Health Benefits of Sweet Basil

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Health Benefits of Sweet Basil

Sweet basil, like most herbs, is loaded with health benefits. In addition to being a rich source of vitamin K, beta carotene, and iron, the plant is known to harness anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. The majority of the great benefits of basil can be attributed to its volatile oils and flavonoids – powerful, plant-based antioxidants that reduce inflammation, help fight aging, and promote healthy arteries.

In basil essential oil, the volatile oils within the plant have been shown to have incredible antibacterial properties. Studies have confirmed the ability of these oils to restrict the growth of bacterial like Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli (E-coli), among others. A study published in a 2004 issue of Food Microbiology demonstrated that basil oils can even stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Scientists searching for natural, toxin-free food preservatives discovered that washing produce in a solution of as little as 1% basil essential oil decreased Shigella contamination below levels at which it could be detected. They’ve suggested that including basil in your salad could provide similar safeguards.

Two flavonoids within sweet basil have shown particular promise in fighting cell damage from radiation and free radicals. Orientin and vicenin are antioxidants that work to protect the cells.

But the benefits of sweet basil don’t stop there. Basil also:

  • Improves circulation
  • Increases immune function
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces the oxidation of cholesterol
  • Protects the heart
  • Detoxifies the blood
  • May help control blood sugar levels

In herbal medicine, basil can be taken for:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Uterine cramping
  • Coughs
  • A wide variety of digestive problems

A favorite herb and spice found in Italian dishes, Thai dishes, and
some middle eastern dishes, sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is one of
several varieties of basil known not only for its ability to add flavor,
but medicinal aspects as well. In these regions, the basil plant has
not only been used in cooking, but also in healing for centuries.

The
plant is lush green with smooth rounded-edges and pointed-tip leaves.
The leaves resemble peppermint leaves, as the two plants are closely
related. Sweet basil is the most common form of garden basil and can be
found dried in the spice aisle, fresh in the produce aisle, or still in
the dirt of many gardeners fortunate enough to cultivate it.

A Sweet Basil History

Sweet
basil is originally from India and is also native to tropical regions
of Asia, where it has been grown for more than 5,000 years. The name is
derived from the Greek word basilikohn which means “royal” – a fitting
considering how prized this herb was in many cultures.

In Egypt,
Greece, and India it was placed with the deceased to ensure a speedy
travel to the afterlife. In India it is seen as a symbol of hospitality
and is used prominently in Ayurvedic medicine.  On the flip side, some
cultures considered the fragrant herb an evil plant, with one historic
French physician believing that smelling too much of the herb would
cause scorpions to breed in the brain.

(Don’t worry, that won’t happen).

Source: Natural Society
by Elizabeth Renter, February 26, 2013

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