It is hard to imagine now, but there was once a time when I wasn’t a fan of Basil!
Can you believe that?!!
Now, it is a mainstay in our kitchen. It is possible that my poor opinion of Basil stemmed from the fact that the only Basil I had ever experienced was the herb dust you find on a grocery store shelf and premade bottled pesto- yuck!
But this all changed when I started my business, Hollyberry Herb Farm, I knew I needed to grow Basil because what respectable herb farmer didn’t grow basil? Man, am I glad I did!! Not only is Basil easy to grow, but it tastes fabulous and can really be a boon to your health. And added perk is that honey bees and butterflies LOVE basil blooms.
Now, I am talking about sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), that lush, bright green or purple plant that is iconic to Italy. There are several varieties but they all share the following lovely characteristics.
Most folks know that basil is at the forefront of Italian cooking, but it is also used in Mexican food as a supporting herb in the flavor profile. It’s easy to dry in cut bundles or in a dehydrator. You can also keep basil fresh in your kitchen longer by treating it like a cut flower and put the stems in a glass of water.
What may surprise you is that this culinary heavy-hitter is also a power-packed medicinal herb! Some of the uses are:
- Contains Disease-Fighting Antioxidants-
there are two water-soluble flavonoid antioxidants, known as orientin and viceninare, which help protect white blood cells responsible for immune function, as well as cellular structures where DNA is stored.
- Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory–
Basil contains powerful essential oils, including eugenol, citronellol and linalool. These are enzyme-inhibiting oils that help lower inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions. My doctor told me that inflammation is the ox that pulls the cart of disease!
- Fights Cancer–
Clinical studies published in Nutrition and Cancer also show that basil contains phytochemicals, which can help naturally prevent cancer, including chemical-induced skin, liver, oral and lung cancers. Basil is able to increase antioxidant activity, positively alter gene expressions, induce cancerous-cell apoptosis (death of harmful cells) and stop cancerous tumors from spreading. (4)
- Contains Antibacterial Properties
Another one of the benefits of basil essential oils is to provide protection against harmful bacterial growth. In studies, basil extract is even shown to be helpful in inhibiting resistant strains of bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotic treatments.
When researchers from the Medical University of Lodz in Poland tested the antibacterial activity of basil oil against strains of E. coli and other powerful bacteria that were gathered from sick patients with infections, the results showed that basil was effective in acting against the bacteria strains and helping to inhibit their growth. (5) This has led researchers to continue to study how basil and other antibacterial oils may help fight antibiotic resistant illnesses and infections.
- Contains Antimicrobial Properties that Fight Viruses and Infections
Basil essential oils have been found to exhibit anti-microbial activity against a wide range of bacteria, yeasts, molds and viruses. This means you can add protection against the candida virus and various forms of skin irritations to the long list of proven benefits of basil.
- Combats Stress by Acting as an ‘Adaptogen’
Studies show that basil has strong potential to act as a natural adaptogen, an herbal medicine that helps the body adapt to stress and to normalize the harmful effects of stressors on bodily processes.
For example, when researchers studied the anti-stress effects of fresh basil leaves given to rabbits that were exposed to a high-stress environment, they found a significant improvement in oxidative stress levels following basil use. After the rabbits received supplementation of two grams of fresh basil leaves for 30 days, they experienced cardiovascular and respiratory protection in response to stressors. A significant decrease in blood sugar levels was also observed, while a significant increase in antioxidant activity was observed. (6)
So, as you can see- Basil is definitely on the menu!
Something that you may not know is that antioxidants are produced by plants in response to a stress such as insect pests. This is why organically grown herbs, fruits and vegetables are so much higher in antioxidants!
Basil is super easy to grow from seed and the heirloom seed catalogs have so many varieties that your mind will be blown! Order you some, experiment with some new varieties and grow you some of this health boosting, great-tasting herb!