Most commonly used in Italian and Southeast Asian cuisines, basil leaves can be used in a variety of ways, such as a seasoning herb in Vietnamese pho and Thai curry dishes, or as the main ingredient in pesto sauces and spreads. While its flavorful punch makes it a kitchen staple, the secret to basil’s health kick is in its flavonoids – active organic compounds – and essential oils.
Here are four surprising health benefits of basil that will have you serving up basil dishes every chance you get:
Health Fact #1: It fights disease
Basil is made up of a unique array of health protecting flavonoids such as orientin and vicenin that fight for your health at a cellular level. In studies of human white blood cells, these flavonoids protect cell structures and chromosomes from oxygen-based damage and damage inflicted by free radicals, which is important for preventing diseases like cancer.
Health Fact #2: It has anti-inflammatory effects
If joint swelling, rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions are daily pain, try eating basil for symptomatic relief. Studies show that basil has strong anti-inflammatory effects similar to that of over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen – but without the side effects. It’s even reported to soothe stomach aches and cramps. Those individuals who are planning to rely on basil leaves, it might be prudent to do research on the types of basil available, so that they can have a clear idea of how to use them also.
Health Fact #3: It keeps your heart healthy
Basil is packed with vitamin A, which is critical for immune function, vision, and cellular communication. It’s also essential for cardiovascular health. Toss a healthy helping of basil into your next dish to protect against cholesterol buildup, heart attack, or stroke. It really is that simple. A small portion of basil can prevent someone from becoming critically ill or losing their life due to experiencing a heart attack. So, if you don’t have access to the best portable defibrillator that you can get your hands on, adding some basil to your meals can prevent any risks to the health of your heart.
Health Fact #4: It protects against bacterial growth
Essential oils from basil leaves can be effective at inhibiting some bacteria resistant to commonly used antibiotic drugs. One study showed that washing produce in a low concentration (1 percent) of basil oil reduced the number of bacteria that causes diarrhea.