Whether you enjoy it fresh or dried, this fragrant herb is a staple seasoning for so many of your favourite dishes. From delicious pesto pasta or prefer classic Italian Caprese salad, there are lots of ways to use basil in your cooking.
If you’re wondering about the health benefits of basil, we’ve got everything you need to know below.
What is basil?
Basil is a member of the mint family, and it’s usually considered a culinary herb. We tend to use sweet basil the most, although there are plenty of other types of basil out there too.1 It’s available in fresh and dried forms, and can quickly be grown on your windowsill or in your herb garden as well.
Basil has a long history of medicinal use too. Holy basil is regularly used in Tamil and Ayurvedic cultures, with a variety of reported health benefits and uses. Holy basil looks and tastes very different to sweet basil, although they are related.2
What are the different types of basil
Like we mentioned above, there are lots of types of basil. These may include:
- Sweet basil: You’ll usually find sweet basil in the supermarket, whether fresh or dried. This has a unique flavour and works well in Italian and Mediterranean dishes
- Greek basil: Greek basil is similar to sweet basil, although the flavour is milder. It’s a great alternative to sweet basil and can be used in many of the same recipes
- Thai basil: Common in Thai and Asian cuisine, Thai basil has a slightly spicy anise flavour and can be cooked for a longer time at high temperatures, unlike sweet basil3
- Lettuce basil: Lettuce basil has large leaves and a mild flavour, making it the perfect choice for salads and sandwiches. Use alongside baby leaf salads and rocket to create a unique flavour profile in your lunches4
- Holy basil: Also known as tulsi, Holy basil has a long history of religious and medicinal use. It is often used in supplements or as a tea and is reported to have a variety of health benefits5
Potential health benefits of different types of basil
Basil isn’t necessarily known for its health benefits. We tend to use small amounts when cooking, which means we don’t get all of the potential nutrients from this aromatic herb.6
However, you can buy plant-based supplements, like holy basil, that deliver plenty of helpful nutrients in more significant amounts. Taking a holy basil supplement or including it in your health routine could provide the following health benefits:
- Liver protection
- Reduced stress
- Supported immunity
- Improved blood sugar control7
While some research into basil supplements has been done, it’s worth remembering that scientific study is still ongoing into its health benefits and how it affects the body.
Who should avoid taking basil supplements
In large amounts, some research has suggested that basil can affect reproductivity in both men and women. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it could be worth avoiding using basil in large amounts.8
Last updated: 8 October 2020