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Basil Leaves: An Anti-Inflammatory Superfood- HealthifyMe

Well-known for their flavour and culinary value, basil leaves are an excellent complement to foods and offer a wealth of health benefits. From traditional herbal medicines to contemporary scientific research, basil has long been recognised for its extraordinary qualities that can enhance overall health. In addition to being a good source of potassium and folate, basil is also a great source of vitamins A and K. Its essential oils are rich in carotenoids and antioxidants.

Nutritional Profile of Basil

Here is the nutritional value of 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh basil:

  • Calories: 1.22 kcal
  • Protein: 0.167 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.14 g
  • Fibre: 0.034 g
  • Potassium: 15.6 mg
  • Phosphorous: 2.97 mg
  • Calcium: 9.38 mg
  • Folate: 3.6 µg
  • Vitamin A: 14 µg
  • Vitamin K: 22 µg
  • Beta carotene: 166 µg
  • Lutein + zeaxanthin: 299 µg

Many people use very little fresh basil in their food, but one can use more of the leaves to get the most nutrients and antioxidants. One may use even larger amounts as a basis for any meal by sautéing them with onions and olive oil.

Basil Leaves: The Common and the Best Varieties

There are different kinds of basil leaves that one can use for a variety of reasons, including cooking. Most of them have their own set of health benefits that they offer when consumed in the right amount that your body requires. They are as follows: 

  • Sweet Basil: They are the most widely grown and popular kind of basil leaf, primarily used in Italian dishes, with a licorice-clove flavour. They are usually available as dried in supermarkets.
  • Bush or Greek Basil: They have a strong aroma but mild flavour, suitable as a sweet basil substitute.
  • Thai Basil: They have an anise-liquorice flavour and are a common ingredient in Thai and Southeast Asian cuisine.
  • Cinnamon Basil: They are native to Mexico, and it has a cinnamon-like flavour and scent. Cinnamon basil goes well with legumes or spicy stir-fried vegetables.
  • Lettuce Basil: They are large, wrinkled, soft leaves with a liquorice-like flavour, perfect for salads or pairing with tomatoes and olive oil.
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi): Native to Malaysia and India, sacred basil is also known as holy basil and tulsi. It serves as a spice, medicinal, and for religious purposes throughout Asia, in addition to flavouring. 

Summary

Sacred basil, also known as holy basil or tulsi, is indigenous to Malaysia and India. In Asia, it is utilised not just as a flavouring but also as medication and for religious purposes. Large, soft, wrinkled leaves with a liquorice-like flavour characterise lettuce basil, whereas cinnamon basil pairs well with spicy stir-fried vegetables or lentils. In cooking, sweet basil is the most prevalent herb. Greek basil is a substitute for sweet basil. 

Health Benefits of Basil Leaves

Basil leaves can offer a large number of health benefits if you are to include them in your daily diet plan. They can act as a valuable supplement to your daily meals. The various health benefits that basil leaves offer are as follows. 

Basil Improves Skin Health

The essential oils in basils have deep-cleansing properties that are particularly effective for oily skin. The presence of Camphene can help remove excess oil, dead cells, and dirt that clog follicles. They are also capable of addressing and removing blackheads and whiteheads. A paste made from basil leaves, sandalwood powder, and rose water can be used as a rejuvenating face mask to help improve skin health.

Basil Prevents Infections

An analysis of the phytochemicals in basil was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2006. They discovered that certain bacteria and fungi were suppressed by the essential oils contained in basil, which have antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Basil’s antibacterial properties help treat skin allergies, urinary infections, and respiratory and abdominal infections, as supported by research.

Basil Fights Inflammation

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology released a study on (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), a chemical found in basil, in 2008. They proposed that this potent anti-inflammatory substance might be helpful in the treatment of conditions including inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis, where inflammation is a major contributing factor.

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Basil’s potent anti-inflammatory properties and essential oils, including citronellol, linalool, and eugenol, make it effective in treating inflammatory conditions. Basil extract can also relieve headaches, fever, colds, coughs, flu, and sore throats.

Basil Helps in Diabetes Management

Basil may help lower blood sugar levels and lessen the long-term effects of elevated blood sugar, according to some research. For three months, 60 individuals with type 2 diabetes who took 250 mg of holy basil extract in addition to their diabetic medication before breakfast and dinner saw an 18% reduction in their average blood sugar levels compared to those who only took the medication. 

Basil Can Benefit Digestion

Herbs that relieve gas, like basil, might help soothe an upset stomach. Carminatives, commonly referred to as aromatic bitters or digestive tonics, are found in basil leaves. It aids in the relief of heartburn, nausea, indigestion, and excessive gas sensations. Basil can also alleviate constipation by acting as a bulk-forming laxative.

Summary

Basil’s role in managing diabetes, detoxifying the body, and preventing infections makes it a valuable addition to one’s daily diet. The (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), a chemical found in basil, is a potent anti-inflammatory substance. They have deep-cleansing properties that are particularly effective in addressing and removing blackheads and whiteheads. Carminatives found in basil help ease the symptoms of heartburn, nausea, indigestion, and excessive gas. By taking holy basil extract with diabetes medicine before breakfast and dinner, the average blood sugar level drops by 18%. 

Healthy Recipes That You Can Prepare Using Basil Leaves

Below are some recipes that one can prepare easily at home to make sure to get a regular dose of basil leaves.

Basil Tea

Basil tea can be a healthy and refreshing drink that will uplift your mood in the morning or 

 whenever you choose to have it. 

Ingredients

  • Basil leaves: 7 to 8 nos
  • Cardamom powder: a dash
  • Organic honey: 1/2 tsp
  • Water: 100 ml

Methods of Preparation

  • Heat a pan and add water to it. 
  • Let the water come to a simmer, after which switch off the gas. 
  • Next, add basil leaves and cardamom powder, and let these rest for 3 min. 
  • Boil it and simmer for around three to four minutes or until the brew becomes aromatic.
  • Take it off the flame and pour it into a mug.
  • Stir in honey and serve warm.

Dal with Basil Leaves

Another great recipe to try if you are looking to add basil leaves to your diet is Dal with basil leaves. 

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Ingredients

  • Basil leaves: 100 g
  • Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Ginger garlic paste: 1 tsp
  • Moong or Toor Dal: 100 g
  • Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Oil/Ghee: 1 tsp
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Sliced onion: 100 g
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp

Method of Preparation

  • Wash and soak the dal for at least 30-40 minutes.
  • Drain water and fill the pressure cook with water, dal, turmeric powder, and salt.
  • Let it cook for up to 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.
  • Then add green chilli, garlic paste, onions, ginger, and fry till the onions turn slightly brown.
  • Add turmeric powder, salt, basil leaves, and cooked dal.
  • Add warm water if required and bring it to a boil
  • Simmer for another 5 minutes. 

HealthifyMe Suggestion

Tulsi or Holy Basil is very easily available in India as it is grown in most homes. A way to easily build up your family’s immunity over time is to take 5-10 tulsi leaves and boil them in a litre or 2 of water. The eater will turn a little yellow and will have a wonderful taste and smell. Each member of your family can have at least one to two glasses of this water each day to stay healthy and ward off infections.

Conclusion

The health benefits of basil leaves are both remarkable and diverse. From their ability to combat oxidative stress and reduce inflammation to aiding digestion, preventing infections, and even potentially reducing blood sugar levels, basil proves to be an excellent addition to one’s daily diet. As nature’s gift, the versatile basil leaf is a flavorful and healthful ally that one should not overlook.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is basil, and what are its different varieties?

A: Basil is an aromatic herb. These leaves are known for their sweet and slightly peppery flavour. Various basil varieties include Sweet Basil, Thai Basil, Holy Basil, Lemon Basil, and others, each with distinct flavours and culinary uses.

Q: How does basil contribute to health and well-being?

A: Basil can contribute to health and well-being by providing essential nutrients and antioxidants to our body. They also offer potential benefits like anti-inflammatory and digestive properties. 

Q: What is the nutritional content of basil leaves?

A: Basil leaves are low in calories and contain nutrients like vitamins K, A, calcium, and iron, contributing to overall health and well-being. They also offer antioxidants that can help protect cells from oxidative stress.

Q: Can basil be used for its potential antioxidant properties?

A: Yes, you can use basil for its potential antioxidant properties, which help protect cells from oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Incorporating basil into your diet can contribute to overall health and well-being.

Q: Can basil support heart health and help regulate blood pressure?

A: Basil may support heart health by reducing oxidative stress, promoting healthy blood vessels, and aiding in cholesterol management. It can also help regulate blood pressure through its potential hypotensive effects.

Q: How is basil used in traditional and herbal medicine?

A: Basil serves in traditional and herbal medicine for its potential as an adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and digestive aid. It is employed to manage conditions related to stress, inflammation, respiratory health, and digestive issues, among other potential health benefits.

Q: Are there specific benefits of basil for skin and hair health?

A: Basil may benefit skin health by managing acne, reducing oxidative stress, and promoting a healthy complexion. For hair health, it can stimulate hair growth, control dandruff, and strengthen hair strands.

Q: What is the role of basil in managing stress and promoting relaxation?

A: Basil, particularly holy basil, is an adaptogen which may help the body adapt to stress and promote relaxation. It is used in traditional medicine and aromatherapy for its calming and stress-reducing effects, potentially alleviating anxiety and improving overall mental well-being. The aroma of basil, such as sweet basil, can have a soothing influence, making it useful for stress relief.

Q: Can basil be a part of a balanced diet for weight management?

A: Yes, basil can be a part of a balanced diet for weight management due to its low-calorie content and potential digestive benefits. It can enhance the flavour of low-calorie, nutritious meals and may help with digestion, making it a flavorful and healthy addition to weight-conscious diets.

Q: How is basil used in aromatherapy and essential oil production? What are the potential antimicrobial properties of basil?

A: Basil is used in aromatherapy through the extraction of its essential oil, typically from the leaves. Basil essential oil has calming and stress-reducing properties and goes well in diffusers, massages, or added to bathwater.
Basil, particularly holy basil (Tulsi), has demonstrated potential antimicrobial properties against various pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These properties can help combat infections and promote overall health.

Q: How does basil contribute to respiratory health and immune support?

A: Basil, particularly holy basil and Thai basil can alleviate respiratory issues like asthma, bronchitis, and coughs due to its potential anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Additionally, basil supports the immune system, helping the body resist infections through its immunomodulatory effects.

Q: Can basil be used in culinary applications for both flavour and health benefits?

A: Yes, basil is used in culinary applications to enhance flavour in various dishes like salads, pasta, and soups. It also provides potential health benefits due to its nutrient content and antioxidant properties when incorporated into meals, making it a flavorful and healthful addition to the diet.

Research Sources

Data by the US Department of Agriculture on fresh basil

Toxicity, Antioxidant Activity, and Phytochemicals of Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) Leaves Cultivated in Southern Punjab, Pakistan

Glucose Lowering Effect of Basil Leaves

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