Basil has long been used in culinary traditions, but its history is rich with other uses in society.In ancient Egypt, basil was likely used as an embalming and preserving herb as it has been found in tombs and mummies.Perhaps because of its embalming applications, basil was also a symbol of mourning in Greece where it was known as basilikon phuton, meaning magnificent, royal, or kingly herb.
Basil also has a strong history in ancient traditional medicines like Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of ancient India, in addition to other medicinal herbal traditions.
Basil also carried diverse cultural and symbolic meaning through history. For instance, in Jewish folklore basil is believed to add strength while fasting. In Portugal, basil plants make up part of a gift to a sweetheart or lover on certain religious holidays.
Basil continues to have diverse applications in modern kitchens and science labs. In cooking, basil is most commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. More often than not, the fresh leaves are added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the herb’s distinct flavor.
But today as also seen throughout history, basil is not only used as a food flavoring, but also in perfumery, incense, and herbal holistic remedies.
Recent scientific studies have established that compounds the essential oil of basil plants possess potent antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties.
Basil in the Kitchen
Basil is an integral part of many cuisines, mostly due to its exceptional flavor that fits many different dishes. Basil should always be added to a meal at the end of the cooking, so that it’s taste can be preserved.
If you have a choice, always buy fresh basil because it has a more potent taste. One of the most famous sauces that’s made with basil is the Pesto Genovese, which is made with a strong basil dip and parmesan.
You can also make a very tasty sauce by chopping fresh basil and garlic and adding olive oil. You can use the sauce to spice up a number of dishes, like pasta, rice, and bruschetta.
You can also make an icy desert with basil. Just chop it up and mix it with lemon juice, water, and sugar cane juice and freeze it in your ice cube tray. Once it’s frozen, add the cubes to a blender and blend them together. Serve the frozen mixture as a Mediterranean style ice dessert.
Another way to use it is to make your own colorful Italian salad with fresh basil, mozzarella and tomatoes, but also use it to brew your own basil tea, by adding hot water over freshly chopped basil leaves and leaving it for eight minutes before straining it.
According to recent research, basil oil positively affects the immune system. Considering the fact that its leaves have strong antibacterial and antiseptic properties, you can use basil to treat bacterial infections.
Excellent for your heart and blood vessels
Basil is loaded with vitamin B6 and magnesium, which means that it’s great for preventing homocysteines – toxic substances which can accumulate in the body. Magnesium also stimulates cardiovascular health and lowers the risk from heart attacks and arrhythmia, by relaxing the muscles and blood vessels and stimulating better blood flow.
Basil has very strong anti-oxidative properties. The antioxidants from basil should be a vital part of every diet and healthy lifestyle, as they protect the body from free radicals and protect it from cell aging, which is one factor contributing to various types of cancer.
One of the antioxidants found in basil is the beta-carotene, which is transformed into vitamin A within the body. Vitamin A prevents cholesterol oxidation and protects the heart and blood vessels in the process.
Beta-carotene is also excellent for the prevention of various diseases like asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, which are usually the result of free radicals.
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