Basil (Ocimum basilicum), also known as Saint Joseph's Wort, is a herb belonging to the mint family Lamiaceae often used as a seasoning in cooking. Basil is native to India and other tropical areas of Asia.
The herb is well known for its use in Italian cuisine - it is a major ingredient in pesto sauce. Basil is also commonly used Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine.
The word Basil derives from the Greek word "basileus", which means "king". The Oxford English Dictionary says that basil may have been used as "some royal unguent, bath, or medicine".
In fact, there are quite a number of different beliefs associated with the herb. The French often refer to the herb as l'herbe royale (the royal herb), and in Jewish folklore basil is thought to give strength while fasting.
Basil is used in traditional Tamil medicine and in ayurvedic medicine, which is a form of alternative traditional medicine in the Indian subcontinent.
There are different types of basil, which differ in taste and smell. Sweet basil (the most commercially available basil used in Italian food) has a strong clove scent because of its high concentration of the chemical agent eugenol. Whereas lime and lemon basil have a strong citrus scent due to their high concentration of limonene.
Basil is associated with numerous different health benefits. The herb contains high amounts of (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), which may be useful in treating arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Health benefits of basil
Research indicates that there are several health benefits associated with basil because of its high density of flavonoids and volatile oils.
This suggests that basil may have the potential to treat arthritis.
Anti-aging properties - according to research presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) in Manchester, basil has properties that can help prevent the harmful effects of aging. Holy basil extract was effective at killing off harmful molecules and preventing damage caused by some free radicals in the liver, brain and heart.
Rich in antioxidants - results of a study published in the Journal of Advanced Pharmacy Education & Research showed that ethanol extract Ocimum basilicum had more antioxidant activity than standard antioxidants.
Nutritional profile of basil
Nutritional value of basil per 100 g (3.5 oz)
|Energy||94 kJ (22 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||1.6 g|
|Vitamin A||264 μg|
|Vitamin C||18.0 mg|
|Vitamin E||0.80 mg|
|Vitamin K||414.8 μg|
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Written by Joseph Nordqvist