Basil is the king of herbs. It is in the same family tree as the peppermint plant. In fact, its leaves are often just like a peppermint plant. Basil provides many unique health benefits. Most of the health benefits of basil come from two parts of the basil plant: basil's flavonoids and volatile oils. Studies have shown that basil's flavonoids and volatile oils each provide a multitude of health benefits. Basil is being studied all around the world today due to its unique properties. Let us explore some of the health benefits of basil, the king of herbs.
One of basils volatile oils, eugenol, has been the subject of extensive testing and studies. Eugenol has been shown to block the actions of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. This is one of the same enzymes that many over the counter anti-inflammatory medications inhibit. Basil does no damage to the liver. Due to the cyclooxygenase inhibiting nature of basil, this food is considered an anti-inflammatory food.
Basil extract has been proven to fight breast cancer. It induces a programmed cell death in two types of breast cancer cells. In both hormone receptor positive and triple negative cancer cells. Basil can also help reduce the chance of cancer due to its high levels of lutein. Lutein has been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in epidemiological studies.
How can a mere herb help us defend against disease? Basil has disease-fighting antioxidants. Scientists now believe that antioxidants can fight heart disease. This is primarily due to the plant's phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are found in basil leaves essential oils. Antioxidants help prevent damage from free radicals. Epidemiologic studies have found much lower coronary heart disease mortality, in people who eat foods with high amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants it is believed even help repair cell damage, such as damage to the inner layers of the arteries.
Basil Extracts or essential oils help to reduce blood glucose. Holy basil is one type of basil that is particularly effective at regulating glucose levels in both normal and diabetic laboratory animals, as well as in diabetic humans. It is not clear exactly what compounds in basil aid in reducing circulating glucose levels, but scientists mostly agree it has something to do with the plant's phytochemicals.
Basil Extracts reduce cholesterol and triglyceride in the human body. This offers a promise to help to prevent cardiovascular disease in a world where heart disease is a leading cause of death. Too many triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the body can cause atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. The fact that basil reduces both of these risk factors makes basil a heart-healthy food. Research currently shows that sweet basil extracts reduce the formation of the blood clots in lab animals, suggesting basil may be ideal for preventing strokes.
Basil has volatile compounds in the form of essential oils present in the leaves of the plant. Each species of basil has different concentrations of eugenol, linalool, estragole, limonene, citral, methyl chavicol, and methyl cinnamate. Lemon basil, for example, has mostly citral and limonene phytochemicals present in its essential oils, while Italian large-leaf basil has mostly linalool and methyl chavicol. In nature, these phytochemicals protect the plant from invasive bacteria and fungi, and they do the same in the human body. Basil has long been used in traditional medicine to fight bacterial infections.
According to a study in India, several types of basil extracts, notably holy basil, and hoary basil can reduce swelling and pain. The study found that the extracts of these basil plants reduced joint swelling by as much as 73 percent. Lead researcher Vaibhav Shinde noted basil had about the same effect as an anti-inflammatory drug named diclofenac. This same research points towards eugenol as being responsible for basil's anti-inflammatory effect. Eugenol is one of the phytochemicals present in basil's essential oils.
A Beni-Suef University Study has shown that basil has hepatoprotective effects, meaning that basil helps to protect the liver. Basil's antioxidant properties help to protect the liver. Holy basil helped protect lab animals from liver damage due to acetaminophen. Further studies are needed to confirm basil's role in protecting the liver. Another study on lab rats, found that rats fed basil extract showed a reduction of fat build-up in the liver. Fat build-up in the liver can lead to liver disease.
Basil can help balance the levels of acid in the stomach. Basil also helps to restore the proper PH level in the digestive tract. Both of these effects help improve one's digestion by aiding healthy bacteria. Every human being has millions of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract, which aid in digestion. When ones PH level is off, or too much stomach acid is present, digestion suffers. Basil also helps to decrease the levels of harmful bacteria present in the digestive system. Historically basil was also a stomach cramp therapy.
Basil also helps in the fight against stress. One medical journal article noted that animals who received fresh basil for 30 days showed a significant increase in the antioxidant enzymes known as superoxide dismutase and reduced glutathione. Furthermore, the basil slowed down the depletion of these same enzymes in response to stress. In another medical article, animals who ate basil had a decrease in the level of cortisol, a known stress hormone found in the adrenal glands. Furthermore, basil prevents the adrenal glands in the animals from increasing in size during stress periods. These studies suggest basil has a natural adaptogen, or ability to help the body adapt to stress.
Basil supplements may help relieve the symptoms of various conditions. Holy basil is particularly useful in capsule form, offering many therapeutic benefits and high nutritional value from vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, zinc, and iron. Basil supplements may help reduce stress and anxiety, improve memory, and increase energy. Research shows it is safe for most people to take 500mg of holy basil twice a day.
Using basil essential oil may decrease stress levels and reduce anxiety. Studies show basil yields many medicinal benefits like improving circulation, healing respiratory discomfort, and relieving cold or flu symptoms. People often blend basil oil with two or three drops of other oils like lemon or eucalyptus for added benefits. Diluting a few drops with one tablespoon of a carrier oil may help relieve congestion and works best when applied to the chest.
Tea made from basil leaves may have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It's easy to make at home and costs very little. One method is to boil a half-cup of basil leaves in 2-1/4 cups water. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to low and brew for 3 to 4 minutes. Then, add in two of your favorite tea bags and sugar to taste.
Basil comes fresh or dry, but fresh is often better for cooking. The herb is a common addition to pesto and tomato-based sauces, thanks to its pepper and mint or citrus flavor profiles. Adding basil to meals may help with anxiety, stress, and memory. Because it has a strong flavor, a few pinches will do. People who dislike the flavor of basil but want to reap the benefits, may opt for supplements instead.
Basil is likely safe when consumed in foods or taken as a supplement. It's crucial to note, however, that basil contains estragole, a chemical that can increase liver cancer risk. Most people tolerate basil topically, and it is considered safe for skin in concentrations of up to 6% for approximately four months. At this time, there is little research around basil in aromatherapy or its side effects. Evidence suggests basil may lower blood pressure and could be dangerous for people with already low readings. People with clotting disorders or those taking blood thinners should avoid it because basil slows clotting.
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