Basil – Importance and Health Benefits – Agric4Profit

Basil contains antioxidant-rich volatile essential oils, which are considered hydrophobic. This means they don’t dissolve in water and are light and small enough to travel through the air and the pores within our skin. Basil’s volatile essential oils are what give the herb its distinct smell and taste, but they’re also responsible for the healing benefits of basil.

The most common cooking basil used as a fresh herb in recipes is Italian basil, which also boasts numerous health benefits because of it’s high levels of antioxidants, magnesium and vitamins. Basil extract is also used to create perfumes, household cleaners and in dental-care products since one of the known benefits of basil is its ability to act as an anti-bacterial and anti-microbial agent that fights germs and bacteria.

One of the key benefits of basil essential oil is the ability to help fight free radical damage while protecting DNA structure and cells. Basil contains two important 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.

Antioxidants found in basil keep chromosomes from becoming altered and resulting in cell mutations and cancerous cell growth. Oxidative stress occurs inside the body due to the effects of toxins in the diet, environmental pollution and radiation — but antioxidants like the kind found in basil help fight oxidation and slow down the effects of aging. 2. Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory

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)

In studies using animals, basil extract has shown protection against cancer and mortality while also selectively protecting normal tissue and cells from negative effects of cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy. This means that using basil extract can be beneficial as a supplemental cancer treatment even when someone is already undergoing traditional forms of treatments. 4. Contains Antibacterial Properties

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. 5. Contains Antimicrobial Properties that Fight Viruses and Infections

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)

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. 8. Promotes Cardiovascular Health

Both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food, basil 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.

When this happens for prolonged periods of time, the body experiences an “inflammatory cascade,” which puts stress on the organs and slows down blood circulation, hormone regulation and cognitive processes. When it comes to heart health, inflammation can build up fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque in blood vessels and raise the risk for a heart attack or stroke. 9. Supports Liver Function and Helps Detoxify the Body

In Italy, basil has been considered a symbol of love for centuries. The aroma of basil is believed to increase libido and arousal, possibly by increasing blood flow and energy levels, while reducing inflammation. In the Hindu religion and in Ayurveda practices, holy basil ( tulsi) is considered the “elixir of life” and is used to promote healthy sexual function and an upbeat mood. ( 8) 12. Helps Protect from Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Basil extracts have been found to reduce circulating blood glucose levels and inflammation, which makes basil protective against diabetes development and other forms of metabolic syndrome. Additionally, benefits of basil essential oils include the ability to help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which diabetic patients are at a higher risk for developing.

When researchers from the Department of Home Science at Azad University of Agriculture and Technology in India investigated the effects of holy basil leaves on blood glucose and serum cholesterol levels in humans through double-blind clinical trials, the results showed that basil caused significant improvements in blood glucose control and mild improvements in cholesterol levels. This suggests that basil supplementation can be a useful and safe way to help control diabetes and complications that result from the disease. ( 9)

Some of the many species of basil include: sweet basil, lemon basil, Italian or curly basil, holy basil, thai basil and lettuce-leaf basil. The flavor and smell of basil varieties vary depending on their unique chemical components and the amount of essential oils they contain. The following oils are common across all basil types but are found in varying quantities: cinnamate, citronellol, geraniol, linalool, pinene and terpineol. ( 10)

Basil belongs to the genus Ocimum, which is derived from the Greek ozo, meaning “to smell.” The exact origins of basil are somewhat unclear, however it’s believed that basil is native to areas in Asia and Africa. Basil plants began growing as wild perennials on some pacific Islands thousands of years ago and then were brought from India to Europe through the Middle East in the 16th century. Sometime during the 17th century basil made its way over to the Americas.

In historical European culture, basil has been tied to superstition and the scorpion. Many years ago, it was advised to handle basil gently as to “avoid the breeding of scorpions.” Scorpions were believed to seek out basil pots to rest under, and old superstitions said that a basil plant left for too long would eventually turn into a scorpion!

Holy basil also has a long history of religious and medical use in India, where it’s considered one of the most important herbs there is. Holy basil is a sacred herb in the Hindu religion and believed to be protective and healing. Tulsi, “the Queen of Herbs,” is considered legendary, cherished, womanly — and its essential oils are considered powerful at remedying headaches, low energy, stress, disease and sexual dysfunction.