The Health Benefits of Basil
Ocimum basilicum, or basil, belongs to the mint family. Fragrant and aromatic, basil is an herb that is popular and widely used all over the world. It is especially popular in Italian cuisine.
This plant is native to India and other tropical areas around the world. The cultivation of this sweet smelling herb dates back to ancient times and has been used for medicinal, religious and culinary purposes.
In ancient Greece, basil was referred to as the "Royal Herb," "as it has come to be associated with the Feast of the Cross commemorating the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine" (Wikipedia). Basil did earn this name because of its many health benefits. The next time you smell the pleasant aroma of this herb as you are making your next pizza or lasagna, remember that it contains many properties that are beneficial to your health.
Basil contains expectorant properties. If you are suffering from a cold or the flu, adding a teaspoon of it to a cup of hot water can help clear up coughs and other flu-like symptoms. Basil is also effective in treating respiratory problems such as:
- Sore Throat
Basil is a natural pain reliever because of its anti-inflammatory properties. People who suffer from headaches, migraines, menstrual cramps, toothaches, arthritic pain, sprains and joint and muscle pain can find immediate relief by adding basil to a cup of boiling water and allow it to steep for fifteen minutes and drink it as a tea. If you have a toothache, you can apply basil directly to the aching tooth. To relieve aching muscles and joints, you can run the herb directly on the areas that are sore or make your own basil lotion. There are many DIY salve and lotion recipes online that you can use to incorporate basil.
If you do not have time to make your own lotion, you can purchase lotion that has basil as a main ingredient.
Basil contains astringent properties. Rubbing basil leaves on your skin will help clear up many skin conditions such as:
- Insect Bites
- Canker Sores
Since basil also contains antimicrobial properties, you can prevent the skin conditions from getting infected.
Basil can be used to help individuals with relief from problems with their stomachs because they contain anti-viral properties. It is an excellent remedy to relieve stomach ailments such as:
- Motion and Morning Sickness
- Stomach Cramps Due to Menstruation
Rich in Vitamins and Nutrients
Basil is an excellent source of vitamin A. This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant because it reduces free radical damage. It plays a role in preventing disorders of the eyes, giving you healthy skin, giving you a healthy digestive system, helping your body fight many diseases and supporting a healthy brain. Even if you eat balanced meals, you may not be getting enough vitamin A in your daily diet. Lack of this vitamin also leads to high blood pressure and heart disease. Including basil in your diet plays a role in lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. This herb also contains folate, which plays a key role in making the cells in the body function properly. This mineral is also needed for a healthy heart.
Basil is rich in magnesium. Your body needs this mineral since it plays a role in relaxing the muscles in your blood vessels and heart. This, in turn, helps reduce blood pressure since your heart is not overworking moving blood through your vessels.
Basil boosts the immune system because it contains large amounts of Vitamin C. This is very important to know, especially during the cold and flu season. If you have chest congestion, put some basil in a pan of boiling water and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes. Soak a washcloth in this solution. Allow the cloth to cool down until it is warm to the touch. Place it over your chest. You can also put these leaves in a cup of boiling water and drink it as a tea. You might avoid getting sick during cold and flu season if you include basil leaves in your daily diet.
We need Vitamin K in our diets if we want to have strong and healthy bones. While lack of calcium in our daily diets is one of the main causes of osteoporosis, where our bones become weak and brittle as we age, a lack of vitamin K can cause this condition as well. An excellent way to prevent this from happening is to include basil in your daily diet. Not only do you need this vitamin for your bones, you need it for your blood as well. It helps your blood to clot properly so that cuts and scrapes do not continue to bleed. This vitamin also allows calcium to process better.
Growing and Buying Basil
You can easily grow basil indoors or outdoors. However, it grows better outdoors because it requires a lot of sunlight. On the other hand, it grows best in dry hot summer months. When the conditions are not ideal to grow basil outdoors, you can still grow them indoors. What more can you ask for when you can grow this plant year-round? If you do not have the time to grow your own basil in the garden, you can find it at your local grocery store. You can find it as a spice in the spice aisle, and you can even find it fresh in the produce section. There are different types of basil which each has a different aroma and carries differ health benefits. While sweet basil is most commonly used in Italian cooking, three other types include:
- Holy Basil
- Lemon Basil
- Thai Basil
While you may be able to buy these locally, you may need to look for them in your local Asian market. You can also look online at sites such as Amazon or eBay.
Other products that contain basil include:
- Face Creams
- Lotions Essential Oils
- Cooking Oil
While basil is a well-tolerated with most people, some people may be allergic. Since this plant is a member of the mint family, avoid using basil if you are allergic to mint. Before you use basil to treat a skin condition, test a small area of your skin. If you notice any redness or inflammation, do not use it.
Always talk to your doctor before you start any herbal remedy. Some herbs and spice may interact with any medications or supplements you might already be taking.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Lois Ryan