Basil is an herb that is found in many Mediterranean diet recipes.  It is very fragrant plant and has round leaves with pointed ends.  It looks a lot like peppermint.  The basil leaf is what is commonly used in food preparations and its leaves usually come in green color but there are varieties which have hints of purple or red in them.  

While it is used mostly as seasoning and garnish, basil gives a lot of health benefits to a person.  Basil has been highly regarded as manifested by the etymology of its name.  the word basil comes from basilikohn, an old Greek word that means “royal” and naming the basil as such is a reflection that they were regarded to be sacred and noble by ancient Greeks.  Basil is considered a symbol of love in Italy.

Basil brings many health benefits and it is a very good source of calcium and iron.  It is also a good source of nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.  The health benefits of basil come mostly from its flavonoids and volatile oils.  Here are some of the benefits that you can get from basil:

DNA And Anti-Bacterial Protection

Basil is rich in flavonoids, a wide array of active compounds that are known to provide protection at the cellular level.  of these flavonoids, the two important water soluble flavonoids are said to be important for DNA protection.  These flavonoids, orientin and vicenin, protect the chromosomes and cell structures from oxygen-based damage and radiation.

Basil is also known to protect the body against unwanted bacterial growth.  This is due to the volatile oils in basil that contain linalool, estragole, eugenol, cineole, myrcene, sabinene, and limonene.  Due to these volatile oils, the effectiveness of basil has been proven in laboratory studies in restricting the growth of bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia enterocolitica, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.  Obtained from its leaves, the essential oil of basil has been proven to inhibit several pathogenic bacteria species that have already become resistant to common antibiotic drugs.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Eugenol, a component of volatile oils found in basil has been known to block the activity of cyclooxygenase, an enzyme that can be found in the human body.  This enzyme can also be inhibited by acetaminophen and many over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS.  Eugenol’s enzyme-inhibiting effect gives basil important healing benefits and symptomatic relief for people who have inflammatory health problems like inflammatory bowel conditions and rheumatoid arthritis.

Promotes Cardiovascular Health

Basil has been said to be an excellent source of vitamin A because of its concentration of beta-carotene and other carotenoids.  Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant that protects epithelial cells from damage due to free radicals.  Epithelial cells are the cells that form the lining of blood vessels and many other body structures.  Aside from protecting the body’s epithelial cells, beta-carotene is also known to help prevent the free radicals to oxidize cholesterol in the bloodstream.  Oxidation of cholesterol in the blood lead to cholesterol build up in the walls of the blood vessels and this can develop into a medical condition called atherosclerosis.  Atherosclerosis, on the other hand, can lead to stroke or heart attack.

Of course basil is found in many Mediterranean diet recipes (no surprises there).

Damage due to free radicals is also known to contribute to osteoarthritis, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other health conditions.  The progression of these conditions can be lessened by the beta-carotene found in basil, while protecting the body’s cell from further damage.

Basil also has magnesium that promotes a person’s cardiovascular health.  Magnesium works to prompt muscles and blood vessels to relax in order to give way for improved blood flow and to lessen the risk of irregular rhythms of the heart or a spasming of a blood vessel or of the heart muscle.

..I hope this has been helpful,

Ray Baker