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Thursday, 22 December 2016 17:50

Basil leaves: Health Benefits of Basil leaves

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Basil is aromatic herb in the mint family, the same plant family as other nutrient-dense, beneficial herbs, including mint, oregano and rosemary. Basil is used to add flavor to a variety of recipes, Basil also has immunity-enhancing properties. Basil extract, or basil essential oil, is proven to help prevent a wide range of health conditions, which makes it one of the most important medical herbs known today.

There are actually 35 different types of basil. Basil plants come in a range of variety and sizes, but holy basil is the most researched type of basil thus far. Holy basil is the species of basil most known for its powerful healing qualities. To date, at least six different essential oils have been identified in holy basil within its seeds, roots, leaves and stem. Holy basil, which has the scientific name Ocimum sanctum L. or Ocimum tenuiflorum L., is known to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and powerful adaptogen — meaning it helps the body to respond to stress and fight disease.

Benefits

1. Contains Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
One of the key benefits of basil essential oil is the ability to help fight free radical damage while protecting DNA structure and cells. Basil contains two important water-soluble flavonoid antioxidants, known as orientin and viceninare, which help protect white blood cells responsible for immune function, as well as cellular structures where DNA is stored.

Antioxidants found in basil keep chromosomes from becoming altered and resulting in cell mutations and cancerous cell growth. Oxidative stress occurs inside the body due to the effects of toxins in the diet, environmental pollution and radiation — but antioxidants like the kind found in basil help fight oxidation and slow down the effects of aging.

2. Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory
Basil contains powerful essential oils, including eugenol, citronellol and linalool. These are enzyme-inhibiting oils that help lower inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions.

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3. Fights Cancer
Clinical studies published in Nutrition and Cancer also show that basil contains phytochemicals, which can help naturally prevent cancer, including chemical-induced skin, liver, oral and lung cancers. Basil is able to increase antioxidant activity, positively alter gene expressions, induce cancerous-cell apoptosis (death of harmful cells) and stop cancerous tumors from spreading.

In studies using animals, basil extract has shown protection against cancer and mortality while also selectively protecting normal tissue and cells from negative effects of cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy. This means that using basil extract can be beneficial as a supplemental cancer treatment even when someone is already undergoing traditional forms of treatments.

4. Contains Antibacterial Properties
Another one of the benefits of basil essential oils is to provide protection against harmful bacterial growth. In studies, basil extract is even shown to be helpful in inhibiting resistant strains of bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotic treatments.

When researchers from the Medical University of Lodz in Poland tested the antibacterial activity of basil oil against strains of E. coli and other powerful bacteria that were gathered from sick patients with infections, the results showed that basil was effective in acting against the bacteria strains and helping to inhibit their growth. This has led researchers to continue to study how basil and other antibacterial oils may help fight antibiotic resistant illnesses and infections.

5. Contains Antimicrobial Properties that Fight Viruses and Infections
Basil essential oils have been found to exhibit anti-microbial activity against a wide range of bacteria, yeasts, molds and viruses. This means you can add protection against the candida virus and various forms of skin irritations to the long list of proven benefits of basil.

6. Combats Stress by Acting as an ‘Adaptogen’
Studies show that basil has strong potential to act as a natural adaptogen, an herbal medicine that helps the body adapt to stress and to normalize the harmful effects of stressors on bodily processes.

For example, when researchers studied the anti-stress effects of fresh basil leaves given to rabbits that were exposed to a high-stress environment, they found a significant improvement in oxidative stress levels following basil use. After the rabbits received supplementation of two grams of fresh basil leaves for 30 days, they experienced cardiovascular and respiratory protection in response to stressors. A significant decrease in blood sugar levels was also observed, while a significant increase in antioxidant activity was observed.

7. Fights Depression
Benefits of basil also apply to those with mental disorders or mood-related illnesses, including depression and anxiety. Basil is also considered an antidepressant by some since it can positively impact brain function within the adrenal cortex, helping stimulate neurotransmitters that regulate the hormones responsible for making us happy and energetic.

8. Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food, basil can help the muscles that control blood vessel function to contract and relax, promoting healthy blood pressure. Benefits of basil include the ability to help prevent dangerous platelet aggregation, clumping together of blood platelets that can form a clot within the arteries and cause cardiac arrest.

Basil extracts also reduce inflammation that can cause cardiovascular disease by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, proteins that are secreted from cell to cell in order to communicate and raise the body’s immune defenses.

When this happens for prolonged periods of time, the body experiences an “inflammatory cascade,” which puts stress on the organs and slows down blood circulation, hormone regulation and cognitive processes. When it comes to heart health, inflammation can build up fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque in blood vessels and raise the risk for a heart attack or stroke.

9. Supports Liver Function and Helps Detoxify the Body
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that when sickly rats were given basil extract over a period of five days, they experienced significant improvements in producing detoxifying enzymes, higher antioxidant defenses and a reduction of fat buildup in the liver that can cause liver disease.

10. Helps Alkalize the Body and Improve Digestion

Basil helps balance acid within the body and restore the body’s proper pH level. This can improve digestion and immunity by helping healthy bacteria flourish within the gut microflora, while also decreasing harmful bacteria that can cause disease.

Other benefits of basil when it comes to improved digestion? Traditionally, basil has also been used to help reduce bloating and water retention, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, acid reflux, and even to kill stomach worms or parasites.

11. Can Act as a Natural Aphrodisiac
In Italy, basil has been considered a symbol of love for centuries. The aroma of basil is believed to increase libido and arousal, possibly by increasing blood flow and energy levels, while reducing inflammation. In the Hindu religion and in Ayurveda practices, holy basil (tulsi) is considered the “elixir of life” and is used to promote healthy sexual function and an upbeat mood.

12. Helps Protect from Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Basil extracts have been found to reduce circulating blood glucose levels and inflammation, which makes basil protective against diabetes development and other forms of metabolic syndrome. Additionally, benefits of basil essential oils include the ability to help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which diabetic patients are at a higher risk for developing.

Side Effects of Basil

Basil essential oil isn’t meant to be ingested and should be diluted when used on the skin due to its potency. Basil in fresh form is considered very safe and is usually well-tolerated since it doesn’t commonly cause allergic reactions or side effects in most people. But there are some risks for certain groups of people.

If you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breast-feeding, it’s a good idea to avoid basil since traditionally it’s been known to have anti-fertility effects. Basil essential oils or supplements might also interact with cholesterol-lowering medications and diabetic medications, so if you’re currently taking prescriptions for these conditions, you’ll want to speak with a doctor before taking basil supplements.

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