Basil is not only a tasty way to spice up meals but a powerful healing herb that’s been celebrated across a range of cultures. The ancient Greeks considered it sacred; in India, it symbolized hospitality, and in Italy, it represented love.
Today, it’s still enjoyed by the masses who often tout it as an ideal way to fight inflammation, protect cells and do much more. Basil’s health benefits run the gamut, not only by helping with internal health but by contributing to improving mental health as well.
Here’s a closer look at the many ways basil can boost physical and mental health.
How basil helps overall health
“Holy basil has antianxiety effects,” said botanist James Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy. Studies have found that its phytochemicals play a role in lowering cortisol, the stress hormone, helping people to feel calm.
According to Elizabeth Trattner, an integrative healthcare practitioner in Florida, basil acts as an efficient liver detox, especially after overindulgences in eating or drinking. She suggests a tasty pesto to help get the liver back in balance.
Said to have similar compounds as medical marijuana but without the accompanying “high,” basil helps relive pain associated with inflammation-related conditions such as arthritis and bowel inflammation.
Because basil is filled with antioxidants that fight free radicals, it’s a good choice when it comes to protecting cells and improving their overall health.
Improved respiratory function
Basil contains cinnamanic acid, which not only regulates blood sugar and improves circulation but helps make breathing easier for those dealing with respiratory conditions.
Iron replenishment during menstruation
When it comes to the iron loss that results during menstruation, basil can help. About 2 cups of chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon of dried leaves provides 10% of the daily iron value, putting it right up there with spinach.
Bolsters heart health
The magnesium in basil makes it an effective way to relax muscle walls, which helps blood flow more easily. In turn, irregular heart rhythms are reduced, helping it function properly. Furthermore, basil also has the ability to keep cholesterol build-up at bay, so that strokes and heart attacks are less likely to occur.