Basil has been one of my favorite herbs for some time now. Recently, while researching basil (Ocimum) for a magazine article I compiled the following interesting facts about this aromatic herb.
1. Basil has been found to attenuate the stress response to excess noise in rats. This ability to help the body respond to stress is probably due to the wide variety of antioxidants found in basil which inclde flavonoids, phenols and carotenoids.
2. Human hair as well as sheep hair (wool) can fertilize basil increasing its growth. Next time you get a hair cut, work a little of the hair into your soil. Hair is a protein and so it is high in nitrogen. I’m wondering if my horse’s hair will also be beneficial.
3. Basil protects against harmful effects of ionizing radiation. This may provide protection to healthy, non-cancerous cells during radiation treatment for cancer or protect your skin from the sun.
4. Basil can help normalize blood glucose levels and thus prevent insulin resistance for borderline diabetics. Eat basil with high protein mozzarella cheese and whole grain bread and that’s even better for diabetics.
5. The shelf life of high protein food such as tofu can be extended with basil. This study was done in India where refrigeration is not as common in rural areas.
6. Basil contains antioxidants that can protect against damage to DNA resulting in mutations. It also protects against oxidative stress from a variety of sources. This important benefit protects us from free radicals that arise from environmental sources as well as within our own body. In this way it acts as an ‘adaptogenic’ herb.
7. Basil can help the skin in wound healing and may prevent formation of scars. Go ahead, rub it on!
8. Basil is anti-inflammatory agent and can decrease heat and swelling of an injured area making it a potential treatment for arthritis.
9. Basil has potential applications to lower blood pressure.
10. Basil is both antibacterial and anti-parasitic having action against Staph aureus and Giardia. It may also be active against mosquitoes. 11. Basil can inhibit growth of breast cancer cells in the lab and thus may provide anticancer activity in the diet.
This summer I hope to have enough basil to distill, to enjoy plenty of pesto and to eat with mozzarella cheese and fresh tomatoes.