Basil (Ocimum basilic) is a plant known throughout the world. Its taste and smell are usually associated with aromatic Italian cuisine. Ideally suited as an addition to sauces, pizzas, pastas or other specialties of Mediterranean cuisine. It has a characteristic clove-anise flavor that gives the dishes a unique aroma. Few of us, however, know that in addition to unquestionable organoleptic properties, basil has a whole range of healing properties. What medicinal ingredients contains basil? In what situations can we use its health-enhancing activities? Who is particularly recommended to eat?
Basil – varieties
Basil is a very valuable spice plant from tropical regions of Asia. Currently, about 150 different species of the Ocimum genus have been recognized, which developed over time under the influence of various environmental conditions. Individual basil varieties differ in appearance as well as the content of valuable essential oils. In Europe, basil probably appeared thanks to the war expeditions of Alexander the Great. Due to its unique aroma, it became a herb highly valued among the Greeks and it was they who spread it practically in all Mediterranean countries.
Common basil is its most common variety. It is an annual plant that grows up to a maximum of 60-70 cm. The leaves are large, have a serrated edge and a very intense clove smell. The flowers appear in late summer, are tiny, white and combine in a lush at the top of the stem. Basil seeds, from which oil is pressed, also deserve attention. They are dark brown, oval, about 15 mm long.
Among the best-known Basil species, there are five basic groups that differ in the appearance and size of the leaves, they are
– forms with fine fyn leaves,
– medium leaf forms miittelgross, finoverde,
– forms with medium leaves with anthocyanin coloring Dark Opal, Opal, Ruby, Purple, Purple Ruuffles, Ferry Morse,
– molds with large genovese, gross, Sweet Basil leaves
– Lettuce Leaf lettuce leaves, fenille de laitue, Iltalian Large Leaf.
Basil – breeding and cultivation
Growing basil is simple. The plant develops well especially in bright places, however it does not like to be exposed to the harsh sun. The optimal temperature of breeding is 25 ° Celsius. The plant does not like frost, wind and dry ground. It grows best on moist and permeable soil. After sowing basil seeds, water them daily (in the first half of the day) with small amounts of water. Basil leaves are sprinkled only on warm days. If we want to grow the most beautiful specimen, remember that basil hates being replanted.
Basil – active substances
The main herbal raw material of basil is herb (Basilici herba) harvested during full flowering of plants. It contains 0.5-2.5% essential oils with exceptional health properties. These substances are volatile compounds insoluble in water, light, floating in the air, strongly stimulating the sense of smell. In addition to the essential oil in Basilici herba, there are also saponin compounds, tannins, alkaloids, steroids, terpenoids and flavonoids. Herb basil has a fairly significant amount of phenolic compounds and anthocyanins.
Of all the active substances found in the oil, linalool deserves particular attention. It is used both in natural medicine and in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. It is a chemical compound with strong sedative and hypnotic properties. Research conducted by scientists has shown that linalool increases the length and quality of sleep without affecting motor and mental activities. This means that it is safe for health and does not fool patients as most pharmaceuticals with a calming-hypnotic effect.
Basil – healing properties and application
Active ingredients found in basil leaves have a soothing effect on the digestive system. Already a small addition of basil in the meal causes an increase in the production of saliva and increase the amount of gastric juice. It also helps in motor disorders of the stomach and intestines, as it has relaxant properties.
Basil also increases your appetite. It is a herb valued in dietotherapy for people with cancer. The plant plays a significant role in supporting the therapy of patients suffering from chemo-and radiotherapy. Patients should use basil due to its antibacterial and antifungal activity. This is extremely important because radiotherapy causes the migration of bacterial strains from the digestive system. A factor conducive to such an infection is the low immunity of patients during or after a specialist treatment. This condition can directly threaten the patient’s life.
Basil is also a herb used in the treatment of respiratory diseases. It brings relief to patients with asthma and sinusitis. Thaws the thick and sticky secretion, making it easier to expectorate. To use the healing power of basil in respiratory diseases, drink 3-4 glasses of infusion of 12 g of basil leaves throughout the day. It is important to drink this infusion in small portions and often.
Basil is also successfully found in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The vitamin A contained in it has strong antioxidant properties. Protects the dishes against the harmful effects of free radicals. It prevents invasive changes in cholesterol that lead to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. The consequences of cardiovascular disease can be a direct threat to health and life. Such conditions include a myocardial infarction or stroke.
Essential oil obtained from basil is a raw material with special health properties. It has a light green or pale yellow color and a fresh herbal-ginger fragrance. Its main biologically active ingredients are linolol, eugenol, geranial and neral. In addition, there are also hundreds of other substances that affect the healing properties of basil.
Essential oil from basil herb supports immunity. It contains substances that have a strong antibacterial effect (both against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria). In addition, it inhibits fungal growth, stimulates the immune system and has a strong antioxidant effect. All these properties make it recommended to use it during the autumn and winter, when the resistance of our body is the lowest. The oil is also recommended as a component of the inhalation mixture. It helps to cleanse the sinuses, and also improves the condition of the throat during flu or colds. Another advantage of this aromatherapy is the removal of mental fatigue and nerve relief.
Basil is a widely used and liked herb. It is valued for its ease of cultivation and availability. To always have fresh and aromatic leaves at hand, we can grow basil in our own kitchen. This will give us access to the best quality leaves that can be used not only as a spice for Mediterranean dishes.