10 Best Uses & Recipes for Basil
Amazing and versatile basil. Typically used as a culinary, or seasoning herb in cooking, its healing medicine as a potent antibiotic could play a key role in today’s antibiotic crisis.
America’s popular favorite, Sweet Basil is typically used dried to season familiar dishes like spaghetti and soups. Fresh basil is also delicious as an addition to salads, sandwiches and snacks as well.
There are over sixty varieties of this common and treasured mint family member, and thousands of uses and recipes. In this article you'll find 10 best uses and recipes for basil in addition to growing and preserving this most amazing herb. Although used extensively for thousands of years throughout the world, it continues to be an important plant medicine in herbal healing today.
Healing Power of Basil, Much More than a Culinary Herb
Herbs and spices are an integral part of creating culinary masterpieces, however, plants such as basil, are crucial to health and natural healing. In herbal medicine the fresh leaf and its essential oil are used, thereby retaining much of the medicinal qualities; including the active constituents known as flavonoids. Basil is rich in phytonutrients: Vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene, minerals, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, essential fatty acids in the form of healthy Omega-3, and many other beneficial compounds that make it an important plant medicine in herbal/natural healing today.
According to cidpusa.org, a non-profit site devoted to reversing auto immune diseases, basil provides DNA protection as well as anti-bacterial properties; properties effective in restricting growth of numerous bacteria including Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas and Enterococcus, bacteria resistant to treatment with antibiotic drugs.
Comparative studies from the Journal of Microbiological Methods July 2003 on the essential oil of basil against drug resistant bacteria were found to be encouraging. Good news considering the plight of today’s antibiotic drugs and their inability to kill dangerous bacteria. And as a powerful antioxidant, basil may also provide important healing
benefits for those with inflammatory problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
For thousands of years, Ayurveda, India’s ancient healing system, has used Tulsi Leaf Basil to heal many “dis-eases,” or imbalances in the body. The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine as cited on nih.gov states the herb basil, “Tulsi,” (Ocimum sanctum) is preeminent, and scientific research is now confirming its beneficial effects.” The study found basil to protect organs and tissues from chemical stress, heavy metals, metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid (fats) levels, and psychological stress through positive effects on memory and cognitive function.
Today, naturopathic physicians prescribe basil to their patients for respiratory disorders, in the treatment of diabetes, and more.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is quickly becoming an epidemic. The National Institutes of Health (U.S.) states, “Western medications are frequently associated with severe adverse drug reactions and high costs of treatment.
Management of T2DM using medications with fewer side effects at lower costs is still a big challenge. These medications frequently have side effects, such as weight gain, bone loss, and increased risk of cardiovascular events. These side effects could become more prevalent due to continuous use. Furthermore, treatment is very
costly as well, since T2DM is a chronic disease and long-term medications are necessary. Herbal medications can be a good alternative to replace or at least supplement to Western medications. The Indian and Chinese cultures have had several thousand years of history and experience in the prevention and treatment of T2DM with herbal medicine. As later discussed, several herbal medications have been proven to be clinically effective. Because herbal medicines are usually derived from natural plants, they are considered to be relatively safe and have fewer side effects compared to the conventional drugs.”
Basil is a potent anti-septic and preservative agent and also demonstrates slight sedative effects, regulation of digestion, and diuresis. Clinically, it has been used to treat headache, cough, upper respiratory tract infection, and kidney dysfunction. Laboratory studies have found that basil also has activities in lowering blood sugar, stimulating nervous system, and protection from radiation.
10 Health Benefits of Basil
Colds & coughs
Calms the nerves - Aids digestion
Helpful for mild depression
Reduce cholesterol - Strengthen the heart
Restorative - Calming to the nerves, mild depression
Respiratory Illness – Including Tuberculosis
Recipes for Basil
If you LOVE basil as much as I do, chances are you’re already familiar with pesto. Winter used to be a time of dread as I would sadly observe my frozen pesto supply dwindle to a faint memory. I’d count the days until basil season returned. Fortunately, today basil is available in most markets year-round. There are traditional recipes for basil pesto, but you’ll find with a little imagination, you can create an exquisite pesto masterpiece of your own.
The first recipe listed here is one I’ve crafted over the years. It’s lower in fat but has the same incredible taste as traditional pesto.
Simply Delicious, Lower-Cal Pesto
2 cups of fresh organic basil, stems removed
¼ cup or more of walnuts (Read about the latest research on the health benefits of walnuts below)
3-5 cloves garlic – Remember, garlic adds a spicy bite!
2 pinches organic cheese, finely grated (optional)
¼ cup or so of warm water
Tip: When cooking pasta or vegetables, save some of the warm water to add to your pesto (if necessary) for a thinner sauce.
Combine all ingredients except olive oil and water in a food processor or blender. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Add some water, if mixture is too thick, a little at a time.
Serving ideas: Pour over pasta, rice, salmon, whole grain bruschetta, potatoes, your favorite vegetable and salad. Add to stir-fries, soups, or puree with olive oil to add to tomato soup.
Add-ins: Tomatoes add a nice flavor to pesto. Add some fresh parsley or cilantro with your basil to enhance its nutritive value and flavor. Be creative, when it comes to cooking, you are the artist!
Traditional Basil Pesto
2 cups fresh organic basil, stems removed
¼ cup olive oil (EVOO)
¼ cup pine nuts
3-5 cloves garlic – Remember, garlic adds a spicy bite!
¼ cup organic Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Process as recipe above.
Tip: Always read your recipe through before going shopping!
Our Favorite Basil Snack & Sandwich Ideas
Skip the bread and make your next “sandwich” a healthier snack version with a leaf of lettuce. Romaine, being nutritionally dense, is an excellent choice and the perfect size for your fillings. Place sandwich fillings on a clean piece of lettuce and roll up tightly. Fillings ideas: Basil & Veggies (listed below), tuna salad, egg salad, gyro filling, etc. The sky is the limit when it comes to wraps!
Enhance the flavor and cardiovascular health benefits of your sandwich with basil by adding ample amounts of fresh, sweet basil in addition to romaine and other nutritious greens such as kale.
Basil & Veggies in a Bowl
Hungry? In a hurry? Take this tip from someone who works at a desk (a lot!). If you love avocado, tomatoes, garlic and basil, this is right up your alley. It’s filling and packs a nutrient punch that will keep you going for hours.
Gently tear basil into small pieces and cut other ingredients into bite-size pieces. Stir to mix well. Sprinkle with fresh, cracked black pepper and Himalayan salt (if you’re still eating table salt, read this! – Is Salt Good?) and a light drizzle of organic EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). Not just any olive oil, the good stuff.
Basil is wonderful in this soup in lieu of spinach or in addition to spinach and other greens. Minestrone Soup
Place a handful or so of fresh basil in your tea pot. I like to add a pinch of sage and lots of lemon balm and peppermint. The tea is useful for digestive complaints, anxiety, fatigue and insomnia. Pour just-to-a-boil water over your herbs. Cover and steep for 5 minutes or longer. Sweeten with raw honey or stevia.
Amazing Health Benefits of Walnuts - Good reasons to add them to your pesto!
Studies confirm walnuts can help reduce Metabolic Syndrome. Considering the fact that as many as 1 in 4 Americans have Metabolic Syndrome (and others who eat the Standard American Diet or SAD), walnuts are an invaluable addition to a healthy diet. A small handful daily is all you need. Walnuts contain many health-giving nutrients and when eaten in moderation, do not cause weight gain. Walnuts’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients provide measurable anti-cancer benefits as well.
Met-S (Metabolic Syndrome) consists of a combination of these health issues:
High (bad) cholesterol
Low (good) cholesterol
High blood pressure
Enjoy walnuts as a munching snack. My kids loved nuts & raisins mixed together as a snack when they were growing up. For a special treat I would put in a few chocolate or carob chips (organic, of course!). Add to salads, sautéed vegetables, or in “healthy yogurt.” Healthy yogurt is made without added sugars, artificial sweeteners, etc. Most yogurt sold in stores is processed and similar to “junk food.” Check out the yogurt buyer’s guide from the Cornucopia Institute.
Eden’s Corner always encourages you to purchase organically grown food, as best as your circumstances allow. When you choose organic you greatly reduce your risk of harmful chemicals, and other toxins, and environmental pollution.
Best Ways to Grow & Preserve Basil
Easy to Grow
Basil is a delicate annual. It is indigenous to warm climates and needs warm, sunny weather to thrive. Purchase plants and place outdoors in rich, well-drained organic soil. Grows well in pots. When your basil reaches 6” or so, pinch the top to encourage branching. Keep flowers picked off during the growing season. Flowers left to go to seed will signal the plant that it’s time to stop growing. Basil originates in hot climates and will be happiest in a sunny place in your garden.
Storing & Preserving Basil
Basil is a delicate herb and bruises easily. To store in the fridge: place in a sealed bag with a paper towel to absorb any moisture that may be present.
Basil may be frozen but the leaves will darken in color. Best to make pesto. Freeze in ice cube trays and place in portion-size containers for future use.
Drying: Harvest when you have an ample supply. Keep flowers picked off this delicate annual and you will have fresh, delicious basil throughout your growing season.
Gather in small bunches, tie with a rubber band and hang in a cool, dry place. When basil is crisp and dry, place in airtight jars to preserve.
We hope you have enjoyed this session of Healing Herbs. In addition to the 10 Best Uses & Recipes for Basil, please peruse Healing Herbs for more about nature’s amazing plant medicines.
And its fruit shall be for food and its leaf for medicine
Looking for a Great Herb Book?
Below is a list of my favorite herb books I have used for years, in addition to some new ones I know you will be very pleased with.
DISCLAIMER: Please remember these treatments options are only meant as guidelines and should not replace the advice or treatment provided by your holistic health practitioner. It is always good to seek the advice of your functional medicine doctor, homeopath, naturopath, or herbalist for professional advice in any matter related to your health. This article is for information purposes only.
Spiritual Food - Basil Food Facts
whfoods.org – Basil, Health Benefits, & more
Nutrition Data – Basil, Nutrition Facts & Calories
Off the Grid News – Medicinal Uses and Health Benefits of Basil
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