Basil – Properties and Medicinal uses


Basil, great basil, or Ocimum basilicum, is a culinary herb referred to as “king of herbs” mainly due to its vast medicinal applications. It has been used for many years in the treatment of stomach spasms, intestinal gas, kidney conditions, wart, coughs, worm infection, and even headaches. Basil is said to be native to India, and has been cultivated there for more than 50 centuries. It is used in making many recipes all over the world.

Scientific name – Ocimum basilicum

Other names – Sweet Basil, Visva Tulsi, St. Josephwort, Surasa, Basilic, Basilici Herba, Basilici Herba, Common Basil, Garden Basil, Basilic Commun, Basilic Grand, Basilic Grand Vert, Basilic Romain, Basilic aux Sauces, Albahaca.

There are many varieties of basil. The Italians make use of sweet basil (or Genovese basil), while the Asians make use of the thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. × citriodorum), and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum).

Nutritional value / Properties of Basil

  • According to USDA, a 100 grams of basil contains 2.65 g of carbohydrates, 1.6 g of dietary fiber, just 0.64 g of fats, 3.15 g of protein, and provides energy of 22 kcal.
  • In terms of vitamins, 100 grams of basil contains a whooping 414.8 μg of vitamin k, that’s more than 394% of the daily value. It also contains vitamin C (18 mg), vitamin E (0.8 mg), folate (68 μg), and vitamin A (264 μg). Other vitamins in notable amounts include niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and choline.
  • As for minerals, a 100 grams of basil provides 1.148 mg of manganese (about 55% of daily value), 177 mg of calcium, 3.17 mg of iron, 0.385 mg of copper, 56 mg of phosphorus, 0.81 mg of zinc, and 295 mg of potassium.
  • Water makes up most part of basil. A 100 gram basil contains about 92.06 gram of water.

Medicinal uses of Basil

Here’s a quick list of some of the medicinal uses of basil:

  • Fights cancer

A recent research conducted in 2013 (1) has shown the anti-cancer properties exhibited by holy basil. The research showed how phytochemicals contained in basil such as eugenol, rosmarinic acid, apigenin, myretenal, luteolin, β-sitosterol, and carnosic acid prevented chemical-induced skin, liver, oral, and lung cancers. The same research showed how some of these phytochemicals were able to prevent radiation-induced DNA damage.

  • Skin conditions

The consumption of basil can be good for the skin. Many online publications have shown its effect in treating acne, and clearing skin wrinkles. A study carried out recently (2) has proven the anti-aging capacity of basil. This effect was attributed to a number of phenolics and flavonoids present in basil which possess antioxidant properties.

An online post (3) claims how basil can be used topically to relieve the pain and draw out venom from stings and bites of insects. This wonder herb has endless list of uses on the skin. Many have linked it to preventing acne and blackheads, clearing scars, and providing a glowing face.

  • Kidney disorders

There are various scientific claims on the use of basil against many kidney disorders especially kidney stones. A post (4) reported how the consumption of basil leaves juice mixed with honey for 6 months can get rid of all kidney stones through the urinary tract.

  • Diabetes

Diabetes is one disease you should do anything to avoid. Many reports have claimed how basil leaf extract or tea can help regulate blood sugar level if consumed regularly. A study conducted (5), although on rats, have proved the anti-diabetic effect of holy basil leaves in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

  • Anti-bacterial

A research carried out by Panuwat et al., 2003, has shown basil to have anti-bacterial properties. These properties were attributed to its essential oil content. Due to this anti-bacterial property, the research further suggested how basil extracts can be used in food packaging. It’s not always about the flavor, adding basil to your salad or vegetables can as well kill off any possible harmful bacteria that may be lurking in your plate.

Other uses of basil, although with few scientific evidences include:

  • Sore throat
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Coughs and cold
  • Fever
  • Stress
  • Mouth infections
  • Headaches
  • Eye disorders
  • Ear infections
  • Dandruff treatment
  • Hairloss prevention
  • Intestinal worms

By Abbati

Abbati studied Biological sciences at Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!