Today we’ll be exploring basil also known as the “king of herbs” also pronounced as “bay-zle” or whatever you want to call it. It’s genus is classified as ocimum and it belongs to the lamiaceae family. It’s native to central Africa and Southeast Asia.
Basil – Family
Basil is a member of the mint or dead nettle family. This family includes over 6,000 species. Family member includes
Why is the lamiaceae family important?
The lamiaceae family or the king family is very important not only for food consumption but also its medical properties. The Czech Journal of Food & Sciences published a review which states historically species of the family lamiaceae have enjoyed a rich tradition of use for flavoring food preservation and medical purposes due to both their curative and their preventative properties.
It is well known that each species has a special complex mixture of bioactive compounds in which each component contributes to its overall bioactivity. Their value lies in the production of a wide range of secondary metabolites with potent antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-cancer activities.
Basil is a fragrant large leaf herb that can be easily grown in a pot or in the ground from seed depending on the variety. Basil can grow 12 to 24 inches in height and up to 3 feet. Basil requires full sun and you can start harvesting basil once it reaches 6 to 8 inches tall.
Why basil is regarded as “the king of herbs”?
Basil has existed for over 4,000 years. It is known as the king of the herbs because of two vital reasons.
- Basil’s historical stories
- Basil’s uses and medicinal values
Basil’s historical stories
Basil is known as the king of herbs because the ancient used to call it “Basileus“ which means “Emperor or King“. Throughout history basil is steeped in mixed traditions along with medicinal beliefs.
Ancient beliefs regarding basil
- Some believe it to be sacred or has magical properties to protect the dead in the afterlife.
- Others would use it to ward off evil spirits.
- Basil was also believed to protect the poor and used to identify chastity.
- In some parts of Europe it was symbol of poverty.
Basil’s uses and medicinal values
Research studies have shown that basil can provide several health benefits.
- Basil has anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling properties.
- It has potent antibacterial properties.
- Basil also has cancer fighting properties and anti aging properties.
- It promotes eye health.
- it’s rich in antioxidants, specifically regarding holy basil (ocimum sanctum), it has been shown to reduce the effects of oxidative stress because basil can act as a natural stress reducer.
- Again basil is rich in vitamins and just contains 22 calories per 100 grams. It is highly nutritious and calorie light.
Basil – Today
Today basil is widely coveted for its flavor and freshness. This annual herb is cultivated extensively in France, Egypt, Hungary , Indonesia, Morocco and the United States specifically in Arizona, California, New Mexico, North Carolina as well as Greece and Israel.
Basil is readily available within the fresh markets as well as dried and processed markets.
There are at least 60 varieties of basil. Each group of basil has a distinct flavor and smell. Some of the most common basil varieties you may be familiar with are lemon basil, sweet basil, Thai basil, holy basil and purple basil.