Basil, scientific name Ocinum basilicum, is an aromatic plant belonging to the Labiatae family. Its bright green color, its relaxing aroma and its versatility in the kitchen, just think of the famous Genoese pesto, make it an indispensable presence in any vegetable garden. But it is not only this, basil can also become a precious ally for health, as long as, as always, not to overdo it. But let's understand better.
Basil leaves provide vitamins, such as B vitamins and vitamin C, mineral salts, such as calcium, phosphorus and iron, but also essential oils, carotene and polyphenols that make this aromatic plant a small concentrate of health ( Ribas et al, J Food Sci Technol, 2019).
Basil, covid 19 and the immune system
In addition to normal hygiene and prevention measures, to combat viral infections, such as the new Coronavirus, it is important to have a healthy immune system, capable of facing any external threat. Here some substances contained in plants can help. Among the plants considered most effective at naturally supporting our defenses is undoubtedly basil, which contributes to increasing Natural killer cells and T helper cells, which are white blood cells designed to fight viruses (Singh et al, Phytother Res, 2021). In particular, basil, thanks to its active ingredients such as apigenin, linalool and ursolic acid, has been shown to be able to inhibit both the actual infection and the replication of viruses, such as, for example, adenovirus, virus of herpes and enteroviruses (Chiang et al, Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol, 2005). Since ursolic acid has also been shown to be an inhibitor of the Sars Cov 2 virus, basil can also help fight the infection and replication of the new coronavirus (Singh et al, Phytother Res, 2021).
Basil and hibiscus, the drink of long life
We all know hibiscus tea, the delicious refreshing drink prepared with hibiscus flowers. But the combination of hibiscus and basil leaves makes the drink even more antioxidant. In fact, as proven by scientific studies, if we also add basil to the preparation of hibiscus tea, it increases the content of carotenoids and anti-aging substances, making the drink thus obtained a valid ally in the fight against degenerative diseases and infections (Abidoye et al , Food Chem, 2022). You can also prepare the hibiscus tea cold. In a jug pour a liter of water, add two tablespoons of dried hibiscus flowers and let it rest for 4-5 hours, even overnight. Then filter and, when serving, add a few crumpled basil leaves, drink.
Basil for digestion
Basil is protective for the stomach. In fact, it counteracts the feeling of fullness, poor digestion and abdominal pain. A few basil leaves added to salads or preparations are carminative and anti-nausea (Marwat et al, Asian Journal of Chemistry, 2011).
Basil for the heart
Basil counteracts the formation of thrombus and is beneficial for the endothelium, which is the lining of blood vessels, improving their elasticity (Amrani et al, J Ethnopharmacol, 2009). Not only that, basil helps to keep blood pressure under control, both diastolic and systolic, it is hypoglycemic and cholesterol-lowering (Umar et al, Hypertens Res, 2010 - El-Beshbishy et al, Toxicol Ind Health, 2012)
Basil and brain
Hydroalcoholic extracts of basil have shown, thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, to protect and improve memory and mood, also counteracting depression (Shadi Sarahroodi et al, Anc Sci Life, 2012).
Basil for the skin
Basil is not just an essential ingredient in the kitchen! In fact, this aromatic plant can help with acne, insect bites, infections and skin irritations. The essential oils contained in basil are highly antibacterial and soothing (Silva et al, Pharmaceutical Biology, 2016). You can add a drop of basil essential oil to your cream or serum oil and apply to the area.
Basil gives the dishes aroma and health. However, one must never exaggerate for the blood thinning and hypoglycemic properties, which, if the plant is taken in high quantities, could interact with the drugs taken. Some time ago the rumor had spread that basil was carcinogenic. This statement needs to be debunked. In fact, even if it is true that basil contains methylugenol, a substance classified as a carcinogen, this is mostly present in the leaves of young plants, under ten centimeters in height. So, it is enough to collect the largest seedling leaves. In any case, the amount of methylugenol in the diet is much less than that required to cause harm, so basil is safe (Robison et al, Environ Health Perspect., 2006).