Basil is a culinary herb that originated in tropical Asia. It is a member of the mint family and is closely related to oregano and thyme. Basil has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its many health benefits, including as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, digestive aid, detoxifier, and pain and stress reliever.
Sweet basil | Holy basil | Genovese basil
Basil is a culinary herb that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. It has a number of health benefits, including:
- Anti-inflammatory: Basil contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds can help to reduce inflammation, which can be helpful for a variety of conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, and allergies.
- Antioxidant: It is a good source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals which are unstable molecules that can damage cells, leading to a variety of health problems, such as cancer and heart disease.
- Digestive aid: Basil can help to improve digestion as it contains compounds that can help to relax the muscles of the digestive tract, making it easier to pass food through the system. Basil can also help to relieve indigestion and bloating.
- Detoxifying: It can help to detoxify the body as it contains compounds that can help to remove toxins from the liver and kidneys. Basil can also help to improve circulation and lymph flow.
- Pain reliever: Basil has been shown to have pain-relieving properties. It contains compounds that can help to block pain signals from reaching the brain, so it can be helpful for relieving headaches, muscle pain, and menstrual cramps.
- Stress reliever: It has been shown to have stress-relieving properties as it contains compounds that can help to calm the mind and body. Basil can be helpful for relieving anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Basil is a warm-season annual herb that is best grown in full sun in well-drained soil that is in the mint family – Lamiaceae, and widely cultivated in temperate regions for its edible leaves. Basil has a square stem and opposite, ovate leaves that are 3–11 cm (1.2–4.3 in) long and 1–6 cm (0.4–2.4 in) wide. The leaves are green, although some varieties have purple or variegated leaves.
The flowers are small, white or pink, and are borne in terminal spikes. Basil is a popular herb in cooking and is used to flavour a variety of dishes, including salads, sauces, and meats. It is also used in herbal medicine and is said to have a number of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, and relieving pain.
- Eugenol: a compound that gives basil its characteristic clove-like flavour. Eugenol has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Ocimene: a compound that gives basil its minty flavour. Ocimene has antispasmodic, expectorant, and sedative properties.
- Linalool: a compound that gives basil its floral flavour. Linalool has sedative, anxiolytic, and anticonvulsant properties.
- Thymol: a compound that gives basil its camphor-like flavour. Thymol has antiseptic, expectorant, and antispasmodic properties.
- Caryophyllene: a compound that gives basil its peppery flavour. Caryophyllene has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antispasmodic properties.
Basil is best harvested when the leaves are young and tender. The leaves can be harvested at any time, but the flavour is strongest when the plant is in full bloom. To harvest basil, simply pinch off the leaves from the stem. You can also cut the stems back to encourage new growth. Basil can be used fresh or dried. To dry basil, wash the leaves and pat them dry.
Harvest basil in the morning, when the leaves are at their freshest, ideally from the top of the plant, where they are the most tender.
Basil has a long and storied history, dating back to ancient times. It is mentioned in the Bible and was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for its medicinal and culinary properties. Basil was also used in religious ceremonies and rituals.
In Hindu mythology, basil is sacred to the god Vishnu. It is said that Vishnu once took the form of a basil plant in order to protect a young woman from a demon. The woman was so grateful that she planted the basil plant in her garden, and it has been revered ever since.
In Buddhist mythology, basil is associated with the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara. It is said that Avalokiteshvara once appeared to a group of monks in the form of a basil plant. The monks were so moved by Avalokiteshvara’s compassion that they began to cultivate basil plants in their monasteries.
In Italian folklore, basil is associated with love and fidelity. It is said that if a woman carries a basil leaf with her, she will be loved by her husband. Basil is also said to be a good luck charm and is often planted in gardens to bring good fortune to the home.
Basil is a medicinal herb that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. It is believed to have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Basil is also a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron and calcium.
You can make tea by steeping fresh or dried basil leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Basil tea can be enjoyed hot or cold. Basil can also be taken in a tincture, ointment, or in capsules.
Possible Side Effects
Basil is generally considered safe for most people when consumed in food amounts. However, there are some potential side effects of basil, especially when consumed in large amounts or taken as a supplement, these include:
- Diarrhoea: Basil can cause diarrhoea in some people. This is more likely to occur if you consume large amounts of basil or if you are not used to eating basil.
- Low blood sugar: Basil can lower blood sugar levels in some people. This is more likely to occur if you have diabetes or if you are taking medications that lower blood sugar levels.
- Allergies: Basil can cause allergies in some people. Symptoms of an allergy to basil can include hives, itching, swelling, and difficulty breathing.
- Interaction with medications: Basil can interact with some medications, such as blood thinners and diabetes medications. If you are taking any medications, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking basil.