Eating basil seeds may seem like a new health fad but in reality, this is an established and traditional practice in many parts of the world. While its 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 one of the world’s most famous herbs, and is used in numerous cuisines across the world. 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.
There are many types of basil, including hybrids that are also often counted as basil. This includes varieties like tulsi, Thai basil, lemon basil, and holy basil. 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 have caused an increase in their popularity. 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, build strong bones, lower blood pressure, improve vision, reduce inflammations, lower cholesterol, and prevent certain infections.
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 acts as an anti-aging substance, reducing the appearance of age-related marks and scars.
With a significant level of iron and various antioxidants, basil seeds can stimulate the production of hair and prevent premature hair loss. The iron helps blood circulation to the scalp. It also helps in the growth of strong hair from the follicles. In women with iron deficiency, iron supplements are usually recommended to ensure the efficacy of hair loss treatment. Basil seeds provide a natural alternative to these pills. The antioxidants in these seeds will also help prevent inflammation and oxidative stress on the scalp, which is one of the major reasons for hair loss.
Basil seeds are extremely high in fiber, which works to bulk up the stool and make you feel full. This prevents 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.
Lowers 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.
Controls Blood Pressure
Basil is used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating a host of chronic diseases, including hypertension. An animal study published the journal Hypertension Research found that basil has an effect on lipid metabolism and platelets. As a result, its consumption can help in controlling blood pressure. Another study on the efficacy of natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension credits this effect to one of basil’s essential components, eugenol. It helps by blocking the calcium channels.
Boosts 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. An animal 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.
Multiple studies show antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer properties of basil seeds. 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 many 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 basil seeds.
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.
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.
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. Regular consumption of basil seeds can help reduce episodes of depression, boost your mood, and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body.
Given its notable amount of vitamin A, basil seeds 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.
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 Research and Reports 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 seed drink at home. Simply add 1/2 cup of basil seeds to a fruit smoothie or glass of juice for a nutrient-rich boost to your day.
- You may also see this superfood as a topping for salads., 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.