Basil spices play a delicious role in many cuisines. Basil spices play a delicious role in many cuisines. Basil spices play a delicious role in many cuisines. (Photo: Sea Wave / Shutterstock)

Why basil is good for you

Herb is an excellent source of vitamins, promotes blood flow and is used in aromatherapy.

Basil is a common cooking herb. The type most readily available in the U.S. is sweet basil, familiar because it is prevalent in Italian cuisine. Other common types are Thai basil (used in many Asian dishes), lemon basil and holy basil. Thought to be native to Asia, there is evidence that basil has been cultivated for at least 5,000 years, originally for its medicinal qualities.


Razzle dazzle...basil

Bruschetta topped with tomato and basil.Looking for filling snack? Try bruschetta topped with tomato and basil. (Photo: Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock)

Basil is a powerful antioxidant. It's full of polyphenolic flavonoids, which shield much of the body's structures from cell-damaging free radicals. Free radicals can cause a lot of problems such as oxidizing cholesterol in your bloodstream, where it builds up in your arteries and raises your risk of stroke and heart attack. Asthma, certain types of arthritis, and several other ailments can also be attributed to free radicals.

As a good source of magnesium, basil promotes blood flow. As a good source of Vitamin A it promotes healthy eyesight, and because of eugenol (a major component of the oil produced by basil's leaves) it has also been shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory in the same vein as aspirin and ibuprofen.


B is for beneficial

Caprese Salad with Mozzarella Cheese, Tomatoes And BasilBasil is a popular ingredient in many dishes, including the classic Caprese salad. Photo: Olga Nayashkova/Shutterstock

Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K, manganese, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C. It's also a good source of calcium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Basil isn't simply for internal use. When basil's oils are extracted to make an essential oil, it is used for treating cuts, wounds, and skin infections. It's also been shown to fight acne.


Don't stress!

A pot of basil leaves.Basil leaves not only taste good, but are good for you as well. (Photo: Mama_mia/Shutterstock)

Basil essential oil is also commonly used in aromatherapy to treat nervous tension, mental fatigue, melancholy, migraines and depression, and – fortunately – to treat certain symptoms of these ailments, including vomiting and nausea.

So next time you go out for a nice meal at your local Italian or Thai restaurant – or pretty much anyplace where the cuisine incorporates basil into its dishes – just remember: It's OK to feel a little less guilty about whatever it is that you eat. Basil, after all, has got your back.

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