Naturopathic Kitchen: Basil

Close-up of a sweet basil plant.

Basil is a member of the mint family, but has its own distinct taste that blends sweet and savory. This fragrant leafy green herb adds a bright flavor to many different recipes and is particularly popular in Italian cuisine. This herb comes in a number of varieties and has multiple benefits for health.

 

Types of Basil

Sweet Basil

The most commonly used variety, sweet basil, is the type that you usually find in traditional Italian pesto, caprese salad, pasta, and marinades. It has large green cup-shaped leaves and a sweeter flavor than other varieties.

Holy Basil

Holy basil, also known as tulsi, looks similar to sweet basil but can be identified by its smaller leaves and fuzzy stem. It has been used in holistic medicine practices for centuries, including Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. 1 It has a sweet taste with a slight spice to it and is highly aromatic. It can be bitter if eaten raw and is usually used in cooked dishes and teas. Holy basil goes well in curries and other South Asian recipes.

Thai Basil

Thai basil has pointed green leaves and a dark purple stem. It is very flavorful, with some spice and licorice notes. It maintains its flavor well even when cooked at very high temperatures. This variety is often used in Thai dishes and other Asian cuisine.

Purple Basil

This variety has large cup-shaped leaves in a deep purple or burgundy color. Purple basil is not as sweet as other varieties and has a slight clove flavor, making it highly aromatic and a great addition to salad dressings, marinades, and infused vinegars. It also makes a good garnish for any dish that could use a bit of color.

Health Benefits of Basil

Basil contains plant compounds associated with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 2 3  These compounds are also what gives basil its distinctive taste and aroma. 4 

While more studies need to be conducted to cement the findings, initial research shows that basil can help to regulate blood sugar in patients with diabetes. 5 

Early research also suggests that increased consumption of basil improves general stress levels and helps improve mental wellbeing. 6 

Basil is generally safe to consume, but it is high in Vitamin K which can interfere with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin if you are eating a lot of basil-heavy recipes or taking it as a supplement. 7 If you are on a blood thinner, speak to your healthcare provider before increasing your intake of this herb.

Fresh Corn, Blueberry, and Basil Salad

This simple salad comes together easily. If you would prefer to avoid using a hot oven in the summer, the corn can also be grilled on the barbecue. Leaving the husks and silk intact while roasting or grilling results in soft, tender corn. They are easily removed once the corn is cooked.

Ingredients

  • 5  ears non-GMO/organic corn, including husks and silk
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • 1 1⁄2 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced into half moons
  • 2 cups arugula, rinsed

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Roast the corn, turning once or twice until some of the kernels begin to turn light brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Once cool, remove leaves and silk. Grate corn using a chef’s knife, cutting in a downward motion.

Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in a jar or bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

Combine corn, blueberries, basil, and cucumber. Pour dressing over and mix well to combine. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

To serve, divide arugula evenly between 4 bowls and then pile the corn mixture on top.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in the healing capacity of food and other natural health practices, naturopathic medicine may be a good fit for you.

 

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