12 Incredible Health Benefits of Basil

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Basil is an extremely popular herb for cooking, but it also has a number of potential health benefits.

What is Basil?

Also known as Saint Joseph’s wort, basil is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, and is native to tropical regions in India, Asia, and Africa. It contains a variety of constituents with a surprising range of benefits, including estragole, eugenol, rosmarinic acid, and geraniol, among others. Fresh tulsi or holy basil leaves have a strong smell and scent, with notes of pepper and mint, as well as a small taste of anise.

When cooking with fresh basil, it should almost always be added at the last possible moment to retain the delicate flavors. You may be topping a homemade pizza, making pesto, or simmering a spicy red curry, and fresh basil leaves will brighten up your finished product. Dried basil is also widely available, but is far less aromatic with less distinct flavors.

The dried leaves are less sweet and minty and possess a much stronger pepper flavor. Different varieties also have distinctive smells, such as sweet basil, which has notes of clove, and lemon basil, which contains limonene, just like many of your favorite citrus fruits. This herb is popular for its culinary uses along with medicinal benefits.

A bunch of basil leaves tied with a rope on a table

A bunch of vibrant basil leaves Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Basil, fresh
Serving Size :
Water [g]92.06
Energy 23
Energy [kJ]94
Protein [g]3.15
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.64
Ash [g]1.49
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]2.65
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.6
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.3
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.02
Fructose [g]0.02
Galactose [g]0.27
Calcium, Ca [mg]177
Iron, Fe [mg]3.17
Magnesium, Mg [mg]64
Phosphorus, P [mg]56
Potassium, K [mg]295
Sodium, Na [mg]4
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.81
Copper, Cu [mg]0.39
Manganese, Mn [mg]1.15
Selenium, Se [µg]0.3
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]18
Thiamin [mg]0.03
Riboflavin [mg]0.08
Niacin [mg]0.9
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.21
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.16
Folate, total [µg]68
Folate, food [µg]68
Folate, DFE [µg]68
Choline, total [mg]11.4
Betaine [mg]0.4
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]264
Carotene, beta [µg]3142
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]46
Vitamin A, IU [IU]5275
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]5650
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.8
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]0.16
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]414.8
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.04
16:0 [g]0.04
18:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.09
18:1 [g]0.09
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.39
18:2 [g]0.07
18:3 [g]0.32
Tryptophan [g]0.04
Threonine [g]0.1
Isoleucine [g]0.1
Leucine [g]0.19
Lysine [g]0.11
Methionine [g]0.04
Cystine [g]0.03
Phenylalanine [g]0.13
Tyrosine [g]0.08
Valine [g]0.13
Arginine [g]0.12
Histidine [g]0.05
Alanine [g]0.13
Aspartic acid [g]0.3
Glutamic acid [g]0.28
Glycine [g]0.12
Proline [g]0.1
Serine [g]0.1
Sources include : USDA [1]


A serving of 2 tablespoons of this fresh herb contains only 1 calorie. It has 0.2 grams of protein, 0.1 grams of carbs, 0.1 grams of fiber, and an impressive 16 grams of potassium. It contains 5% of your daily recommended vitamin A, 1% of your daily calcium requirement, and 1% of your daily requirement of iron.

Health Benefits

For centuries, basil has been considered an essential natural medicine in India especially in Ayurveda and Africa. Use of this herb has been prescribed for the following:

  • Improving digestion
  • Treating headaches
  • Fighting cold
  • Increasing mental alertness
  • Acts as an aphrodisiac
  • Improving sexual performance

There are many other benefits of tulsi, including the following:

Antimicrobial Agent

Basil has been shown to have strong effects when it comes to inhibiting the growth of bacteria like E. coli, cholera, staph, listeria, and Shigella. This is due to the presence of various oils and constituents that give it a strong aroma along with antimicrobial properties.

Anti-inflammatory Agent

The eugenol in basil reduces inflammation and swelling, acting as both a pain reducer and means of breaking a fever.

Heart Health

Basil is recommended for cardiovascular health due to its high levels of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that stops free radicals from damaging cells. It also prevents free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the bloodstream. [2]

Improves Sleep

This herb is a great source of magnesium, which improves blood flow and can aid in sleep issues.

Reduces Oxidative Stress

Studies have also shown that basil, rich in antioxidant properties aids in lowering blood sugar levels and managing diabetes. Reducing oxidative stress also supports liver function and prevents metabolic syndrome, providing a boost to the immune system at the same time. [3]

Anticancer Potential

Research has even shown that basil has the potential to protect you from cancer. This is due to the presence of phytochemicals like rosmarinic acid, eugenol, apigenin, and carnosic acid in it. These active ingredients help to prevent radiation-induced DNA damage. [4] [5]

One study has also revealed that clove basil has the potential to inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis. [6]

Reduces Stress

Basil is thought to reduce cortisol levels, which can help those people who are chronically suffering from depression or stress.

Skin Care

The combination of antioxidant chemicals with antibacterial benefits makes basil excellent for skin health. It aids in preventing acne and keeping your skin younger looking. It also helps reduce signs of aging such as wrinkles and increase skin elasticity. [7]


  • Serious cooks across the world love to have a pot of fresh basil growing in the kitchen – from creative cocktails to marinara sauce, basil is a culinary staple. [8]
  • Basil is a common ingredient in Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, and Italian cuisines.
  • It is used in soups and pesto and is often eaten fresh in Caprese salads.
  • It’s also one of the most popular dried spices due to its versatility and pleasant flavor that sets off so many dishes.
  • Holy basil or tulsi is an important medication in Ayurvedic natural medicine, where it is drunk as a tea and used as an extract.
  • The strong scent also makes this herb popular for home cleaning and laundry products. [9]

While there are countless ways to consume this herb, you should speak to a trained herbalist or natural healer about the best means of consuming it based on what effects you would like it to have.

Word of Caution: It is important to check with your doctor before taking this herb, particularly in medical doses, and especially for low blood pressure or bleeding disorders. Basil is not recommended in high doses for children, during pregnancy, or for women that are breastfeeding. Stop taking it two weeks before any surgery, due to its impact on blood-clotting.

DMCA.com Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

Rate this article
Average rating 4.3 out of 5.0 based on 25 user(s).