Right from a happy tummy to clear skin, basil leaves work wonders for our mind and body. Let’s have a look at how basil benefits your health and some easy recipes to add basil to your diet!
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a sacred and remarkable herb loaded with numerous health benefits. The term ‘basil’ comes from basilikhon, an ancient Greek word that means royal. With over 60 varieties, including sweet basil, holy basil, lemon basil, curly basil, among others, now this wonderful herb is grown all over the world.
Many people also plant it in their kitchen gardens so that they can fetch a handful when needed. And most Indian households worship basil (Tulsi) and have a space dedicated for it near the entrance of their homes. Also, sweet basil is integral to many cuisines, such as Indian, Thai, and Italian. Right from immunity to gut health, this fragrant herb can work wonders. So, let us take a look at some of the best basil benefits!
Basil contains Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Iron, Manganese, Calcium, and essential oils. Plus, it has the goodness of antioxidants, including beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta-carotene. However, all these miraculous compounds happen to leave the herb during the process of drying. Therefore, grab fresh basil leaves whenever possible to get the most of them.
Here Are A Few Basil Leaves Benefits
1. Basil reduces oxidative stress
Basil is a powerhouse of antioxidants (free-radical scavengers). These compounds, as the name suggests, combat free radicals found in your body. Studies have elaborated free radicals as notorious elements that cause significant damage to the cells and put you at an increased risk of many health complications, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.
Also, basil has flavonoids, which boost your immune system, slow down the effects of ageing, and protect your cellular structure from damage.
2. Basil helps in preventing cancer
Although holy basil is quite different from sweet basil (what we use in most of our recipes), it contains phytochemicals. These are bioactive plant compounds that shield you from various cancers, such as skin cancer, lung cancer, oral cancer, and liver cancer.
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Basil also slows down the spread and generation of cancerous cells. The American Institute For Cancer Research has conducted several studies to strengthen these claims.
3. Basil benefits digestion
Sweet basil contains eugenol. This chemical compound has anti-inflammatory properties that ensure that your digestive tract is healthy.
Basil benefits your digestive and nervous system while ensuring that you have optimal digestion and a proper pH balance in your body. Basil also relieves constipation by acting as a bulk-forming laxative.
4. Basil offers excellent skin benefits
Basil contains powerful and healing essential oils that cleanse your skin from deep inside. And, if you have oily skin, it is a saviour for you. Camphene, a constituent in basil, helps it act as a toner and thus helps in removing surplus oil, dead cells, and dirt that blocks the follicles. It even works on intractable blackheads and whiteheads.
It also eliminates free radicals that damage the skin making it look old and tired. All you need to do is make a thick paste with a handful of basil leaves, sandalwood powder, and rose water. Apply this pack to your face and neck, wait for 15 to 20 minutes, and wash it with cold water.
If you have an acne problem, the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of basil and basil oil will also help you prevent it as shown in this study.
5. Basil helps in diabetes management
If you have diabetes, add basil to your diet for sure. It slows down the process of sugar release in the blood while helping you with diabetes management.
According to many studies on animals and humans, holy basil can also help counter the other health complications associated with diabetes, including hyperinsulinemia (high amount of insulin in the blood), excessive body weight, etc.
6. Basil helps fight inflammation in the body
As basil has got potent anti-inflammatory properties and essential oils. It has been empirically proven that oils such as citronellol, linalool, and eugenol help cure a range of health conditions, including inflammatory bowel conditions, heart ailments, and rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, consuming basil can also help treat headaches, fever, cold and cough, flu, and sore throat.
7. Basil helps you deal with depression
Basil contains adaptogen, an anti-stress substance. Research shows it helps deal with anxiety and depression while stimulating neurotransmitters that control energy and happiness-inducing hormones. So, sip a hot cup of tea with holy basil and sage brewed to perfection and see the difference.
8. Basil has got detoxifying properties
According to studies, basil safeguards our bodies against toxins by boosting antioxidants and increasing the activity of enzymes That clear off and neutralize free radicals. The free-radical scavenging also helps reduce the ageing of the skin and helps maintain the texture and elasticity of the skin.
Basil is a wonder herb for your liver, one of the most vital organs of your body. It detoxifies your liver and plays a crucial role in preventing fat deposition in your liver. Basil benefits your liver while taking care of your overall health as well. It removes toxins from the blood and purifies it.
9. Basil helps prevent heart ailments
You already know that basil contains eugenol. Various studies show that this chemical compound aids in blocking the calcium channels, thus lowering your blood pressure.
Also, the essential oils in basil reduce the level of triglycerides and cholesterol in your body. You will also find magnesium in this herb that improves blood circulation and allows your blood vessels and muscles to relax, preventing muscle cramps.
10. Basil prevents infection
Apart from all the goodness basil possesses, its antibacterial properties are among the most noted ones. It helps fight a range of infections, including skin allergies, urinary infections, and respiratory and abdominal infections. This research reinforces these assertions.
Indian Recipes with Basil Leaves
Now that you know about the benefits of basil leaves, why not peep into how you can churn out some delicious Indian recipes with this herb? So, put your culinary gears on and jazz up your diet with the taste of basil!
1. Daal with basil leaves
Delight your taste buds with this delicious and healthy daal!
Here’s how to make it!
- Moong or Toor Dal – 0.5 cup
- Water – 1.5 cup
- Turmeric powder – 0.5 tsp
- Green chilli – 2
- Cumin seeds – 0.5 tsp
- Mustard seeds – 0.5 tsp
- Ginger garlic paste – 1 tsp
- Basil leaves – 0.25 cup
- Sliced onion – 0.25 cup
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Oil/Ghee – 1 tsp
- Wash and soak dal for 30-40 minutes
- Drain water and pressure cook with freshwater, turmeric powder, and a pinch of salt for 3-4 whistles
- Allow pressure to release naturally
- Heat oil/ghee in a pan. Once hot, add mustard seeds, and cumin seeds, and let them splutter
- Add finely green chilli, onions, ginger, and garlic paste and fry for 5 minutes or until onions turn slightly brown
- Next, add turmeric powder, salt, roughly chopped basil leaves, and cooked dal, and mix well
- Add warm water if required to adjust consistency and bring it to a boil
- Simmer for another 5 minutes and take off the flame
Enjoy this delicious recipe with brown rice, jeera rice, or rotis!
2. Tangy tomato rice with a twist of basil
Once this beautiful rice preparation goes into your mouth, your taste buds will thank you. Check out the recipe!
- Tomato – 2 medium-sized
- Cooked rice – 1 cup
- Basil leaves – 0.25 cup
- Green chillies – 2, finely chopped
- Garlic ginger paste – 1 tsp
- oil/ghee – 1 tsp
- Black pepper powder – a dash
- Salt – 0.5 tsp
- Coriander leaves – 2 sprigs, chopped
- Take tomatoes and boil until the skin starts to peel
- Peel off the skin and chop them into small pieces
- Heat oil/ghee in a pan. Once hot, add green chilli, garlic ginger paste and fry for a minute
- Add tomatoes, and basil leaves and cook for 2-3 minutes
- Add cooked rice, black pepper powder, and salt and mix well
- Cook for a couple of minutes and take off the flame
- Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot
3. Basil tea
A healthy and refreshing tea that will uplift your mood with added health benefits.
- Basil leaves – 7-8
- Water – 1 cup
- Organic Honey – 0.25 tsp
- Cardamom powder – a dash
- Heat a pan, add water along with basil leaves and cardamom powder
- Bring it to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the brew becomes aromatic
- Take off the flame and pour it into a mug
- Stir in honey and serve warm
With all these health benefits, basil is indeed a miracle herb. Make sure to make it an integral part of your diet. Whether you have gut issues or skin, whether you want to get rid of a cold and cough or flu, basil leaves always come in handy. However, get in touch with a healthcare provider before you consume basil daily.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Who should avoid taking holy basil?
A. Although holy basil is an excellent herb, avoid consuming holy basil if 1) Your blood sugar level is low. 2) You are trying to conceive. 3) You are taking blood-thinning (anticoagulant) medications.
Q. Can holy basil damage your liver?
A. As per the WHO (World Health Organization), if you are on painkillers like acetaminophen, you are at a higher risk of liver damage if you have holy basil (tulsi) regularly. So, get in touch with your doctor before adding it to your diet.
Q. Does holy basil have mercury in it?
A. Well, yes! It does contain mercury, and it is not good for your teeth. Therefore, you should not chew basil leaves because of the mercury content released when you chew them. It may damage your enamel and lead to discolouration of your teeth.
Q. Can you eat basil leaves on an empty stomach?
A. Consuming basil leaves early in the morning helps maintain a happy and healthy digestive system. And, if you eat this herb on an empty stomach, you will get benefits for sure. It will help regulate the acid levels of your body while maintaining your pH levels.
Q. Is tulsi and basil the same?
A: No. Even though tulsi, sometimes referred to as the holy basil, has a similar taste, profile and features to that of the basil also called sweet basil or Thai basil they are not the same and have different properties. Tulsi is chiefly used as an indigenous medicinal ingredient while basil is a common flavouring and garnishing agent in culinary preparations.
Q. Can I eat basil leaves every day?
A: Yes, small amounts of basil can be consumed daily. It has several health benefits when consumed in moderation. It helps fight oxidative stress, depression and inflammation in the body. Having antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties, basil helps maintain skin health, boosts digestion and detoxifies the body. It also helps in the prevention and cure of diseases like cancer, diabetes and other heart conditions.
Q. What are the most common uses for basil?
A: Right from a happy tummy to clear skin, basil leaves work wonders for our mind and body. It helps fight oxidative stress, depression and inflammation in the body. Having antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties, basil helps maintain skin health, boosts digestion and detoxifies the body. It also helps in the prevention and cure of diseases like cancer, diabetes and other heart conditions. Basil is also a common culinary ingredient used to add flavour to dishes. A few common and easy recipes are basil tea, daal with basil leaves and tangy tomato rice with basil.
Q. Can you use basil for tea?
A: Yes, basil tea is a healthy and refreshing beverage that will uplift your mood with added health benefits. Basil contains vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, manganese, calcium, and essential oils. Plus, it has the goodness of antioxidants that fight free radicals that cause harm to our body in various ways. All you need to make basil tea is basil leaves, water, honey and cardamom powder. Heat a pan, add water along with basil leaves and cardamom powder and bring it to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the brew becomes aromatic. Take off the flame and pour it into a mug. Stir in honey and have it warm.
Q. Does fresh basil have any health benefits?
A: Fresh basil has several health benefits. It helps fight oxidative stress, depression and inflammation in the body. Having antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties, basil helps maintain skin health, boosts digestion and detoxifies the body. It also helps in the prevention and cure of diseases like cancer, diabetes and other heart conditions. Fresh basil contains Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Iron, Manganese, Calcium, and essential oils. Plus, it has the goodness of antioxidants that fight free radicals that cause harm to our body in various ways.
Q. What can basil cure?
A: Basil helps fight oxidative stress, depression and inflammation in the body. It also helps in the prevention and cure of diseases like cancer, diabetes and other heart conditions. Fresh basil contains Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Iron, Manganese, Calcium, and essential oils. Plus, it has the goodness of antioxidants that fight free radicals that cause harm to our body in various ways.
Q. Is Lemon basil water good for you?
A: Yes lemon basil water has several health benefits. This herb, with its tangy citrusy flavour, is rich in Vitamins like A, K and C. Vitamin A maintains eye health and protects against vision loss. Vitamin K speeds up the healing capabilities of the body. Lemon basil is packed with other nutrients like magnesium, iron-manganese, copper and calcium. It has anti-inflammatory properties that safeguard against cancer, especially that of the breast and colon. It maintains the level of a hormone called cortisol. Health conditions such as diabetes, reduced immune function, obesity, and even memory problems are linked to an increased level of cortisol.
Q. Is basil good for kidneys?
A: Yes, basil leaves act as a kidney tonic by cleansing the kidney of any depositions or toxins. It also lowers the level of uric acid which is a chief component leading to kidney stones.
Q. Which type of holy basil is best?
There are almost 108 types of holy Basil in the world, and each one has its own unique health quality. So, it really depends on what kind of health results you are looking for, which will determine the type of basil you should consume. Moreover, people have seen some benefits of having Vana Tulsi also known as Wild Tulsi. This type is usually cultivated around the Himalayas and has a strong aroma, which helps in boosting immunity. Apart from that, it further helps in improving mental as well as physical endurance. Moreover, this variant of Tulsi has anti-ageing properties.
Q. Which basil is used in pizza?
A: Sweet, Italian Basil or Napoletano basils are the most popular choices of pizza chefs for garnishing.
Amazing and educational information! I’ve learned a lot from reading this article ❤️
Thank you so much for your very informative report! – I always thought basil was an expensive luxury that perhaps I should not be buying …. i could buy so much more for the price – your report has certainly opened my eyes to the health benefits that I have been missing – I am now inclined to think it is not a luxury but a beautiful plant that I cannot afford not to buy! – thank you for people like you who impart such important health information – I am suffering from quite a few of the conditions that you have outlined and am now about to change my shopping list to always include the mighty basil.
Question: It was stated above in the FAQ that holy basil may contain mercury. My questions are:
1.) Is it (holy basil) the only basil variety that may contain mercury?
2.) That is a very interesting statement about mercury in basil and I have been wondering how that can be possible in controlled growing conditions. Is the mercury synthesized by the plant itself or is the plant extracting it from the soil or growing medium? Will it occur even in hydroponic growing conditions?
Any input on that will be appreciated, even if it is just directing me to some published research. Please direct your reply to my email.