10 Amazing Basil Seeds Health Benefits & Uses

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Emily Borth

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Eating basil seeds may seem like one of the newest health trends but in reality, this has been in practice for thousands of years in many parts of the world. While the health benefits are impressive, it is critical to understand the source, as well as the potential uses and side effects before adding these seeds to your natural health regimen.

What are Basil Seeds?

Basil seeds are the seeds of the basil plant, which is also known as great basil or St. Joseph’s Wort. Scientifically known as Ocimum basilicum, the basil plant is known as one of the world’s most famous herbs, and is a popular addition to countless global dishes. However, the seeds of this plant are often overlooked, despite having a rich concentration of powerful compounds and active ingredients that can impact human health. Some of the key active ingredients in basil seeds are dietary fiber, iron, protein, phytochemicals, polyphenolic compounds, orientin, vicentin, and other powerful antioxidants.

Basil seeds are also known as sabja seeds, tukmaria seeds, and tukmalanga seeds, among others, are popular seeds in certain cultural cuisines, particularly as an addition to beverages and desserts. Note that these are the seeds from the sweet basil plant, rather than the holy basil plant. The seeds of that basil species are not typically consumed. Basil seeds are completely black and tear-shaped when dry, roughly the same size as chia seeds. While these seeds are not common, their potential health benefits are causing an increase in their popularity, and they are readily available in natural health food stores and online.

Basil Seeds Health Benefits

The most notable health benefits of basil seeds include their ability to improve digestive health, aid in weight loss efforts, boost the appearance of the skin, strengthen the hair, regulate blood sugar, cool the body, relieves stress, builds strong bones, lower blood pressure, improve vision, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and prevent certain infections.

Basil seed drink with a white bowl of dried basil seeds on a wooden table

Skin Care

With such an impressive concentration of antioxidants and flavonoids, basil seeds are able to improve the health of the skin and stimulate the growth of new cells. Antioxidants counter the effects of free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress and eventually lead to cellular mutation, resulting in wrinkles, age spots, and blemishes. Regular use of these seeds can reduce the appearance of those marks, as well as scars and act as an anti-aging substance.

The study led by Dr. Vaibhav Shinde from Poona College of Pharmacy, Maharashtra, India, throws light on the antioxidant and anti-aging properties of basil. “The study validates the traditional use of holy basil as a youth-promoting substance in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. It also helps describe how the herb acts at a cellular level,” says Shinde.

Hair Care

With a significant level of iron and various antioxidants, basil seeds can stimulate the production of hair and prevent premature hair loss. The iron is essential for circulation to drive blood to the scalp and is also required for the production of strong hair from the follicles. In women with iron deficiency, iron supplementation may increase the efficacy of hair loss treatment. The antioxidants in these seeds will help prevent inflammation and oxidative stress on the scalp, which can often lead to hair loss.

Weight Loss

Basil seeds are extremely high in fiber, which works to bulk up the stool and make you feel full to prevent overeating and snacking between meals. Furthermore, when these seeds are digested, they may swell to 20 times their original size, physically filling you up and satisfying your appetite, making it much easier to avoid those calorie-heavy snacks.

Lower Cholesterol Levels

Studies have shown that sweet basil seeds are directly associated with a decrease in LDL or bad cholesterol levels, which means a lower risk of atherosclerosis and plaque deposition in the arteries and blood vessels. This will also reduce strain on the heart and reduce your chances of heart attack and stroke. The cholesterol-lowering effect of basil seeds may be related to the soluble fiber they contain, which helps the body bind and eliminate cholesterol.

Control Blood Pressure

Research has found that the level of potassium in basil seeds is enough to directly impact blood pressure. This hypotensive effect is because potassium is a vasodilator, meaning that it can relax the tension in the arteries and blood vessels, thus reducing strain on the cardiovascular system.

Boost Bone Health

With a diverse range of minerals in basil seeds, including iron, potassium, copper, calcium, manganese, and magnesium, eating these seeds on a regular basis will help improve bone mineral density. This will lower your risk of developing osteoporosis, keeping you feeling young and strong as you age. A study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that the aqueous extracts of parsley, basil, and chicory protects bones against glucocorticoid-induced in rats.

Prevent Diseases

There is a notable amount of vitamin A and other antioxidants in basil seeds, which can help reduce oxidative stress and chronic inflammation around the body. This will lower the pressure on your immune system, and also prevent a number of different pathogenic infections and medical conditions. Chronic disease is also caused by an excess of free radicals in the body, which is countered by dietary supplementation with sabja seeds. Dr. Jayanthi Abraham, associate professor at VIT University, Vellore, India, in her study reveals antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer properties of basil seeds.

Diabetes Management

A paper published in the Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy journal studied the effect of basil seeds in animals. It concluded that the extracts of these seeds can have an antidiabetic effect on rats with diabetes. On the basis of this, it suggests that basil seeds could be used to help with type 2 diabetes as well as related complications such as liver dysfunction, diabetic nephropathy, and immunosuppression.

Cooling Effects

In many Asian countries, basil seeds are famed for their cooling effects on the body, as they can help retain the cold temperatures of beverages and essentially soothe the stomach. While this is a vague and somewhat arbitrary health benefit, these seeds are popularly consumed by people suffering from fevers and other inflammatory conditions, where this cooling effect seems most pronounced.

Relieve Stress

If your mind is racing and your stress levels continue to climb, a glass of water filled with basil seeds might be a quick and simple solution to your anxiety. A 30-day experiment conducted on rabbits shows the antistress effects of basil upon regular intake, thanks to its antioxidant properties. Thus, regular consumption of basil seeds can help reduce episodes of depression, boost your mood, and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body.

Improve Vision

Given these seeds’ notable amount of vitamin A, they are recommended for people with failing vision or those with high levels of oxidative stress. Vitamin A acts as a powerful antioxidant in the retina, preventing the development of cataracts and slowing down the advent of macular degeneration.

Relieve Pain

When it comes to conditions like arthritis, gout, headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), basil seeds are known to reduce the severity of those episodes and provide pain relief rather quickly. By preventing the release of pro-inflammatory compounds and cytokines, the active ingredients in these seeds take an active role in many common health conditions. A study published in the Journal of Bone Reports & Recommendations shows that beta-caryophyllene (a compound present in basil seeds) has a prominent anti-arthritic activity due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Culinary Uses of Basil Seeds

  • The primary use of basil seeds in most Asian countries is as a thickening agent for certain drinks, ranging from juice to nutritional shakes and smoothies.
  • When you submerge these seeds in water or other liquid, they become gelatinous and soft. This not only thickens the drinks but also boosts their nutritional potential significantly.
  • Basil seeds can also be included in sherbet and milkshakes, and they have a rather mild taste that doesn’t interfere with other flavors. That being said, they are primarily included in sweet foods and beverages.
  • It is simple to make your own basil seeds drinks at home; simply add 1/2 cup of basil seeds to a fruit smoothie or glass of juice for a nutrient-rich burst in your day.
  • You may also see this superfood as a topping for salads, but they also go well in soups, stews, yogurt, and pasta dishes.
  • The simplest way to consume these seeds is to add a 1/2 cup to a full glass of water. The seeds will swell to roughly 10x their original volume and will release more of their antioxidants and nutrients, making this a much healthier way to consume the seeds than eating them dry.

Basil Seeds Side Effects

These seeds can deliver a significant number of health benefits, but that comes along with a few side effects, such as the choking hazard they pose, as well as potential hormone fluctuations.

  • Pregnant Women: One of the side effects of basil seeds is their potential impact on hormone levels in the body, namely estrogen. This can be dangerous for pregnant women, as it can stimulate menstruation and may result in complications for the baby.
  • Thyroid Issues: Those who suffer from thyroid imbalances or other hormonal issues should not use these seeds before speaking with their doctor.
  • Choking Hazard: Due to the effect that water and liquids have on these seeds, an improper ratio of liquid to seeds can result in a large gelatinous clump that can potentially be difficult to swallow. For this reason, these seeds are not recommended for anyone with swallowing difficulties, young children or the elderly.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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