The highly fragrant, bright
green leaves of basil are
mildly sedative and pain
relieving, and can help beat
Basil is perhaps best known as the major ingredient in the Italian sauce pesto. Yet the herb has been used for thousands of years in India and the Mediterranean, has several health benefits, and has long been used in traditional herbal medicine as a remedy for indigestion, nausea, and stomach ache. It is mildly sedative and an infusion of basil oil can even be used as an insect repellent and to offer sting relief. Basil contains strongly antioxidant flavonoid compounds. The leaves contain volatile oils that contain chemicals to fight food poisoning bacteria. The chemical eugenol, also present, is an anti-inflammatory similar to aspirin and can help relieve the pain of arthritis and may ease irritable bowel syndrome.
- Traditionally used in remedies for indigestion, nausea, and stomach ache.
- Acts as an insect repellent and has antibacterial action.
- High in lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health.
Basil is best added at the end of cooking to preserve its flavor, aroma, and oils. Basil leaves, if large, should be torn rather than cut with a knife. To make a quick pesto, crush basil with pine nuts, olive oil, salt, and pepper and use to dress pasta. Sprinkle basil over a salad of tomatoes and mozzarella.
DID YOU KNOW?
The chemical estragole, found in basil, has been linked with cancer in animals, but there is no risk to humans even if huge amounts are eaten.