By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 8 January 2010)
Flavonoids and volatile oils in basil provide DNA protection and antibacterial activity. Adding basil to fresh greens, pesto sauce, stir fries, and tomato soups not only adds flavour, but also helps to protect against cancer, atherosclerosis, and bacterial illnesses.
Basil’s volatile oils provide anti-inflammatory benefits, which may help with medical problems such as inflammatory bowel conditions, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis. Basil is also a source of other minerals critical to health such as magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium, as well as vitamins K, A, and C and dietary fiber.
Basil has traditionally been used as a home remedy for various types of digestive problems and head colds. However, research is required to confirm (or disconfirm) these benefits.
Basil is a versatile herb that improves many meat and pasta dishes, as well as dips, soups, and sauces (particularly pesto sauces and those that include tomatoes). It is also good on pizza. Basil is often used with other herbs such as oregano, sage, or rosemary.
Basil leaves can be added to salads and stir fries, and this herb is often used to create infused oils as well. Basil grown next to tomatoes can enhance their flavour. Many gardeners also grow it as a natural pest repellent.
For information on growing and storing basil, as well as basil recipes, see All About Basil: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Growing, Storing, and Cooking with Basil.
For a full list of healthy herbs and spices and the reference list for this information series, see the main High-Antioxidant Herbs and Spices page.