Eating basil seeds is one of the newest health trends and has been a 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, depending on where you are in the world. 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, vitamin K, iron, protein, phytochemicals, polyphenolic compounds, orientin, vicentin, and other powerful antioxidants.
Basil seeds are also known as sabja seeds and 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 commonly found in many places, their potential health benefits are causing an increase in their popularity, and they are readily available in natural health food stores.
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, cools the body, relieves stress, builds strong bones, lowers blood pressure, improve vision, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and prevent certain infections.
With such an impressive concentration of antioxidants and flavonoids, these seeds are definitely able to improve the health of the skin and stimulate the growth of new cells. The antioxidants are able to counter the effects of free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress and eventually lead to cellular mutation. On the skin, this results in wrinkles, age spots, and blemishes, but regular use of these seeds can reduce the appearance of those marks, as well as scars. Additionally helping to improve the elasticity of the skin also helps make these seeds an anti-aging superfood!
With a significant level of iron and various antioxidants, as well as vitamin K, these 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. The antioxidants in these seeds will help prevent inflammation and oxidative stress on the scalp, which can often lead to hair loss.
Basil seeds are extremely high in fiber, which works to bulk up stool and make you feel full, which can 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 “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.
Control Blood Pressure
Similarly, research has found that the level of potassium in these 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 to support your bone mineral density. This will lower your risk of developing osteoporosis, keeping your feeling young and strong as you age.
There is a notable amount of vitamin A and other antioxidants in basil seeds, which can help to 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.
Control Blood Sugar
A number of studies have shown that the active ingredients, such as dietary fiber, found in basil seeds are able to control blood sugar levels. For people suffering from type 2 diabetes, this is a very important benefit of these seeds, as the inability to control insulin and glucose levels is a potentially deadly part of that condition. A glass of water with basil seeds in the morning can improve your insulin sensitivity throughout the whole day.
In many Asian countries, basil seeds are famed for their cooling effects on the body, as they can help to 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. Research has found that regular consumption of basil seeds can help to reduce episodes of depression, boost your mood, and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body.
Given these seeds’ notable amount of vitamin A, they are often 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.
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 basil 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.
Hormones: 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. 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.