Summary: 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 some 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. Free radicals are notorious atoms 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 got flavonoids, which boost your immune system, slow down the effects of aging, 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.
#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.
#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 savior for you. Besides cleansing, basil also removes impurities, dirt, and grease that happen to clog your pores. All you need to do is make a thick paste with a handful of basil leaves, sandalwood powder, and rose water. Apply this pack on 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 will also help you prevent it.
#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, such as citronellol, linalool, and eugenol, it helps 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. 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
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, too.
#9 Basil helps prevent heart ailments
You already know that basil contains eugenol. 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. It is not all. 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 infections
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, respiratory and abdominal infections.
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 chili – 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, cumin seeds, and let them splutter
- Add finely green chili, 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, 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 chilies – 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 chili, garlic ginger paste and fry for a minute
- Add tomatoes, basil leaves and cook for 2-3 minutes
- Add cooked rice, black pepper powder, 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 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 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 but 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 the mercury content releases if you chew them. It may damage your enamel and lead to discoloration 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.