A favorite herb in many types of cooking, basil—particularly Italian sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum)—is a nutritionally potent herb, beneficial for health and home. Include basil in your diet, home medicine kit, and your garden (easy to grow: check out these two organic seedlings, shipped to you free, Clovers Garden Sweet Basil Herb Plants- 4″-7″ Tall- in 3.5 Inch Pots).
What’s the science behind it?
Why is sweet basil so beneficial for your health, home, and garden? The primary biologically active ingredient in sweet basil is a compound called eugenol, which gives sweet basil its distinct scent and many of its health protective benefits.
Eugenol has antioxidant properties and, along with other flavonoids contained in sweet basil, helps protect the body’s cells and tissues from free radical damage.
A good source of the mineral magnesium, basil also supports healthy circulation. Other health benefits of basil include anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects.
What can I use it for?
Essential oils made from basil are often used for treating cuts and skin infections. Basil is often included in aromatherapy preparations that promote relaxation. When planting your spring garden, be sure to include basil. The herb acts as a natural insect repellent.
Sweet basil is available as a fresh herb, dried spice, tea, and oil or tincture preparation. Anyone who takes a blood thinner should check with a physician before taking basil as a nutritional supplement.
If you’re allergic to herbs in the mint family, you might also be allergic to basil. Before taking sweet basil as a nutritional supplement, consult with a physician to determine the best form for your needs.
PLUS: A recipe!
If you’ve got a big bushel of basil growing and you’re not sure what to do with it, why not try this recipe for Basil, Onion, and Spinach Supreme Pizza, below.
With this tasty pizza recipe you have a variety of options for dough and toppings. Caramelized onions and sweet basil are essential for this recipe’s flavor profile. Mushrooms and spinach are nutritious to include, while artichoke, sliced tomato, and bell peppers offer texture, color and lip smacking appeal.
For dough, make your own (my favorite option, perhaps using a sourdough starter), or purchase the dough from a local bake shop or your grocery store refrigerated/frozen section. Alternatively, go for gluten-free dough or try one of the thin, crispy ready-made shells made from cauliflower.
1 Pizza Dough of your choice
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 T butter (or non-dairy substitute)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz sliced button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (non-dairy cheese is an option)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (reggiano parmigiano preferred)
2 t chopped fresh basil leaves
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Follow preparation instructions for your dough. We like to brush with EVOO. Bake. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Melt butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and salt; cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion softens and begins to brown. Add mushrooms and saute an additional 5-7 minutes or until softened and also beginning to brown. Stir in garlic, and a small amount of chopped fresh basil; remove from heat.
Spread mushroom mixture evenly over dough. Top with spinach, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese or any other toppings you’ve selected; don’t make the thin crust too heavy.
Bake 7 to 11 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. Sprinkle with sliced fresh basil, let cool, cut and serve!