06 August 2013

Uses and Health Benefits of Basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is best known as a culinary herb but it also has many health benefits. Its highly fragrant, round and often pointed leaves are used as a seasoning herb in Mediterranean cuisine and have become popular as the main ingredient in pesto.

Basil is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, K, iron, and calcium. It is also a good source of antioxidants, dietary fiber, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. Here is a list of some of its most common uses for health.

13 uses and health benefits of basil you should know about

13 uses and health benefits of basil

Antibacterial properties
Fresh basil leaves and basil oil have antibacterial properties. They can be used to disinfect surfaces. Basil leaves, applied to wounds, may eliminate infections. A basil gargle can treat mouth infections.

Sore throat
Water boiled with basil leaves can be taken as a tonic or used as a gargle when you have a sore throat.

Respiratory disorders
Basil used in your cooking or taken as a nutritional supplement can assist in combating common viruses like colds, flu, and herpes. Boiling basil leaves with honey and ginger is useful for treating asthma, bronchitis, cough, cold, and influenza. Boiling the leaves, cloves, and sea salt in some water will give rapid relief of flu. These combinations should be boiled in about two quarts of water until only half the water remains before they are taken.

Mouth infections
Chewing a few leaves twice daily can cure infections and ulcerations of the mouth.

Ear infections
Basil essential oil is antibacterial, and drops of basil oil may relieve ear infections.

Blood sugar
There is some evidence that basil can help level out blood sugar if consumed regularly and drank as a juice or tea.

Calming of stomach
Basil has a calming effect on the stomach and 1/2 teaspoon of dried or fresh basil leaf in water can often help sooth indigestion and alleviate feelings of fullness.

Loss of appetite
Add 1 tablespoon of dry basil leaves to 300 ml (10 oz) boiling water. After 1 minute remove from the heat and let  stay for half an hour. Strain and drink 80 ml (2,70 oz) 15 minutes before meals 3 times a day.

Chronic gastritis and colitis
Use the recipe for treating loss of appetite but drink after meals. Or pour 1 l (1 quart) boiling water over a handful of chopped dry basil leaves. Let cool and strain. Drink half a cup 3 times a day.

Insect stings and bites
Chewing up a basil leaf and applying to the bite will help relieve the pain and draw out the venom. Rubbing the bites with juice can relieve the itching and swelling. Also a paste of the root is effective for treating the bites of insects and leeches.

Dental hygiene
Grind dry basil leaves into powder for a tooth cleansing powder. You can also mix with mustard oil to make herbal toothpaste. Both of these methods work against bad breath and can be used to massage the gums, and treat dental health problems.

Basil is a good headache remedy. Boil leaves in half a quart of water, cooking until half the liquid remains. Take a couple of teaspoons an hour with water to relieve your pain and swelling.

Eye Disorders
Basil juice relieves night-blindness and sore eyes. Two drops of black basil juice in each eye at bedtime each day is soothing.

How to harvest and store

It is best if you can grow your own basil and harvest it yourself. Here are some tips for harvesting and storing.

Cut basil for drying is just before it flowers. This is when the leaves have the most oil, which is what gives it aroma and flavor.

Harvest basil as late in the day as possible. Studies have shown that this is less stressful for the plants.

Cutting the plant back by about half or two thirds. Always cut each stem just above a healthy leaf cluster. This gives you plenty of leaves to cook with or store, leaving the remainder to regenerate for further harvesting a few weeks later.

Tie the basil in bouquets right after harvesting and let it dry hanging in an airy room. After drying out completely, store in a dry place, away from other herbs, so that the aromas don't mix.

Cooking with basil

Since the oils in basil are highly volatile, it is best to add the herb near the end of the cooking process, so it will retain its maximum essence and flavor.

How often do you use basil and what for?

DISCLAIMER: Please note that these treatments are only meant as guidelines and in no way replace the advice or treatment provided by your medical practitioner. It is always good to seek the advice of your physician, homeopath, naturopath, or herbalist for professional advice in any matter related to your health. This article is for information purposes only.