Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Herb Profile

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Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Herb Profile

Basil can be used in a variety of creative ways in order to make use of its unique health benefits. With a Latin name of Ocimum basilicum, basil has been in use medicinally for ages.

The herb is said to have great healing power, and it is easy to grow indoors. It is as easy to use as it is to grow. Basil is believed to be one of the most important medicinal herbs.

It is simple to use. An aromatic herb belonging to the mint family, basil adds flavor to a variety of recipes.

The parts used are mainly the leaves and the flowering tops, though the seeds have been popular in Asian cuisine in the past.

Ocimum basilicum itself, when fresh, can be kept for limited amounts of time in the fridge as long as it is in a plastic bag.

To freeze it, blanching in boiling water is first needed. Neither method of preservation would do significant damage to the health benefits.

The most common way to use basil is its fresh leaves at the end of cooking.

Adding it at the last minute is normal. This is because cooking the herb results in a different, more bitter flavor than the known flavor that comes with the raw leaves.

Basil Health Benefits

Since Ocimum basilicum is one of the most important medicinal herbs, it has numerous benefits.

These benefits extend into various areas of your health. The following are some of the benefits of using basil. [R] 

1. Great for Brain Function

With relevant problems such as cognitive decline affecting millions, especially the elderly, having an option to counter it is a definite help.

Studies have shown that by incorporating this herb into your daily diet, your brain function will increase. Preventing cognitive decline and degradation is one of the helpful side effects of the basil herb. [R]

It is such an easy herb to add to any meal, that it can easily take the place of its pharmaceutical equivalents. The healing properties contained inside of basil are what help it give a person the necessary preventative measures.

Mental reflexes are particularly important when it comes to eating certain foods to balance them.

Manganese, which is present in fair amounts in basil leaves, increases the capacity of sending electronic transmitter activity from the body to the brain.

The minerals such as manganese are what promote good mental reflexes. In addition, elements such as copper, which are found in the herb, can have great effects.

Copper, in the quantities found in basil leaves, help to stimulate the mind. It is said that your diet is just as important as performing mental exercises.

Adding basil to your daily diet, which is possible due to its versatility, greatly enhances the functionality of the brain.

Another element found in the basil herb is Glycosylceramides metabolism. This has a direct link to the reflexes that the brain needs to function properly.

These Glycosylceramides can actually serve to act as a sort of preventative measure—a protective shield—that surrounds the brain.

This means that not only will the minerals and nutrients inside of Ocimum basilicum actually prevent the effects of mental deterioration, but it has things set in place that will help protect the mind from anything already hurting it.

2. Natural Aphrodisiac

The aroma alone of basil has shown to be enough to increase both libido and arousal. This is due to the immediate increase in blood flow, energy levels, and the reduction of inflammation. [R]

3. Protects Against Diabetes Development

Basil reduces blood glucose level and inflammation which protects against the development of diabetes. Diabetes patients are at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Basil oil can lower these levels which present a more ideal situation for diabetics and those with other metabolic issues. [R] 

4. Aids Metabolism

The large quantity of Manganese found in basil helps the body release the enzymes it needs to benefit the metabolization of amino acids and carbohydrates.

This Manganese also helps the body to metabolize any of the vitamins that are related to glucose. [R]

5. Improves Digestion

Ocimum basilicum improves digestion by balancing acid and restoring the body’s normal PH level.

Healthy bacteria in the gut can be maintained by basil while harmful bacteria are decreased. Bloating, water retention, cramping, and acid reflux are reduced.

Basil also rids the body of harmful stomach worms and parasites. [R]

6. Regulates Blood Sugar

Balancing the glucose level is key to better health. Basil can help you achieve that goal.

Using basil as a seasoning for your food, drinking the tea, or using the oil in your water can regulate your blood sugar levels. [R]

7. Relieves Headaches

Since basil has analgesic and muscle relaxing properties, it can relieve a tension headache. [R]

A tablespoon of dried basil leaves, a handful of fresh leaves, or oil put in three cups of boiling water can bring quick relief. You can also massage a few drops of essential oil into your temples. 

8. Antioxidants that Help Fight Disease

One of the herb’s greatest feats is its ability to harness its antioxidants and fight off disease in the human body. [R]

At the same time that the minerals within it protect a person’s DNA structure and cells, it can actually help fight most of the free radical damage. This is due to the two flavonoid antioxidants held by the herb.

Orientin and vicinage, both water-soluble, serve to help prevent any harm directed to the white blood cells of the body. The white blood cells are key for preventing illnesses through the immune system.

The antioxidants help protect the body from sickness, as well as maintaining the cellular structures containing DNA.

Chromosomes are not altered by the antioxidant properties in basil which is important for the prevention of cancer. Toxins in food, radiation, and pollution can cause oxidative stress. Basil alleviates these problems. [R]

9. Thwarts the Growth of Cancerous Cells

Many of the aforementioned antioxidants that can be found in basil serve to keep any of the body’s chromosomes from being altered by outside forces.

It is these alterations that promote cell mutations that ultimately result in an increase of cancerous cells.

Repetitive mutations are what cause cancer, and so basil can prevent any of the oxidative stress that occurs within the cells in each bodily system.

This means that the toxins found in the body will be flushed out by the antioxidants in this herb, and cancerous cells can be slowed down. [R]

10. Antimicrobial

Basil contains microbial properties that effectively fight viruses. This will give you added protection against yeast and mold along with protection from skin infections and candida.

Basil essential oils protect you from what is viral as well as bacterial. [R][R] 

11. Anti-Aging

It can also slow the effects of aging through its capacity of fighting off oxidative stress. It is the free radical damage to the skin that can make a person feel and look older.

The antioxidants found in basil help combat this and act as a sort of preventative measure.

12. Maintains Bone Health

Women tend to lose bone density as they age which leads to osteoporosis leading to bone injuries and other physical conditions.

Basil is a great source of Vitamin K, which helps absorb the calcium needed to maintain bone health. [R] 

13. Anti-inflammatory

Due to its excessive amounts of essential oils, basil is great for combatting inflammation.

Eugenol, Linalool, and citronellol are all essential oils that inhibit enzymes while helping to stop the spread of inflammation that is the cause of diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. [R]

They also have the capacity to target swelling directly and can help soothe it.

14. Antibacterial

Basil provides protection against harmful bacteria. Studies have shown that its extract inhibits the resistant strains of bacteria.

In a case study, the oil was used against a strain of E-coli. Basil was effective against this strain of bacteria. [R]

15. Helps to Combat Stress

The basil herb is known to contain certain compounds, including adaptogens. It is these compounds that serve to help the physical and emotional stress on the body lessen. [R]

Balance is a large part of what these adaptogens found in basil leaves serve to keep. This balanced functionality is meant to be kept even during the most stressful of situations, such as test-taking or a doctor’s appointment.

Hormone levels balance themselves out through the aid of the adaptogens, and so basil is a great herb to help fight any physical or mental stress.

16. Manages Arthritis

Basil contains beta-caryophyllene which are anti-inflammatory chemicals that soothe burning sensations in the joints. Effective pain management for inflammatory issues is possible with this herb. [R]

17. Manages Epilepsy

The extract from basil has been known to reduce brain spasmodic activity. Eugenol in basil leaves benefits the nervous system. Both factors lead to the effective management of epilepsy.

18. Post Menstrual Syndrome

Many women experience painful periods. Cramps, depression, and fatigue can seem merciless at times.

Basil contains manganese that relieves the symptoms of post menstrual syndrome by balancing the hormones, thereby, relieving stress and fatigue. [R]

19. Healthy Eyes

Basil contains beta-carotene, an essential compound that prevents muscle deterioration. It also contains Vitamin A and Ascorbic Acid which is said to cure dry eye and Stargardt’s Disease.  [R]

20. Fights Depression

By positively impacting the brain function in the adrenal cortex, depression is directly targeted. This means that the compounds within the basil help to fight off depression.

21. Supports Liver Function

When the liver is not functioning properly, a great amount of toxins builds up in the body.

The production of detoxifying enzymes caused by the nutrients in basil promotes a reduction of fat buildup in the liver, meaning that there would be less risk for disease.

Detoxifying enzymes help the liver to do its job properly, keeping it healthy. [R]

22. Cardiovascular Health

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in basil relax the muscles that control blood vessel function to contract and relax. Healthy blood pressure is promoted. Inflammation that causes heart disease is reduced.

Basil prevents dangerous platelet aggregation which is the clumping together of blood platelets that could form a clot. When a clot forms in the arteries, cardiac arrest is the most likely result.

23. Eases Congestion

Breathing in steam has been a proven way to reduce congestion. Adding this potent herb to the steaming water can enhance the effects of decongestion.

Basil has natural antihistamine and analgesic properties that will have you feeling better quickly.

24. Lowers Blood Pressure

Many people have high blood pressure due to poor diet and lack of exercise. Basil has been proven to lower blood pressure for a brief period. [R]

You can drink basil tea, or add a few drops of the oil to your water.

25. Source of Energy

Copper can be found in basil. Because copper is a vital producer of adenosine triphosphate, the effects of exhaustion and fatigue are eliminated.

Using the herb in smoothies is said to be a great way to maintain high energy levels. 

How to Use

A variety of ways to use basil are available. It can be used to season food, or, it can be used as a health supplement. The following are ways you can use basil.

1. Herbal Tea Infusion

The best way to make basil tea is either from the dried herb or from the leaf. To prepare it from the dried herb, the task is essentially just to pick what to put with the basil into a teabag. Little to no preparation is required.

To make a tea from fresh leaves, which may allow for more minerals than the pre-dried alternative, the process is simple. First, the basil leaves should be selected to find the freshest ones possible.

The plant and cuttings should be kept at room temperature, with the stems and roots evenly moist for storage. Storing fresh flowers should be the mindset when thinking about basil leaves.

Basically, the desire is to cut the leaves as finely as possible, for the flavor and nutrients to draw out quickly. Snipping them with scissors away from the plant is a good idea.

The typical ratio for a pot of tea would be 2 tablespoons of chopped basil for every 1 cup of boiling water.

The chopped basil should be put at the bottom of the teapot with the boiling water being slowly poured over it. The liquid should be covered with a lid.

For the most efficient vitamin, mineral, and taste output, a steeping time of 7-10 minutes is generally recommended. These pieces can be a great combination when used with lemon zest, turmeric, or marshmallow root.

The health benefits in these other three components balance out perfectly with the ones not found in basil. They also complement the taste.

2. Basil Essential Oil

Your own essential oil can be made from a homegrown plant in which you can reap many health benefits.

Basil leaves can be infused into a carrier oil such as olive or jojoba for three to six weeks.

Once the essential oil is ready for use, you can apply to the oil to insect bites, rub into sore muscles, or give a massage.

3. Herbal Butter

Like other herbs, basil can be used in butter as a delicious addition to your grilled meats, bread, potatoes, or pasta. Making your own organic butter can cut the cost in your food budget.

Combine garlic and some basil leaves in a good processor. Pulse until finely chopped.

Add in some lemon juice and a little salt. Place some butter into the mixture and process until smooth.

4. Vinegar or Oil Infusions

By creating a vinegar or oil infusion, the herb can be used well for its nutrients. To the fullest extent, its health benefits will be drawn out of the herb.

A vinegar or oil infusion is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to store excess leaves. The creation of a basil vinegar can be done without any fancy equipment.

It also has been known to help with the ability to incorporate the power food into any meal.

Basil vinegar can be used in recipes requiring the use of vinegar. The oil can be used for a variety of recipes including vegetables and bread.

5. Salad and Sandwiches

Basil’s leafy nature as an ingredient makes it a perfect addition to any salad. From a basil salad to an additive in a Caesar or Greek salad, the leaf is versatile.

The numerous health benefits contained within the basil leaf — including a variety of minerals — make it healthy. It is a light, fresh, and tasty leaf, which makes it essential to the fridge of a health guru.

The fresh leaves are wonderful chopped up with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other salad ingredients. It can also be added to any cheeses that you plan to use with your salads.

Sandwiches can also have the added flavor of basil. The herb can be used on pita bread, flatbread, and wraps. Adding some basil to your sandwich meats is not a bad idea either.

6. Desserts and Drinks

Basil’s peppery flavor can work in sweet dishes. Strawberry basil shortcakes, basil ice cream, or basil sorbet are a few dishes you can use. Two other recipes you can use are strawberry galette and mint basil syrup.

A different flavor can be added to your cocktails with basil. Strawberry and basil margarita, basil and lime vodka cooler, and cucumber and basil vodka are just a few of the drinks you can prepare with this herb. 

7. As an Added Spice

Perhaps one of its most famous uses, basil is the perfect natural additive to replace a fattening spice component.

For ages, it has been used with pesto sauce to create the unique and scrumptious taste that is pasta with pesto sauce.

Ocimum basilicum as an herb can be added to a variety of different meals — from sauces to dips to omelets — to help add a touch of flavor.

Basil is usually added at the very end of the cooking sequence. This is because of the way that it loses some of its flavor potency as soon as it gets cooked too long or heated up.

Adding this spice to every-day recipes such as game-day snacks is one of the best ways to ensure that you get your daily dose of nutrients.

The mineral, vitamin, and electrolyte content make it a superfood. Even ingesting it in such small portions as a spice in a lunch or supper dish means that your health benefit intake will be increased.

It is one way to be sure that you are gaining your necessary nutrients naturally, without the need for medicinal supplements.

8. To Flavor Carbs

Another great and known way to get your daily dose of basil is to cook it into your foods such as bread or pasta. Not to use it as a spice or topping or garnish, but to bake it into your meal.

While it is true that some of the potency of the flavor may be cooked out, that is not usually too much of a problem.

When cooked, Ocimum basilicum tends to grow a slightly more bitter taste. This complements perfectly the soft and sweet taste of the bread or pasta and actually reverts most of the taste to normal.

Any lost nutrients are sucked up by the ingredients in the carbohydrate formula, meaning that an extra kick of nutrients is granted.

This is an easy way to get children to eat the leafy vegetable. It also allows them to get the minerals, vitamins, and natural chemical compounds that go along with it.

9. Dressings and Marinades

Fresh basil can be added to salad dressings or marinade sauces for extra flavor.

Available in most supermarkets, fresh basil makes a tasty addition to your salad dressings, especially if you are tired of the same dressings or sauces.

10. Natural Body Deodorizer

Toxic chemicals are in many deodorants that you purchase in various stores. If you are looking for a more natural alternative to avoiding displeasing body odor, basil oil can be used as a deodorizer.

11. Added to Bath

Basil oil or leaves can be added to your bath. Relieving anxiety is one of the benefits that come from using the herb. A nice relaxing bath will be just what you need.

Adding Epsom or Himalayan Pink Salt to the bath is a great idea. The antiseptic properties of Ocimum basilicum will keep your skin free from acne and other infections.

Side Effects/ Caution

Like any other herb, precautions should be taken concerning the use of basil. Certain medications could cause interactions with basil, and some people might have allergies to basil.

The following are some precautions you should take.

1. Prolonged Use May Increase Risk of Liver Cancer

Basil is a relatively safe herb as far as most go. It is safe when ingested, as food or as medicine, unless the medicine is used over extended periods of time.

The herb contains estragole, which means that prolonged use in medicinal forms may increase the risk of liver cancer. [R]

2. Pregnant Women/Breastfeeding Mothers/Children

Basil is most likely safe in food amounts for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children. Larger medicinal amounts could be unsafe.

Ocimum basilicum has been known to cause liver cancer in mice because it has a chemical compound called estragole.

3. Bleeding Disorders and Surgery

The extracts and oils can slow blood clotting and increase bleeding. People with bleeding disorders should not use basil.

If you have a scheduled surgery, you should stop taking basil at least two weeks before your procedure. Inform your doctor that you are taking basil if you are having surgery.

4. Low Blood Pressure

The extracts from the basil plant have the capacity to lower blood pressure. [R]

It would be wise for those with low blood pressure to be careful when ingesting copious amounts of basil, especially when combined with other foods.

As always, large amounts of any one food item has the capacity to do damage. However, this herb is generally safe when ingested in moderate and sparing amounts.

5. Drug Interaction

Some evidence exists that indicates drug interactions with basil. People who take medication for diabetes, high blood pressure, or cholesterol should avoid using basil. 

Where to Buy?

Basil, for the most part, can be found year-round in any supermarket or grocery store. It can be found either in its leaf form, in pre-made tea packages, in its dried bits form, or its ground herb form.

Even with its seasonal sprouting, there is almost always an abundance of the product, making its addition to a daily diet easy.

If you wish to order online, Amazon and The Growers Exchange have the dried herb, supplements, and tea available.

Andre Campbell

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