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Overview

Basil is a highly fragrant plant whose leaves are used as a seasoning herb for many different types of foods. Basil has become one of the most recognisable herbs around the world.

Basil has round leaves that are at times pointed. They are green in colour, although some varieties contain some red or purple. Basil looks a little like peppermint, which is not surprising since they belong to the same plant family.

There are more than 60 varieties of basil, all of which differ somewhat in appearance and taste. While the taste of sweet basil is bright and pungent, other varieties also offer unique tastes: lemon basil, anise basil and cinnamon basil all have flavours that subtly reflect their name.

The scientific name for basil is Ocimum basilicum.

History

Basil now grows in many regions throughout the world, but it was first native to India, Asia and Africa.

It is prominently featured in varied cuisines throughout the world including Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian.

The name “basil” is derived from the old Greek word basilikohn, which means “royal,” reflecting that ancient culture’s attitudes towards an herb that they held to be very noble and sacred. The tradition of reverence of basil has continued in other cultures. In India, basil was cherished as an icon of hospitality, while in Italy, it was a symbol of love.

Benefits

Research studies on basil have shown unique, health protecting effects in two basic areas: basil’s flavonoids and volatile oils.

The unique array of active constituents called flavonoids found in basil provide protection at the cellular level. Orientin and vicenin are two water soluble flavonoids that have been of particular interest in basil and in studies on human white blood cells; these components of basil protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen based damage.

In addition, basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. These “antibacterial” properties of basil are not associated with its unique flavonoids, but instead with its volatile oils.

Nutritional Profile

Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A.

In addition, basil is a good source of dietary fibre, manganese, magnesium, acids and more.

Disclaimer

Warning: As with all herbs and medicinal plants basil should be consumed on in moderation.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and must not be taken or interpreted as a suggestion or as medical advise.

If you have any medical conditions, you should consult your health care professional.

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