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Basil

The king of herbs basil herb is one of the oldest and popular herbal plants brimming with notable health-benefiting phytonutrients. This highly prized plant is revered as "holy herb" in many traditions all around the world.
Basil belongs to the family of lamiaceae, in the genus: ocimum.
Basil is originally native to iran, india and other tropical regions of asia. This bushy annual herb is especially grown for its medicinally useful leaves and seeds. Basil grows best under warm, tropical climates. Fully-grown plant reaches on an average about 100 cm in height. Its leaves are light green, silky about 2.5 inches long and 1 inch broad with opposite arrangement. The flowers are quite large, white or purple, arranged in terminal spikes.
Varieties of basil herb exist. "mediterranean" cultivar which is typically known as sweet basil, has light green leaves as opposite to "asian basil" (ocinum sanctum) that features large, hairy stems and stalks with pink flowers, purple or red leaves in addition to possessing stronger aclovea like flavor. There is also lemon basil, which has "lemon" flavor. Thai basil (o. Basilicum 'horapha') is similar in characteristics to asian basil but features narrow, pointed, light green color leaves with a sweet licorice like aroma.
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Health benefits
Basil leaves hold many notable plants derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
Basil herb contains many polyphenolic flavonoids like orientin and vicenin. These compounds were tested in-vitro laboratory for their possible anti-oxidant protection against radiation-induced lipid per-oxidation in mouse liver.
Basil leaves compose of several health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol,citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene and terpineol. These compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
The herbs' parts are very low in calories and contain no cholesterol, but are very rich source of many essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that are required for optimum health.
Basil herb contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin a, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ros) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
Zea-xanthin, a yellow flavonoid carotenoid compound, is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it found to filter harmful uv rays from reaching the retina. Studies suggest that common herbs, fruits, and vegetables that are rich in zea-xanthin anti-oxidant help to protect from age-related macular disease (amrd), especially in the elderly.
100 g of fresh herb leaves contain astoundingly 5275 mg or 175% of daily required doses of vitamin a. Vitamin a is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-a has been found to help the body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Vitamin k in basil is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood and plays a vital role in the bone strengthening function by helping mineralization process in the bones.
Basil herb contains a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Basil leaves are an excellent source of iron, contains 3.17 mg/100 g of fresh leaves (about 26% of rda). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

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.
I add basil to practically everything i make, from eggs to vegetables to soups. Basil has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and can help prevent osteoarthritis. It has been used in digestive disorders and is being studied for its anti-cancer properties. Though commonly used in italian cooking, basil is a versatile herb that can be added to practically anything. Fresh is always best, but dried is ok too as long as it is freshly dried. Basil can be sprinkled in omelets, on baked or grilled veggies, in soups, on meats or sliced fresh into salads. Layered with tomato and mozzarella cheese, it makes a wonderful caprese salad.
In addition, basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. These anti-bacterial properties of basil are not associated with its unique flavonoids, but instead with its volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene.

Medicinal uses
Listeria monocytogenes
Staphylococcus aureus
Escherichia coli o - 157 - h7
Yersinia enterocolitica
Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Essential oil of basil, obtained from its leaves, has demonstrated the ability to inhibit several species of pathogenic bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotic drugs. 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 recognizable herbs ever since pesto, the mixture of basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese, has become popular.
Basil has round leaves that are oftentimes pointed. They are green in color, although some varieties feature hints of 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 flavors that subtly reflect their name.
In a study published in the july 2003 issue of the journal of microbiology methods, essential oil of basil was even found to inhibit strains of bacteria from the genera staphylococcus, enterococcus and pseudomonas, all of which are not only widespread, but now pose serious treatment difficulties because they have developed a high level of resistance to treatment with antibiotic drugs.
Studies published in the february 2004 issue of food microbiology, have shown that washing produce in solution containing either basil or thyme essential oil at the very low concentration of just 1% resulted in dropping the number of shigella, an infectious bacteria that triggers diarrhea and may cause significant intestinal damage, below the point at which it could be detected.
While scientists use this research to try to develop natural food preservatives, it makes good sense to include basil and thyme in more of your recipes, particularly for foods that are not cooked such as salads.
Adding fresh thyme and/or basil to your next vinaigrette will not only enhance the flavor of your fresh greens, but will help ensure that the fresh produce you consume is safe to eat.

Anti-inflammatory effects
The eugenol component of basil's volatile oils has been the subject of extensive study, since this substance can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase (cox).
Many non-steriodal over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications (nsaids), including aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as the commonly used medicine acetaminophen, work by inhibiting this same enzyme.
In the case of acetaminophen, this effect is somewhat controversial, and probably occurs to a much lesser degree than is the case with aspirin and ibuprofen.

This enzyme-inhibiting effect of the eugenol in basil qualifies basil as an "anti-inflammatory" food that can provide important healing benefits along with symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.
Want to enrich the taste and cardiovascular health benefits of your pasta sauce? add a good helping of basil.
Basil is a very good source of vitamin a (through its concentration of carotenoids such as beta-carotene).
Called "pro-vitamin a" since it can be converted into vitamin a, beta-carotene is a more powerful anti-oxidant than vitamin a and not only protects epithelial cells (the cells that form the lining of numerous body structures including the blood vessels) from free radical damage, but also helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the blood stream.
Only after it has been oxidized does cholesterol build up in blood vessel walls, initiating the development of atherosclerosis, whose end result can be a heart attack or stroke.
Free radical damage is a contributing factor in many other conditions as well, including asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The beta-carotene found in basil may help to lessen the progression of these conditions while protecting cells from further damage.
Basil is also a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health by prompting muscles and blood vessels to relax, thus improving blood flow and lessening the risk of irregular heart rhythms or a spasming of the heart muscle or a blood vessel.
In addition to the health benefits and nutrients described above, basil also emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of vitamin k and manganese, a very good source of copper and vitamin c, and a good source of calcium, iron, folate and omega-3 fatty acids.
Sweet basil, like most herbs, is loaded with health benefits.
In addition to being a rich source of vitamin k, beta carotene, and iron, the plant is known to harness anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
The majority of the great benefits of basil can be attributed to its volatile oils and flavonoids a powerful, plant-based antioxidants that reduce inflammation, help fight aging, and promote healthy arteries.
In basil essential oil, the volatile oils within the plant have been shown to have incredible antibacterial properties.
Studies have confirmed the ability of these oils to restrict the growth of bacterial like listeria monocytogenes, staphylococcus aureus, and escherichia coli (e-coli), among others.
A study published in a 2004 issue of food microbiology demonstrated that basil oils can even stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Scientists searching for natural, toxin-free food preservatives discovered that washing produce in a solution of as little as 1% basil essential oil decreased shigella contamination below levels at which it could be detected.
Theyave suggested that including basil in your salad could provide similar safeguards.
Two flavonoids within sweet basil have shown particular promise in fighting cell damage from radiation and free radicals.
Orientin and vicenin are antioxidants that work to protect the cells.


Notice
The information and reference guides on this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. It is not to be used to diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications