From Mrs. Cog's Corner

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Basil has ancient roots, a trait I find in common with most natural substances that possess strong healing powers. Revered in Hindu practices and used by healers in Greek and Roman societies, basil has been known to many as a powerful medicinal tool.

High on the list of health benefits derived from basil is its ability to fight diabetes. Not only can basil reduce glucose levels, but there is a growing belief that basil may actually increase the production of insulin as well. Basil packs a huge punch of Vitamin K, integral in blood clotting and the body's ability to use calcium for stronger bones.

Packing iron, basil helps red blood cells to oxidize the body. Basil is also one of the best sources of calcium our body can absorb or make "bioavailable". The flavonoids contained in basil powers the white blood cells to better protect us from damage caused by oxygen and radiation.

Recommended as an alternative to ibuprofen, naproxin or asprin, studies have proven basil to act as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Proponents of natural medicine will point out that you cannot overdose on basil as is sometimes the case with manufactured pain relievers.

Basil has also been proven effective in preventing and reversing the growth of cancerous tumors. Rich in phytonutrients, basil's ability to cause cancer cell death compliments its strong antioxidant content which helps prevent cancer by eradicating free radicals.

The trick lies in how we incorporate any substantial amount of basil into our diets in order to take advantage of these superior effects. Easy to grow in any window, container or garden, basil can be used as an herb in many dishes or as an ingredient in smoothies or juices. I pick living fresh basil leaves from my kitchen window box and add them to salads, greens, sandwiches and other assorted meals and snacks.

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A study by researchers at Purdue University2 revealed that basil "contains a wide range of essential oils rich in phenolic compounds and a wide array of other natural products including polyphenols such as flavonoids and anthocyanins."

As well as adding a fresh taste to food, this bright green herb also has beneficial health effects.  Basil is a good source of vitamin K: 2 tablespoons of fresh basil contains about 20% of the daily recommended intake of this nutrient.(1) Fresh basil is also a good source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is converted to vitamin A in the body. Antioxidants are vital for keeping cells healthy and reducing the number of damaging free radical molecules in the body. Basil is also widely used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

What isn’t as well know are the various other herbal uses of Basil. It is a traditional remedy that has been used in various cultures for hundreds of years for many uses besides cooking. These are my top uses:

It is widely known across South Asia as a medicinal plant and an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda. Holy basil tea has been used for more than 5,000 years in India, where the herb is regarded as the queen of herbs. Basil is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is the sacred ‘Queen of Herbs’ of India. It has been a principal herb in the ancient holistic healing system of Ayurveda for over 5000 years. For centuries, the dried leaves have been mixed with stored grains to repel insects.

In recent years increased scientific interest in plant phytochemicals (plant chemicals) has brought numerous vegetables, herbs and spices – including basil – to the forefront of nutritional research. Although the study of plant compounds is not new, scientists are only now beginning to characterize the wide range of biologically active components in our food plants and investigate their impact on human health and disease. In cell culture and animal studies basil has been found to exhibit antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, antioxidant and anti-cancer activity.

Basil was recently shown to reduce swelling and inflammation in arthritic patients by about 73 percent, which is on par with commonly used drugs for arthritis. The researcher who presented the results at The British Pharmacology Conference said they were going to begin studying the properties of basil to determine the active compounds which could be made into drugs.

In a 2007 clinical study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, scientists tested the effectiveness of holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)leaf extract in rats who exhibited oxidative stress, DMBA-induced cancer, and an enzyme imbalance. DMBA is a powerful toxin which is commonly used to initiate cancer tumors in laboratory animals for cancer research purposes. Four different concentrations of holy basil leaf extract were fed to rats over a five day period, then were injected with DMBA. When cancer symptoms were positively identified, the scientists measured the ability of holy basil to combat cancer. At a dosage of 300mg per kilgram of body weight, holy basil leaf extract significantly reduced the formation of cancerous micronuclei, enzymes which metabolize toxins in the body, and oxidation in both proteins and fats. Antioxidant and healthy enzymatic activity was increased.

One of the primary medicinal uses for basil is for its anti-inflammatory properties. This effect stems from eugenol, a volatile oil in basil that blocks enzymes in the body that cause swelling, making basil an ideal treatment for people with arthritis.

Many naturopathic doctors prescribe basil in treatment of diabetes, respiratory disorders, allergies, impotence, and infertility. This may be because basil contains cinnamanic acid, which has been found to enhance circulation, stabilize blood sugar, and improve breathing in those with respiratory disorders. It is also know that basil is very high in antioxidants, especially when it is used as an extract or oil. These antioxidants can protect your body against free radical damage associated with aging, some skin ailments, and most forms of cancer. Antioxidants have become an important part of keeping our bodies healthy, and basil may be among the safest and most effective sources of these life-giving compounds.

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.

Basil comes complete with vitamin A (through beta-carotene), magnesium, and many other nutrients that can help protect cell walls from free radical damage (in the blood system and other body structures), improve blood flow and help stop cholesterol from oxidizing in the blood stream.

Basil has an important role in Ayurvedic medicine and is used as a general tonic. It is a classic Ayurvedic remedy for fever. Other traditional indications in Ayurvedic include arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders (e.g., stomach cramps or dyspepsia, acid reflux, and nausea and vomiting), earache, respiratory disorders (e.g., asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, cough and pertussis), malaria, liver disorders, memory impairment, renal disorders, skin conditions and menstrual disorders (dysmenorrhea). Basil is also believed to be an effective antitoxin and antivenom and has been used on venomous bites and stings.

The herb used to make basil tea is also referred to as tulsi or sometimes holy basil. The herb is used extensively among people who are Hindu. They even have special ceremonies in the morning and again in the evening that are devoted to basil. Basil has significant healing properties and is used for a variety of medical problems. Here are some of the main uses of basil.

Basil is also considered an important medicinal herb. It is used as an anti-depressant. Basil tea makes a warming tonic that helps fight depression. This beneficial action may be due to the fact that the herb stimulates the adrenal cortex  (located on top of the kidneys, it secretes a hormone which regulates the stress response).

One thought on “Basil”

  1. Mrs Cog,

    A great article on Basil, anyone can grow Basil and it grows super fast ( 40 days from seeds). I can attest to it working on ant bites, just crunch the leaves between your fingers to get the oils out and rub it on the affected area. Works great.

    Mr Basil

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