Basil leaves are vibrant green, heart shaped and can be harvested when as petite as half an inch and as large as up to four inches in length. Has highly aromatic qualities and flavor profiles; the wide range of distinctive fragrances within its chemical makeup emit notes of citrus, clove, anise and cinnamon, all providing a sensory memory that sets basil apart from other herbs.
Is botanically classified as Ocimum basilicum, a member of the Lamiaceae or mint family and part of the Ocimum genus along with thyme, rosemary, mint and oregano. Its botanical name, Ocimum basilicum translates in Greek to smell and king, hence Basil’s unofficial title, “the king of herbs”.
It is also known, is the most popular and common of all culinary basil cultivars. Plants of the Ocimum genus are characterized by stems with square cross sections and leaves that grow opposite each other on the stem.
Boasts a high level of vitamin K, only 2 table spoons of Basil fulfills 20% of the recommended daily intake. Also has a moderate amount of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant which converts to vitamin A when digested. It has been used in traditional Hindu medicine to treat inflammatory diseases, including arthritis.
Basil’s oils can also be extracted and utilized for their aromatherapy qualities as well as has been found that in high concentrations is an effective antimicrobial for food born bacteria.
Basil leaves is a delicate herb that can be used whole, chopped, crushed into a paste or dried; though it loses much of its aromatic properties when dried. Basil leaves is most commonly used raw in fresh applications or when finishing cooked preparations as heat alters the flavor and color of the herb. Add strands of Basil to chopped, stacked and bread salads. Serve chopped atop pizza, pasta, chicken and fish.
Combine with pistachios, pinenuts and/or walnuts to make a creamy pesto sauce. The aromatic flavor of Basil leaves pairs well with tomatoes, garlic, onion, corn, pear, mint, strawberry and cow’s milk cheeses. Basil leaves will keep, dry and refrigerated, for up to a week but is best when used immediately.
Some Health Benefits of Basil Leaves
Basil leaves a common aromatic herb in the mint family, the same plant family as other nutrient-dense, beneficial herbs, including mint, oregano and rosemary. Of course, is used to add flavor to a variety of recipes, but what may surprise you is the many benefits of basil that make it well-known for its immunity-enhancing properties. Basil leaves extract, or essential oil, is proven to help prevent a wide range of health conditions, which makes it one of the most important medical herbs known today.
1. Contains Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
One of the key benefits of basil essential oil is the ability to help fight free radical damage while protecting DNA structure and cells. Contains two important water-soluble flavonoid antioxidants, known as orientin and viceninare, which help protect white blood cells responsible for immune function, as well as cellular structures where DNA is stored.
Antioxidants found in basil keep chromosomes from becoming altered and resulting in cell mutations and cancerous cell growth. Oxidative stress occurs inside the body due to the effects of toxins in the diet, environmental pollution and radiation — but antioxidants like the kind found in basil help fight oxidation and slow down the effects of aging.
2. Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory
Basil leaves contains powerful essential oils, including eugenol, citronellol and linalool. These are enzyme-inhibiting oils that help lower inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions.
3. Fights Cancer
Clinical studies published in Nutrition and Cancer also show that basil leaves contains phytochemicals, which can help naturally prevent cancer, including chemical-induced skin, liver, oral and lung cancers. Basil leaves is able to increase antioxidant activity, positively alter gene expressions, induce cancerous-cell apoptosis (death of harmful cells) and stop cancerous tumors from spreading.
In studies using animals, basil extract has shown protection against cancer and mortality while also selectively protecting normal tissue and cells from negative effects of cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy. This means that using basil leaves extract can be beneficial as a supplemental cancer treatment even when someone is already undergoing traditional forms of treatments.
4. Contains Antibacterial Properties
Another one of the benefits of basil leaves essential oils is to provide protection against harmful bacterial growth. In studies, basil leaves extract is even shown to be helpful in inhibiting resistant strains of bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotic treatments.
When researchers from the Medical University of Lodz in Poland tested the antibacterial activity of basil oil against strains of E. coli and other powerful bacteria that were gathered from sick patients with infections, the results showed that was effective in acting against the bacteria strains and helping to inhibit their growth. This has led researchers to continue to study how basil leaves and other antibacterial oils may help fight antibiotic resistant illnesses and infections.
5. Contains Antimicrobial Properties that Fight Viruses and Infections
Basil leaves essential oils have been found to exhibit anti-microbial activity against a wide range of bacteria, yeasts, molds and viruses. This means you can add protection against the candida virus and various forms of skin irritations to the long list of proven benefits of basil.
6. Combats Stress by Acting as an ‘Adaptogen’
Studies show that basil has strong potential to act as a natural adaptogen, an herbal medicine that helps the body adapt to stress and to normalize the harmful effects of stressors on bodily processes.
For example, when researchers studied the anti-stress effects of fresh basil leaves given to rabbits that were exposed to a high-stress environment, they found a significant improvement in oxidative stress levels following use. After the rabbits received supplementation of two grams of fresh basil leaves for 30 days, they experienced cardiovascular and respiratory protection in response to stressors. A significant decrease in blood sugar levels was also observed, while a significant increase in antioxidant activity was observed.
Tomato Mozzarella Salad
“Mozzarella slices are served with tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and sprinkled with olive oil. A perfect salad alternative, especially in summer when you can get tomatoes and basil from the garden.”
- 3 large tomatoes, sliced
Place tomato slices, alternating with mozzarella slices, on a large serving platter.
Combine oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well. Drizzle over tomatoes and mozzarella; sprinkle with basil.