Basil (lat. Ocimum basilicum) is a shrub-like and very fragrant plant, oval and usually green leaves. There are about sixty varieties of basil are all different in appearance and taste. It grows in various parts of the world, and was originally cultivated in tropical Asia. The first written record of basil four millennia old and comes from ancient Egypt.
The word basil (ital. Basilico, Eng. Basil) comes from the Greek basilikon, which means royal and reflects respect for ancient cultures for this plant. The Romans identified with love and devotion, and it was believed that man will ever love a woman who accepts a sprig of basil. In India, basil cherished as a symbol of welcome, and in Ayurveda is one of the types of basil (tulsi, lat. Ocimum tenuiflorum) is used to treat many diseases – diabetes, asthma, impotence, kidney stones, infertility and allergies.
Basil is known for the fact that it has strong antioxidant properties. According to the ORAC scale dried basil has even 61,000 units. Antioxidants that naturally found in basil protect the body from damage caused by free radicals, preventing the aging of cells and the formation of several types of cancer. Antioxidants are an important part of a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle, and basil is their reliable and efficient source.
One of the antioxidants from the basil is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene, which in the body is converted to vitamin A, it prevents the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and thereby protect the heart and blood vessels. Damage caused by the free radicals contribute to the development of many other diseases including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Beta-carotene from sweet basil is an excellent way to prevent these diseases.
- Basil leaves hold many notable plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
- Basil herb contains many polyphenolic flavonoids like orientin and vicenin. These compounds were tested in-vitro laboratory for their possible anti-oxidant protection against radiation-induced lipid per-oxidation in mouse liver.
- Basil leaves compose of several health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene and terpineol. These compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
- The herb is very low in calories and contain no cholesterol. Nonetheless, its is one of the finest sources of many essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that are required for optimum health.
- Basil herb contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin A, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
- Zea-xanthin, a yellow flavonoid carotenoid compound, is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it found to filter harmful UV rays from reaching the retina. Studies suggest that common herbs, fruits, and vegetables that are rich in zea-xanthin anti-oxidant help to protect from age-related macular disease (AMRD), especially in the elderly.
- 100 g of fresh herb basil leaves contain astoundingly 5275 mg or 175% of daily required doses of vitamin A.Vitamin A is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucusa and skin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A has been found to help the body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Vitamin K in basil is essential for production of clotting factors in the blood and plays a vital role in the bone strengthening and mineralization.
- Basil herb contains a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
- Basil leaves are an excellent source of iron. It fresh leaves carry 3.17 mg/100 g (about 26% of RDA) of iron. Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, is one of the chief determinants of oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
How to Preserve Your Basil Crop For Winter
Basil is delicious and easy to grow, but it’s only fresh in the garden for a short time—and you often get a lot of it all at once. If you want to avoid letting it all go to waste, here are three easy methods of preservation.
Don’t tie basil stalks together or hang them to dry as you might other herbs. Instead, pinch or snip the leaves from the stems and place them on a screen or absorbent towel. Stir daily and allow them to dry until crackly. Store in an airtight container.
Clip the leaves from the stems and rinse. Then, spread them on a counter to air-dry for 30 minutes. Loosely layer leaves in a storage bag, and freeze.
Clip the leaves from the stems and rinse; spread them on a counter to air-dry for 30 minutes. Place the leaves in a blender or food processor, process for a few seconds to coarsely chop the leaves. Add enough water to form a slush and process again. Pour this liquid into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, pop the cubes out of the trays and store them in a freezer container for later use.