Basil is a member of the mint family that is a common ingredient in Italian, French and Asian cooking.
Basil has been shown to have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties which can be used to control food-borne pathogens such as e-coli and salmonella. Adding a little bit of basil to your salad dressing will not only add flavor to your greens, it may make it safer to eat.
Its antibacterial properties also promote healing when used topically on open wounds. Rubbing the leaves on insect stings has been said to relieve the pain and itching they cause. It has been suggested that eating basil can also help prevent viral infections like the cold or flu.
Animal studies have shown that some of the compounds in basil could be helpful in destroying various types of cancer including melanoma, cervical cancer, and liver cancer cells.
Basil also has anti-inflammatory properties which may make it a helpful herb for those suffering from arthritis and joint pains. British research has shown that taking concentrated amounts of extracts from asian varieties of basil orally reduced joint swelling by up to 73 per cent within just 24 hours.
While you can supplement with basil for concentrated amounts, it is an amazing herb that is very versatile in the kitchen. You can make a simple basil infusion by pouring boiling water over fresh leaves, or add fresh basil to curries, soups, pastas and salads.
Dried basil is a spice rack staple, with a stronger flavor than fresh basil. You can substitute dried for fresh in pasta, soup or curry recipes by cutting the amount of basil by 1/4 when using dried.
If you grow your own basil in the summer months, it is easy to air dry or sun dry so you have a supply for the winter months as well. You can also use a food dehydrator to dry your basil leaves, but it is not necessary. Simply hanging bunches of washed basil in an area where air can circulate around them for a few weeks creates a wonderful supply of the dried herb.