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11 Amazing Benefits of Sweet Basil

Fresh sweet basil is floral, pungent, and readily available in the U.S. You’re probably well aware of the flavor it contributes to dishes, like pasta and salads. But what you may not be aware of are the powerful healing compounds associated with the essential oil. In fact, sweet basil oil can help the digestive, immune and nervous systems. If you haven’t tried it yet, here are some natural fixes that can really boost your health.=

Sweet basil’s essentials

Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), is a plant with thick foliage and small white flowers. Fresh basil projects a fresh and floral aroma, while the dried basil has a spicy and earthy scent. Like most herbs, sweet basil is loaded with health benefits. In fact, it’s a rich source of vitamin K, beta carotene, and iron. In addition, this herb has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

But the majority of basil’s benefits are attributed to its volatile oil and flavonoids. The preferred method for obtaining the oil is through steam distilling the flowers or the whole basil plant. These powerful, plant-based antioxidants reduce inflammation and help fight aging. Whether you take it internally or use it topically, here are some basil oil benefits you may want to consider.

1. Antibacterial and antifungal

Basil oil for cleaning

Basil oil has antimicrobial activity that fights a wide range of foodborne bacteria, yeasts, and even mold. A study published in Food Microbiology found that basil oil can stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Researchers looking for natural, toxin-free food preservatives, discovered that washing produce in a basil oil solution decreased shigella.

Shigella, a bacterium closely related to salmonella, produces abdominal pain, tenesmus, watery diarrhea, and dysentery. Other symptoms may include abdominal tenderness, fever, vomiting, dehydration, and convulsions. Interestingly, a solution made from one percent basil oil decreased contamination below levels at which it could be detected. Scientists suggest including basil in your salad to provide similar safeguards.

In another earlier study from Australia, researchers looked at the effects of basil oil against bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and molds. All five essential oils of basil showed antimicrobial activity against most of the organisms. That means you can use a solution of basil oil to remove bacteria and prevent contamination from kitchens and bathrooms. Simply combine basil oil with water in a spray bottle and wipe down surfaces.

2. Indigestion and cramping

Basil oil can help increase urine production, which in turn, can reduce water retention, uncomfortable bloating, and digestive issues. It’s also an effective antispasmodic and can reduce food and illness-associated cramping. Add one to two drops of sweet basil oil to warm water or tea. You can also inhale it or massage it directly into painful areas, such as the abdomen and lower back.

3. Constipation relief

Sweet basil oil can also provide natural constipation relief. Add one to two drops of sweet basil oil to warm water or tea. You’ll be feeling better in no time.

4. Flatulence and upset stomach

Basil oil for gas and upset stomach

Basil essential oil is also useful as a digestive tonic. Since basil oil has carminative properties, it prevents or relieves flatulence. In fact, it can provide immediate relief from gas. It also has colic qualities and is therefore used to alleviate bowel pain. Alternately, sweet basil oil can expel gas from the stomach and intestine, helping calm an upset stomach, suggests the University of Michigan Health System.

5. Prevents infections

Due to basil’s antibacterial properties, it may also treat several infections, including cuts, wounds and bladder infections. It’s also great for avoiding viral infections that attack and enter the body through other wounds.

6. Pain relief

Often used for arthritic pain, wounds, sprains, and headaches, basil oil is an analgesic and provides effective relief from pain. According to a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, basil oil was found to reduce hyperalgesia in mice. Research suggests that sweet basil oil may also be a natural alternative for treating chronic painful conditions, such as fibromyalgia.

7. Anti-inflammatory

Basil’s powerful essential oils contain eugenol, citronellol, and linalool. These enzyme-inhibiting oils help lower inflammation — the root cause of most diseases. In a 2007 study, researchers found that sweet basil oil significantly reduced an induced inflammation response in rats. Researchers found that sweet basil showed important anti-inflammatory effects.

8. Insect repellent

Similar to citronella and thyme oil, the volatile oils found in basil make a good, natural mosquito repellent to prevent bug bites. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association investigated sweet basil oil as an irritant and repellent against mosquitoes. Pure essential oil was used in combination with absolute ethanol. Researchers found that sweet basil oil is a moderate mosquito irritant and repellent. However, they found that another variety of basil, hairy basil, was a much more effective mosquito repellent.

Make your own homemade bug lotion by diluting several drops of basil essential oil in a carrier oil. Massage into the skin as needed.

9. Anxiety relief

A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that basil oil relaxed mice experiencing stress. The study found that the protective properties of basil (particularly holy basil) on the brain tissue protected mice against the detrimental effect of noise stress.

10. Cold and flu Relief

Basil oil for cold relief

If you feel a cold or flu coming on, basil oil may help diminish symptoms. This essential oil helps detoxify the body of bacteria and viruses. It also fights inflammation, pain, and fatigue. Simply add one to two drops to a steam bath. Alternately, make your own homemade vapor rub with eucalyptus oil and basil oil. Rub it into your chest to open nasal passages.

11. Air freshener

Sweet basil oil is ideal for eliminating odor-causing bacteria and mold in your home, car, and furniture. Combine basil oil with baking soda to remove stains and bacteria from pots or pans. You can even spray it inside your toilet, shower, and garbage cans.

Now that you know everything sweet basil can do, are you ready to give it a try? Here are all the ways that you can get it into your system.

Inhalation

Inhale the oil directly from the bottle or rub several drops into your palms. Hold your hands over, but not touching, your face to inhale.

Topically

Always dilute basil oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or almond oil. Use a 1:1 ratio before applying to the skin. Because it is potent, it’s best to start slowly. Basil oil may cause reactions in people with sensitive skin. Test before applying to the skin and avoid the face, neck, and chest prior to testing.

Internally

The FDA recognizes pure basil oil as safe for consumption, but only when using 100 percent therapeutic-grade, high-quality oil. Look for Ocimum basilicum and add a drop in water. Or, take it as a dietary supplement by mixing it with raw honey.

You won’t have any trouble finding sweet basil oil because it’s produced in the U.S. and harvested from February to September. So the next time you have a cold, or simply want to freshen your home naturally, give it a try. Your nose will thank you.

– The Backyard Vitality Team

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Avoid Salmonella Sickness: Grow Your Own Herbs

Consumers need to be on their toes now more than ever as the bacteria outbreaks and food recalls show no sign of slowing down. If you have recently purchased parsley or Herbes de Provence from World Market, Walmart, or any other grocer in the United States, it may be part of the latest food recall. A customer tested as ample of High Quality Organics’ parsley, and salmonella was possibly discovered.

On October 12, Sauer Brands Inc. announced a voluntary recall due to the possible salmonella contamination. This announcement came after the herb supplier had certified that the raw materials it provided Sauer had tested negative for salmonella.

Once the company became aware of the potential contamination, they recalled any parsley products made with questionable raw material. Other Spice Hunter products that were manufacturers on the same two days that the salmonella-tainted parsley was produced. The company’s press release stated that  this was done “ out of an abundance of caution regarding potential cross-contamination.”

Recalled products

The 29 recalled products include particular lots of organic parsley, Saigon cinnamon, ground cloves, sesame seeds, Herbes De Provence, pumpkin pie spice blend, seafood seasoning blend, coriander, garlic, green hatch chile, Mexican seasoning, black pepper (ground and whole peppercorns), paprika, Szechwan seasoning, Chinese ginger, white pepper, garlic, everything bagel seasoning, chives, Italian seasoning, cilantro, whole fennel seeds, dill, arrowroot, and red cayenne pepper.

The products were manufactured for sale online (at spicehunter.com) and in retail. They were distributed for sale across 31 states: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. 

The recalled product names have specific item numbers and UPC codes. They include:

  • Cost Plus World Market Herbes De Provence in a 0.6-ounce package with the item number of 533310-06 and the UPC 2533 3107.
  • Cost Plus World Market Organic Parsley in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of 533325-06 and the UPC 2533 3251.
  • Great Value Herbes De Provence Organic in a 0.6-ounce package with the item number of GV5451-24 and the UPC 0 78742 15451 0.
  • Great Value Organic Parsley Flakes in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of GV5460-24 and the UPC 0 78742 15460 2.
  • O Organics Herbes De Provence Organic in a 0.65-ounce package with the item number of 14200102-24 and the UPC 0 79893 41131 6.
  • O Organics Parsley Organic in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of 14200099-05 and the UPC 0 79893 41109 5.
  • Full Circle Parsley Organic in a 0.3-ounce package with the item number of 32831-06 and the UPC 0 36800 32813 0.

Don’t mess with salmonella

Although there have been no reports of illness connected to this latest recall, it is essential to be cautious as salmonella infections can become quite serious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), salmonella infections cause symptoms such as diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Symptoms begin anywhere from six hours to six days after infection and can last up to seven days. Severe cases may even require antibiotics or hospitalization. Most people recover just fine without treatment and with proper rest and plenty of hydration. If you have a high fever, persistent diarrhea, bloody stools, persistent vomiting, you need to call your doctor.

Stay safe, grow your spices

One of the best ways to stay safe from tainted food, including herbs and spices, is to grow your own. Growing herbs for spices is much easier than you might think, even if you don’t have much space. You can even grow your favorite herbs in a sunny kitchen window.

Growing herbs in a sunny windowsill is gaining popularity

Small space kitchen gardening or countertop gardening is a popular movement right now, with more and more people stuck at home and living in apartments, condos, and the like.  The good news is that many herbs are quite happy to grow in small containers, and they will reward you with a bountiful harvest with just a minimal amount of attention. Not only that, but you can’t beat the way beautiful greenery looks in your window on a cold winter day. Rest assured that whether you lack space, direct sunlight, or live in a frigid and unforgiving climate, you can still grow plenty of fresh food, including herbs.

Tips for growing herbs in containers

Here are a few tips for growing healthy and delicious herbs.

  • Select heirloom varieties of your favorite herbs. Choose herbs that you love to use and cook with frequently. When possible, use heirloom varieties that taste better than hybrid types.
  • Choose a container with good drainage. Most herbs are very unhappy with “wet feet.” Because of this, it is critical to pot your herb plants in a container that has excellent drainage. 
  • Choose a sunny location. Light is key to success when you grow any plant—position herb pots directly beneath a sunny window to maximize sunlight’s effectiveness. One of the great things about growing in containers is that you can move pots around as the seasons and light conditions change. Keep pots rotated so that plants don’t become leggy. If you don’t have any sunny windows, consider a grow light bulb. These are inexpensive and will help your herbs grow strong and healthy without sunlight.
  • Water and feed accordingly. Knowing what your plants require for food and water is essential to their health. Keep in mind that most plants die because of excessive attention, not a lack of attention. 
  • Harvest correctly. Wait patiently for your plants to mature before you harvest for the first time. Never harvest more than one-third of the plant at one time and wait for that third to grow back before harvesting. Remove any flowers that appear as they will get in the way of the flavor.
  • Prune. Picking herbs is like pruning, but your particular herb may require more. Do a little research and assess the best way to keep your herb plant shapely. Always use clean and sharp pruning scissors – never rip or tear your plant to keep it pruned.

The best way to turn your garden herbs into spices is to place fresh herbs on a cookie sheet and dry them in the oven for 2-4 hours at 180 degrees F or less. Check them regularly to see if they crumble easily. Use a grinder to make a fine powder and store them in an airtight container. Mix and match your favorite dried herbs to create unique culinary blends.

Happy growing!

Susan Patterson, Master Gardener, and Author

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