Basil’s Health Benefits – What Italy’s Primo Herb Can Do For You

Basil's Health Benefits

Most likely, many of you are familiar with the staple Italian herb, basil. Its pungent, earthy aroma has accompanied many cooking adventures in kitchens all over the world. It’s flavor is unlike any other, but its basil’s health benefits that may surprise you!

Ls time, we discovered oregano’s health benefits and I relayed how my mother would use it as a key ingredient in her homemade gravy and meatballs. Basil was also one of the star herbal components and holds many memories for me of working in my mother’s kitchen as a youngster.

Since that time, I have experienced basil on a completely different level by visiting Italy on my honeymoon. Its use in Caprese salad and simple pasta dishes that allowed it to really shine have only increased my love for the herb.

Now, just as with our study of oregano, I thought the most incredible thing about basil was its flavor. Hidden to me, and maybe to you as well, were its health benefits. Before we get into that, though, let’s look at the origins of this wonderful plant!

What Is Basil, Where Does It Come From, And How Does It Grow?

Basil's Health Benefits

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Basil comes from the mint family and is an annual herb, which means it will die and need to be planted again each and every year. That is, unless you use it as a houseplant. I haven’t had much success with that, but we’ll get to this later.

I was very surprised to find that it actually may have originated from India! It is commonly known as “sweet basil” as well.

Along with growing oregano myself, I also tried my hand at growing basil this past summer. Unlike oregano, I found it to be a much more delicate herb to grow. As I mentioned before, I had attempted to grow it before and keep it as a houseplant.

However, it would inevitably die on me, as my apartment just doesn’t have the right angle to capture enough sun during the daylight hours. That’s why I brushed up on some tips and tricks before deciding to grow it in a pot outside.

In the beginning, my basil did incredibly well! I needed more frequent watering than the oregano, but it was in a place that got plenty of sunlight. Soon enough, we had a nice, thick plant with lots of delicious leaves.

I learned to only clip the top leaves just above a split in the stem to encourage even better growth and leave the larger, bottom leaves to capture sunlight. I did make the mistake once of allowing part of the plant to flower, which can really turn the flavor bitter, but after a trim, I was able to bring it back to normal.

Basil's Health Benefits

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Let me tell you, the flavor of that homegrown basil was incredible and when there was just too much to eat fresh, it was very simple to dry for use over the winter months.

Yet, it was not to last. Unfortunately, in the early fall, I began to notice the leaves becoming somewhat discolored. No matter what I did, whether trimming the dead leaves, consistently watering, or moving the pot to a place of more sunlight, I couldn’t get them to come back.

I’m not sure if it was a pest or disease of some sort (I’m guessing blight from my research), but my basil plant ended up dying. If anyone has any idea as to what happened, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Because it died before the plant flowered completely and dry out on its own, I was unable to get seeds (which are held in the flowers) for this upcoming spring. That made me somewhat sad. What a glorious, herbaceous summer it was.

However, this story does have a happy ending. My school has a garden area and I noticed that they grew basil that they had allowed to flower. As the autumn went on, I noticed the plant drying out! I asked the necessary people and was thankfully able to procure a ton of basil seeds for the spring! Victory!

This is a wonderful thing, not only for my health and taste buds, but my wallet as well! Just like with oregano, constantly purchasing basil at the grocery store can set you back a pretty penny, especially if you purchase the organic variety (which I was growing). Save your money; try growing it yourself!

If you’d like to learn more about the herb itself, check out the Britannica website. There is a ton of information and it is an interesting read!

Growing Your Own Basil

If you are interested in saving money (who isn’t?), love gardening, or just want to know exactly how your basil is grown and control what goes into it, check out these awesome videos I found on the topic. They should help give you an amazing head start on growing your own:

A Complete Growing Guide:

How To Increase Your Basil Production:

How To Grow Basil In Pots:

The MI Gardener channel is my go-to source for gardening information. Take a look and get growing!

Nutritional Profile Of Basil – Fresh And Dried

Herbs contribute to your nutrition just as do your regular foods. I never gave that much thought growing up, but now I often think about it.

There are two ways of consuming basil. Either you can use fresh or dried varieties. Dried herbs are usually more concentrated in flavor and better for long cooking processes, so a little goes a long way. However, there is also nothing like the smell of freshly chopped basil in a simple sauce or on top of tomatoes and mozzarella.

Both varieties are used extensively in my home kitchen.

Today, we are going to look at the nutritional profiles of both the fresh and dried versions to see what they contribute to a 2,000 calorie diet. I used a really helpful tool from Self.com to help me get the information. Feel free to check it out for yourself if you have the time! Just type in what you want to find and it should come up with it.

Fresh Basil (2 Tablespoons):

Basil's Health Benefits

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  • Calories: 1.2
  • Total Fat: 0g (0%)
    • Saturated Fat: 0g (0%)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg (0% DV)
  • Sodium 0mg (0% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 0.1g (0% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 0.1g (0% DV)
    • Total Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 0.2g

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids: 16.9g
  • Omega 6 Fatty Acids: 7.8mg
  • Vitamin A: 277 IU (6%)
  • Vitamin C: 0.9mg (2%)
  • Vitamin K: 21.8mcg (27%)
  • Folate: 3.6mcg (1%)
  • Choline: 0.6mg
  • Calcium: 9.3mg (1%)
  • Iron: 0.2mg (1%)
  • Magnesium: 3.4mg (1%)
  • Manganese: 0.1mg (3%)

Dried Basil (1 Teaspoon)

Basil's Health Benefits

Image by Laszlo Bartucz from Pixabay

 

  • Calories: 1.3
  • Total Fat: 0g (0%)
    • Saturated Fat: 0g (0%)
    • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg (0% DV)
  • Sodium 0.2mg (0% DV)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 0.3g (0% DV)
    • Dietary Fiber: 0.2g (1% DV)
    • Total Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 0.1g

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids: 7.5g
  • Omega 6 Fatty Acids: 3.3mg
  • Vitamin A: 46.9 IU (1%)
  • Vitamin C: 0.3mg (1%)
  • Vitamin K: 8.6mcg (11%)
  • Choline: 0.3mg
  • Calcium: 10.6mg (1%)
  • Iron: 0.2mg (1%)
  • Magnesium: 2.1mg (1%)

As you can see, whether dried or fresh, basil is low in calories, but contains a significant amount of certain vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamins A and K, in just a small amount. Containing some Omega 3 fatty acids is also a big plus! Add these amounts to a salad, and you’d be getting a nice little boost to your meal.

Possible Health Benefits of Basil

Basil's Health Benefits

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According to Medical News Today, basil has the potential for a variety of health benefits and uses. Traditionally, it has been used for everything from treating snakebites to reducing inflammation of the nasal passages due to the common cold.

More recently, basil has become known as a source of antioxidants, which have shown the ability to ward off cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Basil may also help to reduce high blood sugar, and the oil has shown anti-microbial properties.

According to Natural Food Series, basil also can positively affect brain health, metabolism, and post menstrual syndrome due to its Manganese content. It also may be anti-inflammatory and help with developing strong bones due to its calcium and Vitamin K content (which helps the body absorb calcium).

Lastly, consuming basil is good for the eyes as it contains Vitamin A and beta-carotene.

Check out the links above for more amazing potential health benefits!

Get Your Italian On!

Basil's Health Benefits

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Basil’s health benefits and flavor make it one incredible herb to add to your meals. It is a staple of Italian cooking and should become a staple in your kitchen too!

If you are looking for a couple of recipes where you can easily add basil, check out the two listed below:

Now, it’s your turn! Do you use basil when you cook? If so, what is your favorite meal that includes it?

Were you surprised by the potential health benefits it provides? Have you had success growing it inside? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below! If you have a favorite basil recipe, feel free to post it down below as well!

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Before you go, do consider sharing this post if you know someone who is a basil lover or someone who could benefit from reading it. Just click one or more of those share buttons that followed you down the page.

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For now, God bless and happy eating!

Steve