While you might only think of basil as “nice in a pasta sauce,” would you believe that basil is not only delicious, but could help protect your heart? Read on to learn about the wonderful health benefits of eating basil!
Vitamins and other important nutrients in basil:
Vitamins: Vitamin K, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin A.*
* Basil is either an excellent or very good source of all of these nutrients and vitamins. There are many other nutrients, minerals and vitamins present in basil that are not listed here such as omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin C.
Health benefits of basil:
DNA Protection: Basil leaves come complete with an array of antioxidants and other wonderful phytonutrients. Some of these phytonutrients, orientin and vicenin, which are in the flavonoid family, have been found to “protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage.” – whfoods
Anti Bacterial Properties: The antibacterial nature of basil is linked to its volatile oils (essential oils) such as: estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene.
“Essential oil of basil, obtained from its leaves, has demonstrated the ability to inhibit several species of pathogenic bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotic drugs.” – whfoods
Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Eugenol (one of basil’s volatile oils) can also help block the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX) in the body. This is important because COX is the same enzyme that anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen are formulated to help block, making basil a natural anti-inflammatory.
Cardiovascular Health: Basil comes complete with vitamin A (through beta-carotene), magnesium, and many other nutrients that can help protect cell walls from free radical damage (in the blood system and other body structures), improve blood flow and help stop cholesterol from oxidizing in the blood stream.
How to use basil:
- Add fresh basil to salad dressings, smoothies, herbal teas or your favorite pasta sauce.
Basil will not only give any drink, dressing or dish a great flavor, but can also help kill any microbes that might be hiding in your greens or other food. I love adding a sprig or two of basil to my green drinks in the morning!
Dried basil still has many of the health benefits listed, but your best bet is fresh! Try growing some in your garden and add fresh basil to raw dishes or at the end of the cooking process to preserve its nutrients and other beneficial properties.
- Add basil essential oil to natural store bought or homemade cleaning products:
Adding basil essential oil to your natural cleaning supplies (Sal-suds, Castile soap, vinegar etc.) or hand/body soap (Dr. Bronners) in a low concentration (1% or less*) can add natural anti bacterial (anti microbial) properties.
*I often use one drop of essential oil per one ounce of carrier solution (you can try using more or less, but test for sensitivity before using on your skin.) I would not add essential oils to a chemical cleaner or soap.
What to learn more about basil? Check out:
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- Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.