There are many varieties of Basils (Ocimum basilicum), which differ in appearance and taste. The sweet basil and the holy basil are the most commonly used basil in food. The leaves are highly fragrant and are often used for seasoning food. Some well-known varieties are lemon basil, cinnamon basil and anise basil. These basils have different scents because they have different essential oils that come together in different proportions for various breeds. Basically native to India and Asia, they have been cultivated for more than 5000 years.
The holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It has been mentioned in the Rig Veda, which was written around 5000 B.C. It is recognized in India as one of the greatest healing herbs. It is used to treat a number of serious disorders and is recommended as a daily prophylactic to prevent diseases. The holy basil leaves lead the natural home remedies herbal list for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It is called the ‘Tulasi, which means in Sanskrit “the incomparable one”. The two main varieties are the dark and the light leaved ones, called the Krishna tulsi and the Rama tulsi respectively.
Medicinal uses of Basil
Basil is a very good source of vitamin A. It is also a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health. It is a very good source of iron and calcium, and a good source of potassium and vitamin C. Its also high in vitamin K which helps to strengthen the bone. It is best added at the last minute, to the dish as prolonged cooking leads to the evaporation of essential oils. Fresh leaves retain their vitamin C and carotenoid levels.
Health benefits of Basil
Basil has active constituents called flavonoids and essential oils. Orientin and vicenin, the two water-soluble flavonoids in basil, are said to protect cell structures and chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. The essential oils in basil help to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Eugenol, the active constituent present in the oils, has been largely responsible for the therapeutic uses of basil. Eugenol is considered to be the best herbal antibiotic. All parts of the tulsi plant – the leaves, stem, root, and seeds are used for medicinal purposes. This small herb grown throughout India has been recommended in Ayurveda for the treatment of bronchitis, bronchial asthma, malaria, diarrhoea, dysentery, skin diseases, arthritis, painful eye diseases, chronic fever, and insect bites.
Basil health benefits for urinary problems
Basil leaves strengthen the kidney and treat urinary problems. The seeds are used as diuretics and for facilitating urination. The juice of basil leaves and honey is taken regularly to help expel kidney stones.
Basil health benefits for Respiratory Disorders
It is helpful in the treatment of respiratory disorders like bronchitis and tuberculosis. It is one of the important herbs used to cure coughs and colds. It helps in the treatment of disorders affecting the lungs and inhibits the inflammation of mucus membranes.
Basil health benefits for the skin
The Holy basil is considered very good for the skin. It is used in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, and other skin disorders. It contains ursolic acid which helps to heal quickly, restores elasticity to the skin, and also helps in preventing skin cancer. It acts as an antiseptic for wounds and prevents skin infections.
Basil and Fever
It is said to prevent and reduce fevers as it is antipyretic. The Holy basil is considered an effective treatment for malaria, typhoid, and viral encephalitis. It is used in the treatment of colds and flu. The leaves of the Holy basil not only bring down the temperature but also relieve pain.
Basil health benefits for Arthritis
It helps to reduce painful and dangerous inflammation which is a major part of all forms of arthritis. As it is a good source of vitamin A, it reduces free radical damage which is a major factor that contributes to osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The beta-carotene found in basil may help to reduce the pain and protect cells from further damage.
Basil benefits for the immune system
The holy basil strengthens and modulates the immune system. It improves cellular immunity and increases T-cell activity. It helps in the management of immunological disorders like asthma and allergies. It is said to improve cellular and humoral immunity.
Rich in vitamin K
Basil is a very good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps to clot blood normally, protects bones from fracture, prevents post-menopausal bone loss, and prevents calcification of arteries.
Basil health benefits for the digestive system
It is said to enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients from other foods. It also eliminates toxins from the body. Its a very good digestive. It improves the digestive system by preventing indigestion, heartburn, intestinal worms, vomiting, dysentry and diarrhoea.
Other health benefits of basil
It helps treat chronic fatigue syndrome by reducing fatigue and improving stamina. It enhances protein synthesis and motor activity. The holy basil is considered an anti-stress agent and hence reduces the physical and psychological effects of stress. It lowers stress-related blood pressure. It protects the heart and blood vessels and is considered an excellent heart tonic. The leaves when dried and powdered can be used to clean teeth. It helps to avoid bad breath and massages the gums.
Home Remedies With Holy Basil
- For common cold and respiratory problems, boil fresh ginger and holy basil leaves to make a decoction.
- A tea made of holy basil leaves and pepper powder with honey or sugar, is said to be good home remedy for malarial fever.
- Holy basil leaves crushed and mixed with sandalwood powder and water, can be applied on the forehead for headaches.
- Make a tea with dried ginger and holy basil leaves to cure indigestion.
- Grind together holy basil leaves and pepper and apply it to treat eczema and ringworms.
- A decoction made from the holy basil leaves and powdered cardamom mixed with milk and sugar is very effective home remedy to bring down the temperature during acute fever.
- A decoction of the leaves, cloves and common salt relieves influenza.
- A decoction of 10 to 20 leaves taken along with a pinch of rock salt abates digestive problems like flatulence.
The holy basil is said to have a mild anti-fertility effect in animals. Although this has not been proved on humans, it is better not to take medicinal doses of basil if you want to conceive or are pregnant. It is said to reduce blood sugar, and hence concern for those who are hypoglycaemic (people with low blood glucose).