One of the most commonly used herbs especially in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, basil is known for its highly fragrant leaves and versatile use in salads, soups, and entrees. In addition to its powerful aroma, basil is rich in vitamin K and a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin A. A new study from the University of South Florida Health in October 2021 found that fenchol, an abundant compound in basil, may help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia in older people.
Alzheimer’s disease & dementia
DNA Protection: Orientin and vicenin are two water-soluble flavonoids in basil that protect the white blood cell structure as well as the genetic material from radiation and oxygen-based damage.
Anti-bacterial: Basil’s volatile oils have been shown to protect against pathogenic bacterial growth.
Anti-inflammatory: A compound in basil’s oils has an enzyme-inhibiting effect that makes basil an anti-inflammatory food.
Brain Protection: Fenchol, a prevalent compound in basil, was found to be very effective at binding to and activating cell-signaling molecule free fatty acid receptor 2 (FFAR2), which is expressed on neurons in the brain. This reduced levels of amyloid-beta (Aβ), a protein linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and led to lower neuron death. This lowered the number of “zombie” cells that are often found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Good Source of:
Vitamin K, A, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, fenchol
Purchasing, storing, and enjoying:
Purchasing: Try to purchase fresh basil over dried, because the flavor is far superior. Or grow your own. Basil is very easy to grow, even indoors. Fresh basil leaves should be vibrant and deep in color, free from dark spots or yellowing.
Storing: Fresh basil leaves should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel where it will hold for up to 4 days.
Enjoying: Since the oils in basil are highly volatile, it is best to add the herb near the end of the cooking process. This way will retain its maximum essence and flavor.
- Combine basil, olive oil, and garlic, and pine nuts to make a great diary-free pesto sauce or spread.
- Basil can be added to any dish or salad to add a fragrant aroma.
- Fresh basil and strawberries infused in water is refreshing and a healthy alternative to sugary beverages.
Resources & recipes:
Simple Basil Pesto: Pesto without the parm. Great on bread, pasta, pizza crust, rice… whatever!
Fresh Tomato-Basil Focaccia: Like pizza but much lighter and a great way to get lots of basil.
How to Chiffonade Basil: Our cooking 101 video teaches you how to cut basil into thin ribbons, perfect for spreading on pastas and over soups.
Creamy Zucchini and Basil Soup: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2009/09/creamy-zucchini-and-basil-soup.html
Asparagus Pesto Pasta: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2009/07/asparagus-pesto-pasta-salad.html
Bagamboula CF, Uyttendaeleand M, Debevere J. Inhibitory effect of thyme and basil essential oils, carvacrol, thymol, estragol, linalool and p-cymene towards Shigella sonneiand S. flexneri. Food Microbio 2004 Feb;21 (1):33-42. 2004.
Calucci L, Pinzino C, Zandomeneghi M et al. Effects of gamma-irradiation on the free radical and antioxidant contents in nine aromatic herbs and spices. J Agric Food Chem 2003 Feb 12; 51(4):927-34. 2003.
Opalchenova G, Obreshkova D. Comparative studies on the activity of basil–an essential oil from Ocimum basilicum L.–against multidrug resistant clinical isolates of the genera Staphylococcus, Enterococcus and Pseudomonas by usi. J Microbiol Methods. Jul;54(1):105-10. 2003.
Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988. 1988. PMID:15220.