By Christina Pirello, MFN, CCN
Not just the epitome of summer, basil brings more to the table than its fresh, distinctive flavor. Its many benefits will have you scrambling to find more and more ways to use it. Lucky for you, this delicious herb is as versatile as it is yummy.
One of the many therapeutic uses for basil stems from the anti-inflammatory properties of 'eugenol,' a volatile oil in the leaves that blocks enzymes in the body that cause swelling. As a result of this oil, basil can be a great tool in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions that include swelling.
Basil, especially as an extract or oil, is known to have exceptionally powerful antioxidant properties that can protect the body from premature aging, common skin issues, age-related problems and maybe even some types of cancer. The herb also contains the flavonoids 'orientin' and 'vicenin,' which are plant pigments that shield your cell structures from oxidation and radiation damage.
And there's more. Both fresh basil and its oil have strong antibacterial capabilities. In fact, basil has been shown to stop the growth of many bacteria, even some that had grown resistant to other antibiotics. Basil oil is always in my pantry to be applied to minor wounds to help prevent bacterial infections.
Basil oil can be used to relieve constipation, stomach cramps and indigestion as well as the cold, flu, asthma, whooping cough, bronchitis and sinus infections. It is also a great source of magnesium, an essential mineral that helps the body's blood vessels relax, which can improve blood flow and soothe nerves.
And you thought it was just a key ingredient in pesto.
FRESH BASIL PESTO
This is...hands down...the best basil pesto you will ever taste. Seriously!
MAKES ABOUT 1 ½ CUPS PESTO
1 cup pine nuts or walnuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons white miso
1 teaspoon umeboshi or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
spring or filtered water
Place pine nuts, oil and basil in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add miso, vinegar and rice syrup and puree until smooth, slowly adding water to achieve desired consistency. Do not thin too much.
COOK'S TIP: The balance of un-used pesto can be frozen or used in another recipe within 24 hours.