Basil Leaf (Ocimum basilicum)
By Castielli – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7133704
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is most known for its culinary uses. It’s highly nutritious with an abundance of vitamin A (as carotenoids), vitamin K, and vitamin C. It’s also rich in magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium. The fragrant herb Basil is best known as one of the most versatile herbs to use in Mediterranean and Eastern cooking.
½ cup of fresh chopped basil (or about eight tablespoons) has roughly:
- 2 calories
- 0 fat, protein, sugar or fiber
- 56 milligrams vitamin A (24 percent)
- 88 milligrams vitamin K (108 percent)
- 0.24 milligrams manganese (12 percent)
- 4 milligrams vitamin C (8 percent)
Health Benefits of Basil Leaf
Adaptogen: helps the body adapt to stress and to normalize the harmful effects of stressors on bodily processes.
Antibacterial: The basil essential oil was active against every strain of E-coli it was tested with. It was also shown to have anti-microbial properties that were found to fight mold, yeast, and bacteria.
Anticancer: 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.
Antioxidant & Anti-Inflammatory: as an antioxidant and help the body get rid of free radicals. Sweet basil is an excellent source of antioxidants such as phenolic compounds and polyphenols. Research published in 2012 showed that these antioxidants make basil a great choice for helping with inflammatory diseases. Because oxidative stress and inflammation are often present with serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, this research is promising for combating the increase in these health problems.
Antimicrobial: 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.
Herbal Remedies with Basil
Calming the Stomach: One-half teaspoon of dried or fresh basil leaf in water can often help soothe indigestion and alleviate feelings of fullness.
Coughing and Colds: chew fresh leaves to calm coughing or make a calming tea of dried basil to help soothe illness.
Facial Steam for Headache: A facial steam with dried basil leaf can help alleviate a headache. Add a tablespoon of dried basil leaf to 2 cups of boiling water in a large pot. Carefully lean over the pot, cover head with a towel and breathe in the steam for 5-10 minutes until headache starts to subside.
Stings and Bites: If you are working outside and get bitten or stung by an insect and don’t have any plantain growing nearby, chewing up a basil leaf and applying to the bite will help relieve the pain and draw out the venom.
Blood Sugar: There is some evidence that basil can help level out blood sugar if consumed regularly and drank as a juice or tea.
Stress Reduction: One herbalist suggests adding 2 cups of strong basil leaf tea to a warm bath to help reduce stress and facilitate relaxation.
Basil Essential Oil Benefits
Basil Linalool Essential Oil is one of the finest oils available for calming and focusing the mind, and is also useful for easing tension in the head and neck. It is preferred as a mind-clearing oil for spiritual meditation. Due to the high linalool content (which makes this oil very relaxing) you can also use basil to help ease the transition into bedtime. Basil also can help uplift your mood.
Cardiovascular Health: can help the muscles that control blood vessel function to contract and relax, promoting healthy blood pressure. Benefits of basil include the ability to help prevent dangerous platelet aggregation, clumping together of blood platelets that can form a clot within the arteries and cause cardiac arrest.
Cold & Flu: add one to two drops to a steam bath, or make a homemade vapor rub using eucalyptus oil and basil oil that can massaged into the chest to open up your nasal passages.
Detoxification: sickly rats were given basil extract over a period of five days, they experienced significant improvements in producing detoxifying enzymes, higher antioxidant defenses and a reduction of fat buildup in the liver that can cause liver disease.
Fights Depression: Benefits of basil also apply to those with mental disorders or mood-related illnesses, including depression and anxiety. Basil is also considered an antidepressant by some since it can positively impact brain function within the adrenal cortex, helping stimulate neurotransmitters that regulate the hormones responsible for making us happy and energetic.
Insect Repellent: research has shown that the volatile oils found in basil can repel mosquitoes and help to prevent bug bites. To make a homemade bug spray or lotion, dilute several drops of basil essential oils with carrier oil and massage into skin or swollen bites as needed.
Mood Enhancer: Inhaling basil can help restore mental alertness and fight fatigue since it’s naturally a stimulant that works on the nervous system and adrenal cortex. Many people find it beneficial for reducing symptoms like sluggishness, brain fog and poor moods that accompany adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue. Diffuse basil essential oil throughout your home or inhale it directly from the bottle. You can also combine a couple drops of basil oil with a carrier oil like jojoba and put it on your wrists for an instant pick-me-up.
Muscle Relaxant: you can rub a few drops of basil essential oil along with coconut oil into painful, swollen muscles or joints. To further help relax tense areas and feel immediate relief, try soaking in a warm bath with Epsom salts and a couple drops of lavender oil and basil oil.
Stress Relief: Basil oil is known to be uplifting and renewing, which makes it useful for lowering symptoms of anxiety, fear or nervousness. Used for aromatherapy for centuries to help people deal with racing thoughts and overwhelming feelings, you can burn basil oil at home to relax and unwind. This can also work quickly for natural headache relief. Massage one or two drops with a carrier oil into your feet or over your adrenals nightly to reduce stress.
Basil Safety & Precautions
While basil is generally considered a safe herb in culinary amounts, medicinal use of basil is considered “possibly unsafe” for children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Keep in mind also that basil essential oil (or any essential oil) is very concentrated and merits special precautions. Because basil could reduce blood pressure, in theory, it could cause low blood pressure. Consult your healthcare professional before taking basil (or any herb) medicinally.