Every Summer, my husband skips the flowers and brings home a bushel basket of basil from the farmers’ market. I turn that gift into a freezer filled with delicious, homemade Dairy-Free Pesto.
You see, while basil is native to Asia and Africa, it’s Italy that has instilled this herb into our hearts... ever since pesto became one of the world’s most loved sauces. It's no surprise then that in Italy (and in my home!), basil is a symbol of love.
I also love basil for a few other reasons: its intense aromatic oil scares pests away to ensure a good harvest and it also happens to be an incredible guardian of your health, too!
Adding basil to your diet can help to protect you from bacteria, yeast and mould. Basil has strong antibacterial properties.1 This powerful plant contains several essential oils that have been found to exhibit antimicrobial activity against a wide range of bacteria such as listeria, staphylococcus and salmonella.2 These strains of bacteria are widespread and becoming resistant to treatment with antibiotic drugs.
Basil provides healing benefits for inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, and also provides relief from their symptoms. The volatile oils in basil contain a compound, called eugenol, which mimics the action of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.3
Basil can protect your DNA from radiation and oxidative damage because it contains compounds, called flavonoids. Two of these compounds, orientin and vicenin,4 5 have been studied extensively and results show that they protect the structure of cells, as well as chromosomes, from damage caused by radiation and oxidation.
Basil contains volatile essential oils that have strong antimicrobial action that can help to fight the bacteria responsible for causing acne.6
Basil oil’s eugenol also has anticancer properties.7 It is well documented that eugenol has a protective effect against melanoma, skin tumours, osteosarcoma and leukemia.
Basil can protect your heart and help to reduce blood pressure.8 The high levels of beta carotene in basil will be converted by your body into Vitamin A. Vitamin A provides strong antioxidant protection to the lining of your blood vessels and helps to prevent damage from free radicals. The high levels of magnesium in basil have been shown to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.9