Basil is quite easy to grow and goes very well with many recipes. Growing up we always had a garden in the yard, which always included basil. As kids we would pick the leaves off and put it in plain yogurt our grandmother would make or on top of homemade pizza. However, as delicious as basil is it also possesses amazing healing properties.
According to whfoods.org basil’s healing properties include:
DNA Protection Plus Anti-Bacterial and Antiviral Properties
Flavonoids found in basil provide protection at the cellular level. Orientin and vicenin are two water-soluble flavonoids that have been of particular interest in basil, and in on human white blood cells; these components of basil protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage.
Basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. These anti-bacterial properties of basil are associated with volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene. Lab studies show the effectiveness of basil in restricting growth of numerous bacteria, including : Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli O:157:H7, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
In addition, it is highly antiviral making it effective against bacterial infections, intestinal parasites, colds, flu, mono, shingles, and herpes.
The eugenol component of basil’s volatile oils has been the subject of extensive study, since this substance can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase (COX). Many non-steriodal over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), including aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as the commonly used medicine acetaminophen, work by inhibiting this same enzyme. This enzyme-inhibiting effect of the eugenol in basil qualifies basil as an “anti-inflammatory” food that can provide important healing benefits along with symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.
Nutrients Essential for Cardiovascular Health
Basil is a very good source of “pro-vitamin A,” a more powerful anti-oxidant than vitamin A. It protects epithelial cells from free radical damage and helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the blood stream.
Free radical damage is a contributing factor in many other conditions including asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The beta-carotene found in basil may help to lessen the progression of these conditions while protecting cells from further damage.
Basil is also a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health by prompting muscles and blood vessels to relax, thus improving blood flow and lessening the risk of irregular heart rhythms or a spasming of the heart muscle or a blood vessel.