Basil is one of the most consumed herbs in the world. And it is also one of the oldest herbs known to humans, cultivated for over 5,000 years. But do you know about the health benefits of basil? In India they revere Holy basil (Tulsi) which is used in Tamil and Ayurvedic medicine. This is the most powerful medicinal basil, but if you cannot find it then you can use other types of basil which provide a gentler adaptogenic effect.
The name basil comes from Latin and Greek meaning “royal / kingly plant”. Originally, basil leaves were only used by royalty, but now everybody can take advantage of the health benefits of basil.
Basil Vitamins, Minerals, and Oils
Health benefits of basil, as well as flavor and smell, come from the concentration of essential volatile oils which are present in each type. Some of the oils are linalool, pinene, terpineol, citronellol, geraniol, and cinnamate.
This member of the mint family is full of nutritional components. Basil provides vitamin A, C, E, K and several types of B including pantothenic acid (B5), B6 and B9 which is folate. Most of these nutrients are not significant in basil, except for vitamin K. Dried leaves have more concentrations of nutrients than fresh.
Manganese in basil helps create better mental reflexes and can balance hormones, reduce pain, stress and fatigue which are important to control PMS symptoms. Cooper stimulates your brain and cognitive functions. It also eliminates exhaustion and fatigue providing improved energy levels.
Other minerals found in basil are calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Many multivitamins and supplements include basil, as well as other plants such as spinach, mint and ginseng which can improve your health.
How to Use Basil Medicinally
The easiest way to take advantage of the health benefits of basil is simply to incorporate it in your diet. There are tons of recipes that include this delicious herb. But in case you need to treat a specific condition then its best to use it in an extract form, say pills or tincture so you know the exact dosage you are taking. A safe dosage would be around 655 to 1800 milligrams (0.6 to 1.8 grams) per day.
Basil tea is used to cure colds and coughing. For colds simply drink basil leaf tea, while for coughing you can add 5 cloves and 8 basil leaves, boil, then add a little salt and drink. Gargle basil tea to cure a sore throat. This tea also calms an upset stomach and soothes digestion. If you have nausea you can put two drops of basil essential oil with a teaspoon of cinnamon powder and boil. In case of vomiting combine the tea with crushed ginger.
Cure headaches with a basil facial steam by adding 2 tablespoons of basil leaves into a pot of water and breathing the steam for 10 minutes with covering your head with a towel. When used topically, basil leaf oil can treat ear insect bites and stings.
Chewing basil leaves daily will help purify the blood. Juice of fresh basil leaves will help with vitamin A deficiency to improve eyesight. Another health benefit of basil leaves is chewing them when you are trying to quit smoking.
Treat ear infections (especially of children) by crushing 5 basil leaves, extracting the juice and mixing it with coconut oil to apply around the infected ear with a cotton ball.
Precautions when Using Basil
All of the precautions when using basil are more about using supplements (essential oils, tinctures and pills) than eating small dosages of the actual herb.
The use of this herb (especially Holy basil) is not recommended for pregnant or women trying to conceive, since it has some anti-fertility effects. This also affects the sperm count of men. It is also risky during pregnancy as it may reduce your ability to lactate and cause premature delivery. Medicinal use of basil is not recommended during breastfeeding.
Basil has high levels of potassium that can lower your blood pressure, so people with issues should consult their doctors before using it. Do not use basil medicinally two weeks before surgery as it may slow down your blood clotting and thin your blood.
People who have diabetes (or any other condition where you need to monitor your blood sugar levels) should not consume more than 30 grams of basil per day since it can drop your sugar rate dramatically.
Health Benefits of Basil
Basil is one of the top anti-inflammatory herbs. This is one of the most important health benefits of basil since inflammation is the cause of pretty much every chronic disease. So it is very important to consume foods that can calm down inflammation. Essential oils in basil, including eugenol, citronellol and linalool, are what cause this effect.
Eugenol found in the leaves of basil causes an anti-inflammatory reaction in the digestive track. Thus, helping balance the acid in the body and restoring proper pH level. Basil can also cure a cold, cough, flu, sore throat, headache and fever. If taken on a regular basis it can lower the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and inflammatory bowel condition. This herb can relax blood vessels and improve their contractions to remove plaques that can cause damage.
It is a bit less effective as aspirin and ibuprofen, but without side effects. Those that have wounds can take basil to increase the blood circulation in the area and reduce de swelling.
Water soluble flavonoids (rientin and viceninare) found in basil help protect white blood cells. This herb can protect and fight against free radicals that cause oxidative stress and damage the cells in the body. These antioxidants protect cellular structure, DNA, strengthen the immune system and delay skin aging. Antioxidants also restrict unwanted alterations of chromosomes that can lead to cell mutation and the creation of cancerous cells.
Free radicals are responsible for asthma, certain types of arthritis, and oxidizing cholesterol in your bloodstream, which accumulates in your arteries elevating the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
One of the lesser known health benefits of basil is its ability to cleanse the skin from within. It is particularly beneficial for people with oily skin. Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties help prevent acne formation. It also removes dirty and impurities that clog pores. Basil cleans the skin and protects it from stress, environmental damage and wrinkles caused from a loss of collagen.
You can add basil essential oil to your skin products or buy a product that include it. Add 8 drops of essential oil to 1/4 of water (this will last a week in the refrigerator) and spray before bedtime. Or you can brew basil tea and apply the liquid to your face with a cotton ball. Another idea is to make a paste from basil leaves and apply it to your fave.
Use basil essential oil to treat wounds, cuts and skin infections. Antibiotic properties in basil can restrict the growth of E. Coli and B. Anthracis bacteria, as well as treat conditions such as eczema and vitiligo.
Basil extract can inhibit strains of bacteria that won’t respond to antibiotics – pathogenic bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotic drugs over the course of time. This is one of the best health benefits of basil because it can boost your immune system and fight off pre-existing infections. You can thank the volatile oils again. Thyme is another herb that has similar benefits.
Antibacterial properties of basil are also great at controlling mouth plaque and improving oral health. This is why some toothpaste include basil. You can also make your own by mixing powdered basil, baking soda, pink Himalayan salt and coconut oil.
Basil can stop the growth of the fungus that causes dandruff, thus strengthening your hair follicles and improving the circulation in your scalp.
The journal of Nutrition and Cancer published a study stating that the phytochemicals found in basil can help prevent cancer. This herb increases the antioxidant activity in your body and can alter gene expressions. Basil (especially Tulsi or Holy basil) can also stop tumors from spreading and kill cancerous cells. Phytochemicals protect cells from damage caused by radiation or chemotherapy. Basil is not the only herb that can fight cancer.
Some of the health benefits of basil can really help women, since they are more likely to be affected by osteoporosis (weak bones). Basil can prevent and treat this condition as it improves the rate of calcium absorption. Basil leaves have a lot of vitamin K which improves bone density. Better density means less risk of fragile bones and bone-related injuries, which is specially important as we age.
Like cilantro, basil is also a great detoxifier. One of the health benefits of basil is preventing fat buildup in the liver, thus keeping it healthy. The liver is an essential organ since it plays a crucial role in metabolism. Basil leaves improve kidney function and detoxify the body as a whole. Sweet basil and lemon water are also detoxifying, though you’ll get a more powerful detox from lemon basil.
Some of the health benefits of basil include the treatment of indigestion as well as other stomach problems including loss of appetite and acid reflux. Its essential volatile oils are very powerful. Basil can help restore the natural pH levels of the body. As well as feeding the gut microflora with healthy bacteria which increases immunity and promotes healthy digestion. This herb can also serve as a diuretic by reducing water retention and bloating.
Adaptogenic herbs help the body handle stress more effectively. In this era who doesn’t need help balancing stress? Basil can stimulate neurotransmitters that regulate hormones that bring happiness and energy. Use basil essential oil to fight anxiety, depression, nervous tension, mental fatigue, melancholy and headaches.
One of the health benefits of basil is slowing down the release of sugar in the blood. Simple carbs and refined sugars cause a spike in your blood sugar, which is followed by a drop. This leads to an abnormal release of insulin that damages your pancreas. Basil has a very low glycemic load and its essential oils cut down triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
Anti-inflammatory properties of basil can protect your eyes from damages caused by free radicals. Health benefits of basil include the treatment of issues such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. As well as fungal, bacterial or viral infections in the eyes.
Some health benefits of basil can be applied to your garden too! Basil leaves can control unwanted insects and plant destroying pests. Plant basil or burn leaves and leave them around the garden. For humans you can create a natural anti mosquito spray with basil essential oil.