Noted herbalist and botanist John Gerard had something unique to say about basil. According to him, if anyone was stung by a scorpion, no pain would be felt if they consumed basil.
Basil is an invariable part of Mediterranean and Asian cooking. The origin of the plant name can be found in the old Greek word basilikon meaning "royal".
The leaves are usually green, but some varieties come with dark purple or blackish leaves. They are sweet and have a distinctive aroma and flavor.
The variety called sweet basil is used in Italian food, while lemon basil and holy basil are used in Asian cuisine. The botanical name of this plant is Ocimum basilicum, and it belongs to the family Lamiaceae.
The leaves are somewhat round and pointed, and they resemble peppermint leaves. In India and some other Asian countries, the sweet basil seeds are known as sabja seeds or tukmaria seeds.
Fresh, highly fragrant, and pungent, basil leaves help enhance the flavor of the food. If fresh leaves are not available, then you may use dried leaves. Basil, the seasoning herb, is an important ingredient in pesto (a green sauce)―the mixture of basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. The leaves are often added to flavor stews, soups, salads, desserts, and juices. They help enhance the taste of stir-fry dishes too.
In the Indian subcontinent, the seeds are added to falooda (a specific type of milkshake, which also contains vermicelli), other milkshakes, drinks, and sherbets. The seeds are used after soaking them in water. The soaked swollen seeds form a gelatinous mass. In Thailand, the drink that contains these seeds, sugar, honey, and coconut water is quite popular. You can add the seeds to ice creams and lemon water too.
A number of Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines are made from the leaves, stems, and seeds.
Although it is not proved by modern researchers, traditionally it is assumed that consumption of basil seeds helps maintain blood sugar levels within the normal range. Diabetics should avoid adding sugar to the drink made from the seeds.
As the swollen seeds form a thick mass, they make a filling drink that can be consumed before meals for curbing the appetite and food cravings. Thus, they can be a part of natural weight loss diet. In Thailand, basil seed drinks that are as thick as tapioca are available in markets.
The health benefits of the seeds are similar to those offered by the leaves. The carminative properties of the seeds help relieve pain and discomfort experienced due to flatulence, abdominal cramps, indigestion, constipation, etc.
They can help maintain hemoglobin levels as they contain iron.
They can be used to lower the symptoms of respiratory tract infections during cold, cough, and flu.
The antispasmodic property helps soothe the throat in case of cough.
Topical application of the paste of crushed seeds helps prevent worsening of wounds and skin infections as the seeds have antibacterial properties.
These properties can also help prevent tooth decay and other oral cavity infections. Chewing the seeds can help reduce the irritation caused by mouth ulcers.
A drink prepared from soaked seeds helps relieve the symptoms of heartburn and burning sensation due to urinary tract infection.
The drink can help get rid of the accumulated toxins in the blood and body. It promotes easy bowel movement.
It also works as a diuretic and helps get rid of the toxins. Thus, it promotes smooth functioning of kidneys too.
By preventing the formation of plaque in the arteries, it helps to keep the arteries clean. Thus, it reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack. Magnesium in basil helps keep the cardiovascular system healthy.
It works great for arthritis as the anti-inflammatory properties of the seeds help reduce swelling and pain in the joints.
Scientists are interested in knowing how basil seed oil would be helpful in preventing the advancement of cancers in human beings. Some studies showed that the oil can inhibit the progression of cancer in animals. Studies are being conducted to see whether the antioxidant properties of the seeds can help improve the survival rate in human beings too.
The antioxidant properties can help cancel the effects of free radicals in the body. They can be helpful in preventing certain degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease. More research is needed to prove this.
The drink has a soothing effect on the brain too. It helps get rid of stress, headache, depression, and tension. It can help uplift your mood.
These seeds offer a number of health benefits, but unfortunately, not many people know about this fact, as the seeds are not marketed by any of the popular brands. More research is necessary to confirm the health benefits and make the seeds popular all over the world.