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What Is Basil?

By MF HarounPublished 7 months ago 8 min read

What Is Basil?

Basil is an aromatic herb (Ocimum basilicum) that is a member of the mint family, orLamiaceaefamily, which also includes rosemary, sage, and lavender.

Is Basil Good For You?

Yes, basil is good for you! It provides many nutrients and antioxidants.

10 Health Benefits Of Basil

1. Basil contains antioxidants (from the compound eugenol) that could reduce oxidative stress. Eugenol helps fight free radicals in the body that could lead to cell damage and increase risk for a variety of health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis , and diabetes.

2. Basil may help with blood sugar regulation. In an animal study where the animals had diabetes, basil extract helped reduce high blood sugar.

3. Basil may help prevent cancer. Holy basil, also called tulsi, has phytochemicals (plant compounds with health benefits) that may help protect against different types of cancer: lung cancer , liver cancer , oral cancer , and skin cancer , largely because of the antioxidant components.

4. Basil may be good for our heart health. The eugenol in basil may help to lower blood pressure which helps the heart.

5. The essential oils in the herb may help to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides . Study: 24 healthy volunteers took either a placebo or a capsule containing 300 milligrams (mg) of a dried tulsi leaf extract once a day. After 4 weeks, those who took the tulsi extract had lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than those who did not.

6. Basil may help reduce inflammation. Essential oils in basil, including eugenol, linalool, and citronellol, can help to fight inflammation in the body. This may help lower the risk of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and heart disease

7. Basil may help improve our mental health. Research has shown that tulsi (Holy basil) may improve mental health. It has compounds that can help to alleviate anxiety and depression , increase your ability to think clearly, and lower the risk for age-related memory loss . Mental stress can trigger the production of free radicals in the body.

8. Basil may help boost our immune system. The oils in basil are antibacterial and may help to fight bacteria in people with respiratory, urinary , abdominal, and skin infections. In 2013, researchers applied sweet basil oil to various strains ofE. coli. The bacteria came from people with respiratory, abdominal, urinary, or skin infections, as well as from hospital equipment. The results showed that the oil was active against these bacteria. The researchers concluded that certain preparations of basil oil could help treat or prevent some types of infection.

9. Basil provides some vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, Vitamin K, calcium and iron.

10. Basil may be good for our liver healthA 2015 study in animals concluded that antioxidants in a powdered form that included tulsi, or holy basil, had a positive impact on liver health.Basil may protect our skin against agingIn a study , sweet basil has properties that might help protect the skin from some effects of aging.The scientists applied a basil extract to laboratory models of skin. The conclusion: basil extracts in topical skin creams might improve skin hydration and reduce roughness and wrinkling.

History, Background, and General Facts About Basil

It is believed that basil originated from India , but it has been cultivated for over 5,000 all over the world.

In ancient Egypt, basil was used as an embalming and preserving herb because it has been found in tombs .

In Europe, they place basil in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey .

In India, they place basil in the mouth of the dying to ensure they reach God. The ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks believed that it would open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.

Basil was also a symbol of mourning in Greece. It was known asbasilikon phuton, meaning magnificent, royal, or kingly.

Basil seeds have a history in ancient traditional medicines like Ayurveda , the traditional medicinal system of ancient India.

In Jewish folklore, basil is believed to add strength while fasting.

It is a symbol of love in present-day Italy

African legend claims that basil protects against scorpions

In many Orthodox churches, basil is used to prepare holy water and pots of basil are often placed below church altars

Basil is mostly cultivated for its edible leaves .

There are more than 60 varieties of basil, sweet basil is the most common. It is usually green, but sometimes purple .

Basil is among one the easiest plants to propagate by stem cuttings.

The word basil comes from the Greek word meaning "royal or kingly "

It is still considered the " king of herbs" by many cookbook authors

Basil is very sensitive to cold, with best growth in hot, dry conditions

Sweet basil tastes a bit like anise , with a strong, pungent, sweet smell

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Basil?

Sweet basil is found around the world : Italian (pesto, Margherita pizza, Caprese salad), Mediterranean, Thai (salads), Vietnamese (pho), and Laotian

Chinese cuisine also uses fresh or dried basil in soups and salads.

In Taiwan , fresh basil is added to thick soups. They also eat fried chicken with deep-fried basil leaves.

Lemon basil is used in Indonesia , where it is served raw with fresh cabbage , green beans, and cucumber , as a side to fried fish or duck .

The seeds of several basil varieties are soaked and become gelatinous, and are used in Asian drinks and desserts such as falooda or sherbet.

What Is The Best Way To Store Basil?

Fresh leaves can be refrigerated , wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel in a plastic bag, or stored for up to a week as a bunch, with stems down, in a plastic-bag-covered container of water, if the water is changed every two days.

Dried basil can be kept in an airtight container in a cool dry place away from heat such as in a pantry.

What Are The Different Types Of Basil?

Sweet basil: is the most common basil . It is grown in warm, tropical climates. It is native to India and other tropical regions of Asia, where it has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years.

Lemon basil: a hybrid between basil and African basil has a strong lemony smell and flavor very different from those of other varieties because it contains a chemical called citral.

Holy Basil: also called " tulsi ," is highly revered in Hinduism , being connected to the god Vishnu . Holy basil also has religious significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, where it is used to prepare holy water. It is said to have been found around Christ's tomb after his resurrection. It looks like mint. It is a type of tea.

Thai basil: skinny, sturdy leaves that add a bold and crisp, licorice flavor to dishes.

African basil: has an elliptical, slightly tapered shape ending in a soft point on the non-stem end. The leaves are flat, broad, and smooth, covered in prominent veining with lightly serrated edges. Flavor: notes of menthol, musk, and cloves

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Basil

Blood clotting. One tablespoon of basil provides 10.8 mcg of vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting . This amount is between 9% and 12% of an adult’s daily requirement .

High levels of vitamin K can affect the action of some drugs, including warfarin (Coumadin). Anyone who uses blood thinners should speak to a doctor before increasing their intake of basil.

Allergy. Some people have allergic reactions if they consume or otherwise come into contact with herbs in the mint family.

What Is The Best Substitute For Basil If I Don't Have Any?

If you don't have basil available, there are a few substitutes you can use depending on the recipe and the flavor profile you're aiming for. Here are some alternatives to consider:

Oregano: Oregano is a herb that shares some similarities with basil in terms of flavor. It has a slightly earthy and pungent taste. While it won't provide the exact same flavor as basil, it can work well as a substitute, especially in Italian dishes and tomato-based sauces.

Thyme: Thyme is a versatile herb that can be a suitable replacement for basil in certain recipes. It has a slightly minty and lemony flavor, which can add a unique twist to your dish. Thyme works particularly well in Mediterranean and French cuisines.

Parsley: Although parsley has a milder flavor compared to basil, it can be used as a substitute when you're looking for a fresh and vibrant herb. It works well in salads, garnishes, and light dishes. Flat-leaf parsley is generally preferred over curly parsley for its stronger taste.

Cilantro (Coriander): If you enjoy its distinctive flavor, cilantro can be used as a substitute for basil in some recipes. Cilantro has a fresh and citrus-like taste that can work well in certain cuisines like Mexican or Asian dishes. However, keep in mind that cilantro has a polarizing flavor, and some people may find it overpowering.

Mint: While mint has a distinct flavor, it can add a refreshing and aromatic element to dishes. It works well in salads, beverages, and some savory recipes. Mint is a good substitute for basil in certain recipes that benefit from its cool and bright flavor


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