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Basil is referred to as “the king of herbs” or the “holy herb” in many cultures around the world. It is one of the ancient and widely used herbal plants brimming with notable health-benefiting phytonutrients. It has round, often pointed leaves and looks like peppermint to which it is related. It has highly fragrant leaves thus used as a seasoning herb for a variety of foods and is a key ingredient Mediterranean food. There are different types of basil, which differ in taste and smell such as sweet basil, Asian basil and lemon basil. Basil is known to have many disease preventing and health-promoting properties such as discussed below.
Discover the rich health benefits of basil essential oil here
Basil has a unique array of active constituent chemicals called flavonoids, which provide protection at the cellular level, such as orientin and vicenin. They are water-soluble and are known to protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage thereby maintaining the essential characteristics of the DNA.
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Basil is very effective in restricting growth of numerous bacteria, including such as listeria monocytogenes, staphylococcus aureus, escherichia coli, O:157:H7, yersinia enterocolitica, shigella and pseudomonas aeruginosa. All of these cause significant intestinal damage and other problems. The anti-bacterial properties of basil are because of its volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene. Thus the essential oil of basil, obtained from its leaves, has the ability to inhibit several species of pathogenic bacteria such as staphylococcus, enterococcus and pseudomonas that have developed resistance to commonly used antibiotic drugs.
Research proves that basil has properties that can help prevent the harmful effects of aging because it contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin A, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. These chemical compounds act as protectors against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species, which play a vital role in aging and various diseases related to it.
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It is also effective at killing off the harmful molecules and preventing damage to the liver, brain and heart caused by free radicals. Basil herb contains many polyphenolic flavonoids like orientin and vicenin, the compounds which provide anti-oxidant protection against lipid oxidation in the liver. It also contains ethanol, which has more antioxidant activity than standard antioxidants.
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Basil leaves has several health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene and terpineol. These chemical compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Eugenol can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase (COX), which is the lead cause of inflammation. Aspirin and ibuprofen, the commonly available anti-inflammatory medicines work by inhibiting this same enzyme). This effect of the eugenol qualifies basil as an "anti-inflammatory" food that can provide healing benefits along with symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.
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Basil has zea-xanthin, a yellow flavonoid carotenoid compound, that is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea. It helps filter harmful UV rays from reaching the retina. This zea-xanthin also helps to protect from age-related macular disease (AMRD), especially in the elderly. Additionally it is also very rich (175% of daily required doses) of vitamin A, which is known to have antioxidant properties essential for vision.
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Basil is a very good source of vitamin A, as it has high concentration of carotenoids such as beta-carotene. It prevents free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the blood stream, failing to which leads to cholesterol build up in blood vessel walls, and result in a heart attack or stroke. It is a powerful anti-oxidant that protects epithelial cells from free radical damage. Free radical damage is also the major contributing factor in health conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Basil helps to further lessen the progression of these conditions while protecting cells from further damage. As a good source of magnesium, basil promotes cardiovascular health by prompting the heart muscles and blood vessels to relax, thereby improving blood flow and lessening the risk of irregular heart rhythms of the heart muscles or blood vessels.
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Adding fresh basil will not only enhance the flavor but it is one of the finest natural sources of many essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that are required for optimum disease free health.
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