While spring seemed to start with a little hitch in its giddy up, I think it’s safe to say that the final days of winter have finally passed, and as such my mind is turning to all the great stuff we can grow quickly and enjoy all summer long, like basil!
Known as the king of herbs, basil is an ancient herb that is brimming with beneficial phyto-nutrients.
Coming to us from the mint family, there are a large variety of basil types. However, two of the most common are Sweet, and Holy basil, which have strikingly different uses and properties that make them unique.
Holy basil is native to Southeast Asia, and is used for its many medicinal properties, which include treating insect bites to more severe illnesses like bronchitis. This herb is also beneficial in boosting the immune system helping people with ADD or ADHD (attention deficit disorders) concentrate.
According to the University of New England, holy basil plant can also help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, too. Sweet basil, on the other hand, is used mainly as a cooking ingredient to help add extra flavor, but it offers us so much more!
Offering both stimulating and soothing properties, according to animal studies, basil helps boost brain power, enhance memory, and empower learning.
Several studies have also demonstrated that basil has antidepressant-like properties and can significantly help to reduce anxiety, and even to alleviate the effects of chronic stress.
A 2010 study surprisingly showed that sweet basil can lower blood pressure almost as well as certain conventional medications, and it can elevate the activity of antioxidant enzymes, which protect us from cancers and aging.
Helping to reduce fasting blood glucose and improve glucose tolerance, basil also helps to soothe stomach cramps and alleviate pain in general, which studies indicate that is possible because basil inhibits the formation of pain molecules.
Offering natural antibacterial action, sweet basil can effectively kill a wide range of bacteria and fungi, and help boost the effectiveness of standard conventional antibiotics, making it the perfect herb to eat when you are feeling under the weather.
Perhaps most impressive is that laboratory studies suggest that sweet basil essential oil may be effective in killing cervical cancer and laryngeal carcinoma cells, giving us all plenty of good reason to grow some this year!
Here now are some invigorating and soothing ways to sip all your stresses away while pampering yourself with the beauty of basil. ENJOY!
Laura Kurella is an award-winning recipe developer and self-syndicated food columnist, home cook, and lifelong resident of the Midwest Great Lakes Region. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beautiful Basil Iced Tea
2 quarts decaffeinated, unsweetened iced tea
1 pint raspberries, washed
8 fresh basil leaves, washed
4 tablespoons sweetener
In a 2-quart pitcher, combine tea, raspberries, basil, and nocalorie sweetener. Gently stir and refrigerate overnight. Add ice to individual glass and pour iced tea in each through a strainer to remove bits of herbs and fruit. Stir and enjoy.
Approximate servings per recipe: 8. Nutrition per serving: Calories 48; Fat 0g; Sodium 1 mg; Potassium 104 mg; Magnesium 11 mg: Carbohydrates 11g; Fiber 3g; Sugar 8g; Protein 0.6g.
Lovely Raspberry Basil Lemonade
2 pints fresh raspberries
1 cup sugar
3 cups water
8 lemons, zested and juiced
10 basil leaves, plus more for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the raspberries on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes, shaking the pan once halfway through cooking, until soft and beginning to release their juices. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon zest, basil, and 1 cup of water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat and set aside to steep for at least 10 minutes or up to an hour. Remove the basil leaves and discard. Puree the raspberries with the basil simple syrup, lemon juice, and remaining water in a blender until smooth and frothy. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Taste and add more water as needed until your desired potency is reached – keeping in mind that adding ice to your glass will dilute the drink. Transfer to a pitcher with ice, garnish with fresh basil leaves, and bottoms up!
Approximate servings per recipe: 8. Nutrition per serving: Calories 60; Fat 0g; Sodium 3 mg; Potassium 52 mg; Magnesium 5 mg: Carbohydrates 16g; Fiber 0.3g; Sugar 13g; Protein 0.19g.
Marvelous Basil-Raspberry Mojitos
1 cup simple syrup (3/4 cup sugar + 3/4 cup water, heated to
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups white rum
1/4 cup Chambord (raspberry liquor)
1 liter club soda
Fresh raspberries and lime slices to garnish
Pour the cooled simple syrup in a large pitcher and add the torn basil leaves. Use a large spoon/ladle to muddle the basil leaves so they release their flavor–beat them up pretty well. Add the lime juice, rum, and Chambord. Stir. Add the club soda, stir, and top with ice if the pitcher allows. To serve, garnish each glass with fresh berries and lime slices. Serve over ice or chilled without ice.
Approximate servings per recipe: 8. Nutrition per serving: Calories 214; Fat 0g; Sodium 26 mg; Potassium 51 mg; Magnesium 5 mg: Carbohydrates 22g; Fiber 0.5g; Sugar 19g; Protein 0.19g.