The Power of Herbs – Part III – Basil Health Benefits

Basil Health Benefits

Basil is probably one of the easiest herbs to incorporate into your diet. Particularly as we come into the (hopefully warmer!) summer months when barbeques and light salads are often the foods of choice and you can add some fresh leaves in without much hassle.

Believed to stem from the Greek word ‘basileus’ meaning ‘king’, some might argue that this is apt given its status as one of the most widely used culinary herbs in the world! A regular feature in kitchens across the globe, its uses also extend beyond the culinary field with it being used for medical, religious and even cosmetic purposes (basil is often an ingredient in perfumes!) as well. Not only does it taste great, loading your meals up with some added basil health benefits are plenty too.

Growing Basil at Home
Growing Basil at Home

From sweet to savoury, basil can be added to everything from pizza and pasta to fruit salad and even ice-cream (thanks to its relation to the mint family). Available in many different varieties, sweet basil is probably the most well-known with its flavour easily distinguishable especially in Italian cooking.A popular remedy for common ailments such as nausea and bug bites, it’s also widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and other holistic remedies. Rich in essential oils, studies suggest that different varieties of basil also have anti-inflammatory, antistress and anticancer properties too.

The Benefits of Basil

Most well-known as being a culinary herb, the health benefits of basil make it a very handy herb to have growing in your garden

Good Source of Macronutrients

Though basil should not be relied on as the sole source of macronutrients in a person’s diet, it is a good addition to any meal and is a relatively easy way to increase your intake of vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants – calcium and vitamin K, for example. So throw a few extra handfuls on top of your pizza and enjoy!

Does Basil Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties?

Known to contain the chemical agent eugenol, researchers have found that sweet basil essential oil may help in treating various diseases which result in inflammation from oxidative stress such as type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Supports Good Liver Health

While further human research is needed on the topic, a 2015 study carried out by scientists concluded that antioxidants in a powdered preparation that included holy basil (one variety of basil) had a positive impact on liver health… and a happy liver can only be a good thing!

Homemade Basil Pesto

Fresh homemade basil pesto

Impress your family/housemates/other half with your culinary prowess and whip up some freshly made homemade pesto the next time you’re on dinner duty! Best served with your favourite pasta and plenty of garlic bread!

Ingredients

½ clove of garlic

1 big bunch fresh basil

1 handful pine nuts

1 handful grated parmesan cheese

Extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon

Salt and crushed black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Peel the garlic, then crush using a pestle and mortar (a knife can be used if you don’t have a pestle and mortar to hand) before adding a pinch of salt.  
  2. Roughly chop the fresh basil and pulse in a food processor to form a paste.
  3. Add the pine nuts to the mixture and pound again before stirring in half of the freshly grated parmesan cheese.
  4. Drizzle in some olive oil – just enough to bind the sauce together.
  5. Stir in the remaining parmesan and season with salt and black pepper. Continue adding olive oil until you are happy with the consistency.
  6. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice to give your homemade basil pesto an added twang – can be omitted if you’d prefer.

Other ways to use fresh basil when cooking/preparing food:

  • Add to homemade pizza for added flavour
  • Stir into pasta sauces
  • Chop up fresh basil leaves and add to salads
  • Use as a garnish for fresh summer drinks
  • Combine with tomatoes, mozzarella and balsamic vinegar to make a Caprese salad
  • Throw into your next stir fry as a flavoursome extra 
  • Infuse some ice-cold water with cucumber, mint and basil for a refreshing drink

How to Grow Basil

Thinking of adding basil to your home herb garden? Here’s what you need to know if so!

Sowing

Basil seeds grow best planted inside, anywhere from the end of February to mid-summer. And the process is very simple you’ll be glad to know – simply fill a small 7.5cm pot with seed compost, add your seeds on top and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite. Water gently and cover the pot with a small, clear freezer bag secured with an elastic band.

After the seeds have germinated, take the bag off and keep soil damp. Once the seedlings have developed their first true leaves you can transfer them into their own 7.5cm pot (fill with multi-purpose compost).

Grow

Make sure to only plant basil outside when the weather warms up a bit and the threat of frost has passed as it needs a sunny, sheltered spot with well-drained soil to grow. The good news is that you can keep your basil plant growing all summer too – just move it to a bigger pot any time it needs a little more space. If possible, try to water your plant in the morning to avoid your plant having wet roots overnight. Regularly pinching the tips of branches will help keep your plant thriving. 

How to Store Basil

The best way to store fresh basil is to trim the cut ends, place the bunch in a glass of water, cover it with a plastic bag and pop it in the fridge. If stored this way, your leaves will stay green and fresh for up to a week – so perfect to add into whatever last minute meal you manage to pull together at the end of the day.

If you find yourself short on fridge space, you can just wrap the leaves (pick them off the stem first) in a wet paper towel and put that in the fridge instead. It essentially does the same job, and leaves more room for other essentials!

1 thought on “The Power of Herbs – Part III – Basil Health Benefits”

  1. Basil has its positives although i would always say less is more when it comes to basil

    I have a small herb garden supplying some local restaurants and deli’s would be delighted to send you some samples ……

    Cheers Alex

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