4 Surprising Health Benefits of Basil You May Not Know About
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 a daily pain, try eating basil for symptomatic relief. Studies show that basil has strong anti-inflammatory affects similar to that of over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen – but without the side effects. It’s even reported to soothe stomachaches and cramps.
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.
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.