Basil

Basil

BasilMost people know basil since itís the main ingredient in the Italian sauce pesto. Besides the fact that it is used in many cuisines all around the world, the herb is also known for being one of the oldest herbs used. Also, it has many health benefits and it is also used for a medicinal purpose. This article will address the health benefits as well as explain how it can be used for cooking.

Description

Basil is also referred to as holy herb in many cultures around the world. This is not only because of its unique flavor it brings to dishes, but also due to its medicinal properties. The medicinal use of basil will be addressed later in this article. The scientific name of basil is Ocimum basilicum. Basil is a fragrant plant and its leaves are used to season a wide variety of dishes and different types of food. As mentioned, basil is probably best known for its use in pesto. Pesto is a combination of basil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. While pesto is originally Italian, it is now used almost everywhere in the world. It is not only used as a sauce for pasta, but it can also be used as a spread or dip. The leaves of basil have a round shape, and sometimes they can be a bit pointy. Basil leaves have a green color, but some leaves can also have features which hint more towards purple or red. Some people confuse basil with peppermint. This is because basil and peppermint look very much alike. It is therefore no surprise that the two types of herbs belong to the same plant family. There are over sixty different types of basil. Each type of basil has its own taste and a slightly different appearance. The taste of basil which is most commonly used is pungent. Some types of basil include anise basil, cinnamon basil and lemon basil. The flavors of these types of basil reflect their name.

History

As stated before, the scientific name of basil is Ocimum basilicum. The plant family to which basil belongs is called Ocimum. This term is derived from the Greek term “ozo”. “Ozo” in Greek means to smell. Plants which belong to the Ocimum family usually have a strong and distinct smell to them. While it is not exactly clear where basil was first found, it is believed that basil has its origins in Africa and in Asia. It is said that basil began growing on pacific Island thousands of years ago. The plan was then brought to Europe around the 16th century. It is believed that the plants were transported from India, through the Middle East and then to Europe. A century later, basil plants were transported to the Americas. Basil played an interesting role in some European cultures. Basil was linked to the scorpion and to superstition. For many years, people were warned to carefully handle basil since it was believed to help the breeding of scorpions. People believed that scorpions usually lived under basil pots. Also, if a basil plant was left for too long people thought that the plant itself could turn into a scorpion. In India, basil also played an important role. It is considered to be one of the most important herbs since it is used for medical practices as well as religious practices. In the Hindu culture, basil is even considered to be a sacred herb. It is believed that it does not only have protective abilities but also healing properties. Basil is used as a remedy for headaches, stress, sexual dysfunction or disease.

Health benefits of basil

Many cultures consider basil to be a holy herb since it provides many health benefits. For example, basil leaves contain many essential oils. They contain limonene, linalool, citral and eugenol. These oils are known for having anti-inflammatory properties and are also able to fight off bacteria. Moreover, basil hardly contains any calories and it also does not contain cholesterol. Instead, it is a rich source of minerals, vitamins and nutrients which are essential in maintaining optimum health. One of these vitamins present in basil is vitamin A. Vitamin A can serve as protection from free radicals in the human body, which play a role in different  disease processes. Moreover, vitamin A is also known for contributing to optimal vision. Also, besides the fact that vitamin A has anti-oxidant properties is also plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin. Another vitamin to be found in basil is vitamin K. Vitamin K is crucial in strengthening bones and the mineralization process. Moreover, basil is also a rich source of iron and potassium. Iron plays an important role in the production of red blood cells. A shortage of iron leads to a lower production of red bloods cells which could lead to anemia. Potassium in turn helps to control blood pressure and heart rate.


How to select and store

When buying basil in the store, try and pick fresh basil instead of dried basil. This is due to the fact that dried basil does not have the same intense flavor as fresh basil. When buying basil in the store, there are a few things to pay attention to. When looking for fresh basil, make sure that the leaves have a deep green color. The leaves should not have any yellow or black spots. If they do, then the basil is not very fresh and it will most likely go bad within one or two days. While most stores sell dried basil, it is possible that your local supermarket does not sell fresh basil. If this is the case, pay a visit to your local spice store. These stores usually have a wide collection of fresh and dried spices. Moreover, the quality of fresh spices is usually better at a spice store compared to the quality at the supermarket. Also, when buying herbs, try and purchase those which are organically grown. By buying those herbs which are organic, you will be assured that the herbs have not been exposed to pesticides. Dried basil can  be kept for a period of about six months. It is recommended to store it in a glass container and in place which is not exposed to light. Fresh basil, on the other hand, cannot be stored for this long when kept in the refrigerator. When storing fresh basil, wrap the leaves in a damp towel and then in a plastic bag. Basil can be stored in the fridge for about a week. It is also possible to store basil in the freezer. You can freeze basil in water or oil, so that it is easy to use for preparing stews or soups.

How to use basil

Some of the cuisines which use basil most are Italian, Indian, Vietnamese and Thai cuisines. In these cuisines, basil is used in a variety of ways. It can be added to your vegetable stir fry, it is possible to add it to a sauce or to add flavor to fish or meat. Moreover, it is also possible to use basil for a dressing, to make herbal tea or it can even be added to mixed drinks. Some bartenders use basil in their drinks because it adds a unique flavor to the drink. The most common use of basil include the making of pesto or marinara tomato sauce. Marinara tomato sauce is often used as pasta sauce and it is incredibly easy to make marinara sauce at home. You need tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, chili flakes and fresh basil. Start by cooking the garlic together with the chili flakes in olive oil. Then continue to add chopped tomatoes. Continue to add in the basil. Let is simmer for about 15 minutes and you will have made your own delicious pasta sauce. Basil is also often served with a caprese salad. A caprese salad is made from mozzarella and tomatoes, and is sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper. Basil leaves will usually be served on top of the salad to give it some extra flavor. Many supermarkets also offer oil-infused basil. Oil-infused basil is also a great way to enjoy the many benefits basil has to offer.

Medical use of basil

Basil has been used to treat various diseases in many cultures. Before people had access to medication, they usually resorted to herbal medicine to treat their symptoms. One of the medical uses of basil is basil tea. Basil tea is recommended if you are experiencing nausea. It is said to relieve nausea rather quickly after it has been consumed. The main use of basil as medicine stems from the fact that is considered to be a natural anti-inflammatory. Some people have even stated that basil has the same properties as medical marijuana. It is believed that basil does not only help to combat inflammation of the bowel system, but it can also be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Naturopathic doctors often prescribe basil when patients experience allergies, respiratory disorders and it is also prescribed in cases of infertility. Basil is said to contribute to the stabilization of blood sugar and helps to enhance blood circulation.





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1782x
Added: 14-11-2016 13:18
Last modified: 09-12-2016 23:22

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