Health Benefits of Basil Leaves

Herbs & Spices
Basil Leaves Health Benefits

Basil is a great herb you can easily grow in your garden or even your home. It can be used in numerous ways. It adds a great flavor to your recipes so it's used in numerous dishes. It's not surprising that so many gardeners like to grow basil and use it everyday in their meals. It is a very healthy herb we could all use. It offers numerous health benefits so it's more than a simple aromatic addition to our meals.

Basil - A Healthy Plant

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)  is a world-famous herb and it's used in many dishes all over the globe. It adds some flavor, aroma and texture to every meal. This is an annual plant native to tropic regions of India and other Asian regions. Despite its Asian origin, it's the most popular in Italian cuisine. However, it's used all over the world, such as in Indonesian, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan, Laos and in the United States.

This is a very versatile herb so it suits almost any cuisine. It's not surprising that it's so popular around the world.

However, basil is much more than a simple aromatic herb. It offers numerous health benefits. It means that basil is not just tasty but a very healthy herb you should include in your diet. With so many benefits, basil is sure a plat you want to grow in your home or garden.

Here are the main health benefits of basil:

Promoting Cardiovascular Health

Basil is great for your cardiovascular health. It contains numerous antioxidants such as beta-carotene and other types of carotenoids. It protects your body against free radical damage and inhibits these free radicals so they can't oxidize cholesterol in the blood. It means that cholesterol buildup is prevented. Since cholesterol is one of the main reasons behind harmful plaque in the arteries, which leads to heart attack, it's clear how basil protects your health.

Basil is also high in magnesium, which boosts the circulation of blood and also relaxes blood vessels and muscles. It also reduces the risk of heart spasms. In this way, basil protects you from numerous cardiovascular problems.

Healthier Skin and Hair

Basil can make your skin and hair healthier. This herb contains valuable essential oils that will great benefit your skin and hair. Basil acts as a fantastic organic moisturizer that can easily remove skin dryness and help you get rid of some of the common skin problems such as acne, eczema, rashes, psoriases, ringworm and many others.

Basil will also add some glow to dull hair and make it more healthy and beautiful. To make a great mix that will enhance the glow of your hair, take two drops each of basil, lavender and rosemary oils. Add a bit of almond oil to it and a half ounce of jojoba oil. Massage this mixture directly only your scalp. Make sure to do it gently, preferably using your fingertips. Let the mixture stay for about half an hour. Don't forget to rinse thoroughly with water and use a shampoo as a final step. Use this treatment two or three times per week. You will see your hair looking better than ever and it should gain a completely new glow in less than six months.

Cancer Prevention

Basil can be used to prevent certain forms of cancer. The antioxidants in Basil protect the body against cellular damage caused by free radicals. This aids to cancer prevention. One study, released in 2007 by Journal of Medical Food, showed that basil is very efficient in fighting oxidative stress that causes cancer in rats. Basil is known to inhibit the formation of cancer-causing toxins.

Another study, published by the Taiwan Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2010, showed that basil lowers cholesterol levels and boosts immune system, in addition to helping fight cancer. Also, it was found that an active component in basil, called caffeic acid, can act as an effective prevention against cervical cancer.

Immune System Boost

Basil is also great for boosting the immune system. It's because it contains chemical compounds that can kick start the body's antibodies. The increase in effectiveness of the antibodies can be as high as 20 percent. It means you can fight infections better. Also, basil can kill many viruses that cause common ailments, such as flu or cold.

Promoting Gastrointestinal Health

Basil is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and it can help maintaining gastrointestinal health. It can also help treating certain types of digestive disorders, such as the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), flatulence, indigestion, stomach cramps, constipation, and more. It's all achieved due to a substance called eugenol, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

Protecting the Liver

Basil can keep the liver healthy and properly functioning. There are several studies showing that basil can acts as a protection for the liver. For example, a study done at the University of Mansoura in Egypt, showed that basil contains 6 compounds that can effectively protect the body against oxidative stress on the liver.

Also, basil contributes to a better liver function by removing toxins from the blood. It improves metabolic breakdown and fights numerous types of liver problems.

Balancing Blood Sugar Level

Basil is great plant for those who have diabetes. Basil leaf can be used for lowering blood sugar levels. A study conducted by the University of Agriculture and Technology in Kanpur reveals that there is a 17 percent reduction in fasting glucose and 7 percent in glucose levels as a result of basil use. Basil can help regulating even urine glucose levels.

Other researches proved basil to be effective in many cases of mild and moderate diabetes.

Powerful Remedy against Stings and Bites

Basil is a very powerful remedy against numerous types of stings and bites. It has strong anti-bacterial properties so it can be used as a natural remedy for stings and bites. For example, if you suffer a bee sting or any sort of an insect bite, simply apply crushed basil leaves on the bite. Chewing on basil leaf might also help. It will relieve pain and help your body remove any toxins that might be present.

Protecting Body from Bacteria

Basil is a powerful anti-bacterial agent, so it can help preventing food-borne diseases. A study done by the Atomic Energy Centre in Ramna, Dhaka, Bangladesh tested 50 compounds of basil leaves and stems and their effect on many types of pathogenic bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi and S. dysenteriae. According to this study, the compounds in basil are highly effective as anti-microbial agents. Even the oil extracted from basil can inhibit the growth of many harmful bacteria.

Regulation of Blood Circulation

Basil is rich in minerals such as copper, iron, manganese, potassium and magnesium. Al these elements promote good blood circulation. For example, potassium helps stabilizing blood pressure and heart rate, while manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for superoxide dismutase (an antioxidant enzyme).

Also, basil is very rich in iron. A hundred of grams of fresh basil leaves have 3.17 mg of iron, which is about 26 percent of the recommended daily allowance. Iron is important for proper formation and functioning of the red blood cells, which are responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood.

Treatment for Ear Infections

Basil can help you treat ear infections. They are known to be painful, so it's important to find a relief. Children may be particularly susceptible to ear infections. Basil oil has strong anti-bacterial properties, which makes it a powerful remedy against ear infections. All you need to do is to apply a few drops of basil oil.

Reducing Stress

Another great thing basil can do is to reduce stress levels. This is particularly important for the busy people who are constantly under stress. Basil can bring relaxation. This plant has a gentle, relaxing aroma and it's known as a powerful anti-anxiety agent. Basil can help you calm your senses and reduce stress level.

Basil has phytochemicals, which are responsible for lowering the stress hormone cortisol. To reduce your stress levels, add 2-3 leaves of fresh basil to your ice tea.

Protecting Body from Oxidative Stress

Basil is really great at protecting body against oxidative stress. Many diseases are caused by this type of stress, and basil can help you prevent them. Basil has flavonoids such as vicenin and orientin, as well as nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and zinc. Using these elements, basil neutralizes biochemicals that can cause problem such as premature aging or some degenerative diseases. Also, basil can aide into better absorption of important nutrients into the bloodstream.

Protects Your Eyes from UV Rays

Another great thing about basil is that it can serve as a protector for your eyes against ultraviolet (UV) rays. Basil contains a powerful anti-oxidant known as zea-xanthin. This is a flavonoid carotenoid that can help preventing UV rays from the sun to get into the eyes' retina.

Promoting Clear Vision

In addition to blocking UV rays from retina, basil can promote healthy vision. Also, basil is an excellent source of vitamin A. A hundred grams of fresh basil leaves have about 5,275 mg of vitamin A, which is 175 percent of the recommended daily dose of this vitamin. As you probably know, vitamin A is essential for eye health and it also promotes proper functioning of the mucus membranes.

Photo credit: Stephanie Bader

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