Basil: Subtle Kitchen Herb with Powerful Health Benefits

A man taking basil from a woman will love her always. Sir Thomas Moore

Basil, “the oldest herb,” is one of my favorites for cooking and health. Discover its balancing health benefits, its amazing history and trivia and many delicious recipes.

7 Health Benefits of Basil

1. Powerful anti-inflammatory from essential oils:
Eugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene and terpineol are a just few of the oils in basil.
The enzyme-inhibiting effect of the eugenol can help with rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.

2. DNA Protection
Orientin and viceninare are two water-soluble flavonoids in basil that help white blood cells protect cell structures and chromosomes from radiation as well as oxygen-based damage.

3. Promotes cardiovascular health
High levels of magnesium help muscles and blood vessels relax, improving blood flow.

Exercise is only one part of cardiovascular health; nutrition is crucial, too.

Anti-Bacterial Properties
The oils in basil provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth similar to oregano oil (from the same plant family).

  • Inhibits strains of bacteria (Staphylococcus, Enterococcus and Pseudomonas) which are widespread and have developed resistance to treatment with antibiotic drugs. (Journal of Microbiology Methods), (September 2003)
  • Inhibits Shigella, an infectious bacteria that triggers diarrhea. This is why it’s a good idea to include basil and thyme in you salad dressings. (Food Microbiology, February 2004)

5. In ancient times it was used as an antidote for snake bites, and gave people strength during religious fasting.

6. Stimulates the appetite and helps curb flatulence. Basil tea is said to help with dysentery, nausea and stomach distress due to gas.

7.  Alkalizes the Body
Like all greens, basil provides alkalizing minerals to balance against the typical acidic diet. Basil is so full of phytonutrients that it is also considered a herb in all health systems.

You can also LISTEN to me explaining these benefits in a fun manner in this video Basil Health Benefits.  Check it out!

Just a few of the many varieties of basil

So Many Types of Basil

There are 35 types of Basil plants which belong to the mint family.
They range from annuals to perennials and shrubs.
Holy basil is the most famous – known for its medicinal and spiritual qualities.
Here are 10 of the most common Varieties of Basil.

Basil Trivia:

  • Basil has always been a token of love in Italy.
  • Basil is Greek for ‘royal’ or ‘kingly’.
  • In ancient Greece and Rome, doctors believed the growers needed to scream wild curses to grow it successfully.
  • In old India, basil was cherished as a symbol of hospitality.
  • There were many superstitions in ancient times about Basil. One was they believed that a basil leaf left under a pot would, in time, turn into a scorpion, and smelling the plant could bring a scorpion into the brain.
  • When a Romanian boy accepts a sprig of basil from his girl, he is engaged.
  • Basil was used to embalm ancient Egyptian mummies.
  • In India every good Hindu goes to rest with a Basil leaf on his breast. This is a passport to Paradise.
  • It was called the herb of poverty based on the idea is that it would help protect those in need.

    Among traditional aphrodisiacs, basil is common to many cultures.

  • Sweet basil herb is known across cultures to naturally increase sex drive and fertility by fostering a feeling of total relaxation in the body and muscles while increasing circulation.
  • In Italy, it is a symbol of love.
  • The scent of basil was said to drive men wild — so much so that women would dust their breasts with dried and powdered basil.

Basil Nutrition:

Basil is a rich source of many essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins. It is a very good source of iron, and calcium, and a good source of potassium and vitamin C. Learn more here: Basil Nutrition

Fresh basil, like this here, is grown throughout the world.

Basil History

  • Basil is native to tropical Asia and India; it has been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years.
  • Its name is derived from the Greek basileus which means king.
  • Ancient records from 907 A.D. indicate sweet basil in the Hunan region of China. It migrated westward as whole plants, since it could easily grow indoors away from frost exposure.
  • Today, basil is not only used as a seasoning, but also in perfume, incense and herbal remedies.

Basil Use and Safety

  • Basil might be UNSAFE when used when used in significant quantities long-term. It contains estragole, a chemical that might increase the risk of getting liver cancer. Concentrated basil oil can therefore be UNSAFE due to the estragole content. Read more at Medicine Net or Herbal Perspective.
  • In some people basil can cause low blood sugar.

How To Cook, Buy and Store Basil

Basil has a distinct flavor which means that you can’t just add it to any dish and expect it taste good. When it works though, it is delicious.Read my Tips For Cooking With Basil.


For cooking, organic basil is best, and of course, it HAS to be fresh.


My Favorite Basil Recipes:

Vegan Pesto: This is both fresh and raw and delicious.

Basil Tea: For nausea and indigestion.

Tasty Recipes with Basil I am a great fan of basil and you can find many amazing basil recipes on my site.

Vegan pesto

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Jeramie D
Jeramie Dabout a year ago

Just heard on NPR to put basil in a colander and run boiling hot water over it, then cold and the basil will stay green when you make pesto instead of turning brown

Sonia M

Good to know,thanks for sharing

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers2 years ago

Interesting article. I love the stuff! tyfs

Carole R.
Carole R5 years ago


Val M.
Val M5 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen5 years ago

Thank you :)

April D.
April D5 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen5 years ago

Thank you :)

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran5 years ago

I am officially obsessed with Basil. Last year I had 3 varieties, sweet, cinnamon and camphor basil! then the aphids with help of the ants killed them off. i managed to save seeds. all but the camphor basil has returned :(

william Miller
william Miller5 years ago