Nutritional Information for Basil

Adding basil (and other spices/ herbs) to a dish not only increases the flavor, but it quickly increases the antioxidant content of the meal. Basil contains beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant often looked at for its ability to help inhibit cancer growth.

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Benefits of Basil

Cancer Prevention Benefits

Extracts of basil leaves have been found to be protective against radiation, in vitro. It works as an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects, able to quench free radical damage. There are many flavonoids, polyphenols and tannins found in basil extracts that are associated with an ability to lower cancer growth in various types of cancerous cells. Rosmarinic acid, chicoric acid and caftaric acid are other compounds studied for their anti-cancer effects.

Eating fruits and vegetables have been shown to provide cancer protection. Some of the natural compounds in these foods have been targeted to see how they may affect cancer cell growth, in vitro. Herbs and spices like basil, chili peppers and curcumin (active ingredient in turmeric) seem to have active compounds that can alter the initiation and the progression (growth) of cancerous cells that affect the digestive system. Lastly, another in vitro study found that basil has been known to lessen the toxic effects of a carcinogen on white blood cells – immune cells.

Men's Health Benefits

Cell studies have found basil may help lower blood pressure and blood clotting, two factors commonly associated with heart health. Other cell studies have shown that basil may have antidiabetic properties. Once again more human trials are needed to confirm findings.

Ways to Use Basil

  • Add fresh basil in smoothies, salads, stews and even yogurt!
  • Try our recipes that contain basil
  • Add dried or fresh basil to Italian dishes (marinara sauce, eggplant, etc.)
  • Pile fresh basil leaves to a mashed chickpea sandwich
  • Toss dried or fresh basil in your pasta sauces or pasta salads
  • Add fresh or dried basil to minestrone soup
  • Toast a baguette slice, brush with extra-virgin olive oil, top with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil leaves
  • Infuse water with basil and lemon slices (option: add strawberries)
  • Make homemade pesto. Serve on sautéed veggies and whole wheat or bean/lentil noodles 
Resources for Basil

American Institute for Cancer Research: www.aicr.org

Nutrition Facts: www.NutritionFacts.org

Physicians Committee: www.pcrm.org

USDA Nutrient Database: Basil

Citations
  1. Baliga MS, Rao S, Rai MP, D’souza P. Radio protective effects of the Ayurvedic medicinal plant Ocimum sanctum Linn. (Holy Basil): A memoir. J Cancer Res Ther. 2016;12(1):20-7.
  2. Dhandayuthapani S, Azad H, Rathinavelu A, et al. Apoptosis Induction by Ocimum sanctum Extract in LNCaP Prostate Cancer Cells. J Med Food. 2015;18(7):776-85.
  3. Elansary HO, Mahmoud EA. In vitro antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of six international basil cultivars. Nat Prod Res. 2015;29(22):2149-54.
  4. Behbahani M. Evaluation of in vitro anticancer activity of Ocimum basilicum, Alhagi maurorum, Calendula officinalis and their parasite Cuscuta campestris. PLoS One. 201430;9(12):e116049.
  5. Zanini S, Marzotto M, Giovinazzo F, Bassi C, Bellavite P. Effects of dietary components on cancer of the digestive system. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(13):1870-85.
  6. Siddique YH, Ara G, Beg T, Afzal M. Anti-genotoxic effect of Ocimum sanctum L. extract against cyproterone acetate induced genotoxic damage in cultured mammalian cells. Acta Biol Hung. 2007;58(4):397-409.
  7. Moore N, Hamza N, Berke B,, Umar A. News from Tartary: An ethnopharmacological approach to drug and therapeutic discovery. Br J Clin Pharmacol. Published ahead of print, June 13, 2016.
  8. Kadan S, Saad B, Sasson Y, Zaid H. In vitro evaluation of anti-diabetic activity and cytotoxicity of chemically analysed Ocimum basilicum extracts. Food Chem. 2016;196:1066-74.
  9. Prakash P, Gupta N. Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: a short review. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2005;49(2):125-31.
  10. Maiani G, Castón MJ, Catasta G, et al. Carotenoids: actual knowledge on food sources, intakes, stability and bioavailability and their protective role in humans. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009;53 Suppl 2:S194-218.

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