sets in.
  • Their bones can become brittle, and fractures can easily occur.
  • Basil is one of the best sources of vitamin K, which helps maintain bone density.
  • And calcium cannot be used by your body without vitamin K.
  • Research has shown that people who ingest food that’re rich in vitamin K have a 65% lower chance of fracturing their hips
  • A study conducted on athletes has also supported this conclusion

Improves Blood Clotting

  • Proper blood clotting is integral to your survival and well-being.
  • Also known as coagulation, blood clotting prevents excessive bleeding when one of your blood vessels suffers an injury.
  • Proteins in blood plasma combines with platelets to form clots, which prevent excess bleeding (external or internal).
  • Many proteins are needed to form blood clots, and each clot requires at least 12 proteins.
  • And vitamin K is needed for the activity of 4 of them. Therefore, basil helps heal bruises and cuts.
  • In newborn babies, inadequate clotting can lead to hemorrhagic disease, which can be countered with the help of vitamin K
  • So, by eating lots of basil, you can ensure that blood clots are properly formed.

Keeps your Brain Healthy

  • As you grow older, you begin to lose the sharpness you enjoyed during youth.
  • But you can prevent cognitive decline by regularly using basil.
  • The vitamin K in basil is involved in a process called sphingolipid metabolism.
  • Sphingolipids are molecules that help protect the brain from oxidative stress
  • Basil also contains manganese, which can cause neurotransmitters to create electric impulses that conduct faster, so you’ll have better reflexes and mental processing abilities
  • Copper is also a brain stimulant, which prevents mental disorders from setting in

Can Prevent Epilepsy

  • Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures.
  • Seizures can affect your safety, especially if it occurs while driving or working with dangerous items (such as fire or knives).
  • It can severely reduce the quality of life of patients, especially if they don’t have access to proper healthcare.
  • One of the triggers of epileptic seizures is a low level of manganese.
  • Basil has high manganese content, and using it regularly can ensure that your body is not suffering a manganese deficiency.
  • The exact reason isn’t known, but it might be because manganese functions as a vasodilator

Supports your Body’s Metabolism

  • Metabolism includes chemical reactions that’re involved in maintaining the living state of cells and organisms.
  • When this process is disrupted, you can develop metabolic disorders.
  • Manganese can regulate metabolism. It supports enzymes that help in the metabolism of cholesterol, amino acids, and carbohydrates.
  • Furthermore, it is needed for the metabolism of several glucose-related vitamins, including Vitamin B-1 and Vitamin E
  • Similarly, the copper in basil allows different enzymes in your body to function properly.
  • These enzymes are necessary to maintain proper metabolism.

Helps Alleviate PMS

  • Premenstrual syndrome involves a range of symptoms that may occur in women before or during their menstrual period.
  • It is estimated that around three in every four menstruating women experience PMS.
  • The symptoms of PMS include pain, irritability, depression, fatigue, mood swings, breast tenderness, and food cravings.
  • Studies have found a correlation between low levels of manganese and PMS.
  • Therefore, manganese can promote hormonal balance and help overcome PMS
  • If you frequently experience PMS symptoms and want to deal with them without resorting to medication, basil can be a good solution.

Keeps your Thyroid Gland Healthy

  • Your thyroid gland releases hormones that control metabolism and regulate vital body functions.
  • It’s partially responsible for maintaining your breathing, heart rate, body weight, muscle strength, body temperature, and cholesterol levels.
  • Problems in your thyroid gland can affect your life in many ways.
  • Hyperthyroidism can cause anxiety, moodiness, nervousness, sweating, tingling, trembling, and missed periods.
  • Hypothyroidism can lead to insomnia, fatigue, concentration problems, dry skin and hair, depression, heavy periods, and cold sensitivity.
  • Basil has manganese, which promotes the proper functioning of the thyroid gland.
  • Therefore, adequate manganese levels ensure that there isn’t an overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones

Increases your Energy Production

  • All of us have experienced lethargy. We’ve all felt tired, and wanted nothing more than to curl up and sleep.
  • But while it’s normal to feel that way from time to time, it becomes a problem if you’re constantly weary.
  • Fatigue can disrupt your life, both socially and professionally. Basil can prevent exhaustion that’s due to a copper insufficiency.
  • Copper is a requisite for the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate, which creates energy

Keeps your Digestive System Healthy

  • Your digestive system plays an extremely important role in your health.
  • Proper digestion is needed for your body to get all the nourishment it needs, and it forms a large part of your immune base.
  • The manganese found in basil helps your digestive tract remain healthy and perform well.
  • Therefore, it allows for the better absorption of fat and prevents constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • It also ensures that you don’t get vitamin deficiencies — by aiding the proper absorption of vitamins (such as vitamin B and vitamin E)
  • Similarly, copper aids in the digestion of iron in the digestive tract

Keeps your Eyes Healthy

  • We often take our sense of sight for granted. But poor vision can hamper our everyday lives to a degree greater than we realize.
  • As you get older, it’s normal to experience weakening eyes. One of the things you can do to prevent this condition is eating more basil.
  • Basil has lots of beta-carotene, which has been shown to reduce the chances of developing muscular degeneration.
  • Studies also show that vitamin A can protect you from dry-eye syndrome and Stardgart’s disease
  • Ascorbic acid (also found in basil) helps prevent cataracts
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