Like a lot of people, you probably have a little herb garden. Aromatic herbs add so much flavor and brightness to your dishes.
Of course, one of the most popular herbs people plant each year is basil. Basil, along with oregano and rosemary, are common herbs in the mint family. Basil is most known for adding flavor to many Italian dishes, but it can be used in a variety of recipes.
There is a lot you probably don’t know about basil. For instance, did you know there are 35 types? Did you also know that basil is considered an important medicinal plant in various traditional and folk systems of medicines, such as those in Southeast Asia and India? Once you see the numerous health benefits basil offers, you’ll see why it has been revered for centuries by so many cultures.
7 Amazing Benefits of Basil
Before we get into the specific health benefits, let’s talk a little about what’s in basil that gives it its healing properties. Basil contains antioxidant-rich volatile essential oils. These oils are considered hydrophobic, which means they do not dissolve in water and are light and small enough to travel through the air AND the pores of our skin. These oils are also what give basil its distinct smell and flavor.
Basil also contains other important nutrients like magnesium, manganese, and vitamins A, K and C.
Okay, now let’s take a look at the specific health benefits basil offers:
- Boosts Immune Response
Basil contains two specific antioxidants called orientin and viceninare. These help protect white blood cells that are the fighters of your immune system. Your white blood cells are also the cellular structures where your DNA is stored. So you could say they are pretty important!
The antioxidants in basil help keep your chromosomes from becoming damaged, altered or mutated. The antioxidants in basil can also help to fight free radicals and slow the signs of aging.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties
As I mentioned, basil contains powerful essential oils. Three of these called eugenol, citronellol and linalool are enzyme-inhibiting oils that help reduce inflammation in your body. As you know, if you’ve spent any time reading this blog, inflammation is the root cause of many diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
And speaking of…
- Fights Cancer
Clinical studies published in Nutrition and Cancer have shown that basil, which contains powerful phytochemicals, some of which we have already discussed, may help to naturally prevent cancer, including skin, liver, oral and lung cancers. Basil does this in a few different ways. By:
- Increasing antioxidant activity
- Positively altering gene expression
- Inducing cancerous-cell apoptosis (death of harmful cells)
- Stopping cancerous tumors from spreading
Animal studies have also shown that basil extract can not only protect against cancer but also protect normal tissue and cells from the negative side effects of traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. So this means basil extract may be a good supplemental treatment for those people already undergoing traditional forms of treatment.
- Antibacterial Properties
Basil has shown to be effective against harmful bacterial growth. In studies, basil extract has been shown to be helpful in inhibiting specific resistant strains of bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotic treatments. For instance, basil extract was effective in acting against strains of E. coli. More studies are necessary, but so far the news is exciting and suggests basil could help the medical community with antibiotic resistant illnesses and infections.
- Help Fight Stress
Chronic stress is considered a killer by many because it puts the body in a state of constant fight or flight, and in this state, inflammation increases and so does your risk of developing serious diseases like cancer. Well studies have shown that basil may act as an adaptogen, an herbal medicine that helps your body adapt to stress and neutralize the harmful physical effects.
- Promotes Heart Health
Since basil is both an antioxidant-rich food and an anti-inflammatory food, it can help promote healthy blood pressure and blood vessel function. Basil can also help prevent the buildup of dangerous platelet clumps, which can form dangerous clots and cause cardiac arrest or stroke.
- Protects from Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Basil extracts have shown to be effective at reducing blood glucose levels, which makes basil a potential protective treatment against type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In addition, basil essential oils also have the ability to help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, both of which tend to be high in diabetic patients.
Basil is a must in your veggie and herb garden! In the meantime, you can always buy some organic basil at your local farmer’s market, or order basil extract online.
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