by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Basil, the fragrant herb that graces our gardens and dishes, has been cherished for centuries for its culinary and medicinal uses. With its unique flavor and aroma, basil not only adds depth and complexity to dishes but also offers numerous health benefits.
From boosting immunity to reducing stress and inflammation, basil is a true superfood. So, if you’re looking for a natural and delicious way to improve your health, look no further than this versatile herb.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper and explore 10 excellent benefits of basil for your overall health and well-being.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before changing your nutrition program.
The Nutritional Value of Basil
According to USDA, basil contains the following nutritional values (per 100g):
- Calories: 22
- Fat: 0.64g
- Sodium: 4mg
- Potassium: 295mg
- Protein: 3.15g
- Carbohydrate: 2.65g
The Health Benefits of Basil
There are many benefits of basil leaves that you should know more about. Here are 10 of them!
1. Reduces inflammation
Basil is excellent for reducing inflammation as it contains many antioxidants and polyphenols, which help to fight inflammation in our body. Some essential oils in basil leaves, such as eugenol, citronellol, and linalool, have enzyme-inhibiting properties, making them an excellent remedy to help tackle inflammation.
2. Good for your immune system
If you are feeling tired and fatigued lately, basil can give your immune system a boost. Basil is a natural antibacterial and antiviral agent that helps prevent infection. It is also rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells against damage.
3. Maintains blood glucose levels
Basil has a low glycemic index, and because of this, ingesting these leaves can help reduce sugar absorption by the blood. This makes it an excellent ingredient for those suffering from diabetes. In addition, the helpful oils in basil leaves help prevent the triggering symptoms of diabetes.
4. Protects the body against toxins
Basil is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals, protect cells from damage, and neutralize harmful toxins. It is a natural detoxifier that helps cleanse the kidneys and liver.
5. Supports liver health
In a study conducted on rats in 2015, researchers found that powdered supplements containing tulsi, also known as holy basil, had a beneficial effect on liver health due to its antioxidant properties. The researchers induced liver injury using a toxin and then administered the tulsi powder. Tulsi is a plant commonly used in traditional Indian medicine and is distinct from the basil typically found in Western supermarkets.
6. Protects against skin aging
In 2011, a research study suggested that sweet basil may have properties that could protect the skin from certain effects of aging. The study involved applying a basil extract to laboratory models of skin and observing the results. The findings indicated that using skin creams containing basil extracts might help enhance skin hydration and decrease roughness and wrinkles.
7. Boosts mental health
Mental stress has been linked to the production of free radicals in the body. However, a 2014 review examining the role of basil in Ayurvedic medicine suggested that the plant may possess properties that could alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, basil may help enhance cognitive abilities, prevent age-related memory loss, and improve sleep and sex issues related to stress. According to the review’s authors, some studies have found that the effects of basil were comparable to those of antidepressant drugs and diazepam.
8. Basil can help prevent cancer
The anti-cancer properties of basil are attributed to its bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids, terpenes, and phenolics, which have been found to neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation. Studies have indicated that basil extract may have anti-cancer effects against different types of cancer cells, including breast, liver, and lung cancer cells. These findings suggest that basil could be a potential natural remedy for both cancer prevention and treatment.
9. Fights off infections
Basil has been used as an antimicrobial agent in traditional medicine, and some scientific studies have supported this use. In 2013, researchers investigated the effects of sweet basil oil on different strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli), which were obtained from individuals with various types of infections, as well as from hospital equipment. The findings indicated that the basil oil was effective against these bacteria. Based on these results, the researchers suggested that specific uses of basil oil could help treat or prevent certain types of infections.
10. Helps improve vision
Fresh basil leaves are a rich source of vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining healthy vision. In fact, 100g of basil leaves can provide the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A.