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Basil herb nutrition facts

The king of herbs, basil herb is one of the oldest and popular herbal plant rich in many notable health benefiting phyto-nutrients. This highly prized plant is revered as "holy herb" in many traditions all over the world.

Basil belongs to the family of Lamiaceae, of the genus: Ocimum. Its scientific name is "Ocimum basilicum."

Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia. This bushy annual herbal plant is grown for its medicinally useful leaves and seeds. Basil grows best in warm, tropical climates. Fully-grown plant reaches on an average about 100 cm in height. The leaves are light green, silky about 2.5 inches long and 1 inch broad with opposite arrangement. The flowers are quite big, white in color and arranged in a terminal spike.

Different varieties of basil herb exist. "Mediterranean" cultivar is typically called sweet basil, has light green leaves as opposite to "Asian basil" (Ocinum sanctum) that has large, hairy stems and stalks with pink flowers, purple or red leaves and has stronger ‘clove’ like flavor. There is also lemon basil, which has "lemon" flavor. Thai basil (O. basilicum 'Horapha') is similar in characteristics to Asian basil but features narrow, pointed, light green color leaves with a sweet licorice aroma.

Health benefits of Basil herb

  • Basil leaves contain many notable plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.

  • Basil herb contains many polyphenolic flavonoids like orientin and vicenin. These compounds were tested in vitro laboratory studies for possible anti-oxidant protection against radiation-induced lipid per-oxidation in mouse liver.

  • Basil leaves contains many health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene and terpineol. These compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

  • The herbs parts are very low in calories and contain no cholesterol, but are very rich source of many essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.

  • Basil herb contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin A, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease process.

  • Zeaxanthin, a yellow flavonoid carotenoid compound, is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it found to filter harmful UV rays from reaching retina. Herbs, fruits, and vegetables that are rich in this compound help to protect from age related macular disease (AMRD), especially in the elderly.

  • Vitamin A is known to have antioxidant properties and is essential for vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A has been found to help body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

  • Vitamin K in basil is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood and plays vital role in the bone strengthening function by helping mineralization process in the bones.

  • Basil herb contains good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

  • Basil leaves are an excellent source of iron, contains 3.17 mg/100 g of fresh leaves (about 26% of RDA). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.


See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Basil herb (Ocimum basilicum), Fresh leaves,
Nutritive value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 23 Kcal 1%
Carbohydrates 2.65 g 2%
Protein 3.15 g 6%
Total Fat 0.64 g 2%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 1.60 g 4%

Folates 68 µg 17%
Niacin 0.902 mg 6%
Pantothenic acid 0.209 mg 4%
Pyridoxine 0.155 mg 12%
Riboflavin 0.076 mg 6%
Thiamin 0.034 mg 2.5%
Vitamin A 5275 IU 175%
Vitamin C 18 mg 30%
Vitamin E 0.80 mg 5%
Vitamin K 414.8 µg 345%

Sodium 4 mg 0%
Potassium 295 mg 6%

Calcium 177 mg 18%
Copper 385 mg 43%
Iron 3.17 mg 40%
Magnesium 64 mg 16%
Manganese 1.15 mg 57%
Zinc 0.81 mg 7%

Carotene-ß 3142 µg --
Crypto-xanthin-ß 46 µg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 5650 µg --

Selection and storage

Basil plant can be grown in a pot in the backyard so that fresh leaves are readily available for use whenever the need arises.

In the herb store, choose fresh organic basil over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in quality and flavor. Fresh basil leaves should feature deep green in color and free from dark spots or yellowing. Dry basil leaves and seeds can be found in these stores, however, sun dried as well as radiation-treated basil leaves may contain significantly decreased vitamin-C and carotenoids levels.

Fresh basil herb should be stored in the refrigerator set at appropriate humidity. Dried basil should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for up to six months.

Preparation and serving methods

Wash fresh Basil in cold running water or rinse for few minutes to remove any dust or pesticide residues. In order to keep the fragrance and flavor intact, it is generally added at the last moment in the cooking recipes, since prolonged cooking results in evaporation of its essential oils.

Basil leaves are used to flavor any vegetable, poultry, or meat dish. Basil is also often used in tomato and egg dishes, stews, soups, and salads.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Fresh or dried basil leaves are being used in the preparation of soups and dishes.

  • Chopped fresh basil leaves impart richness to vegetable as well as fruit salads.

  • Basil herb is one of the main ingredients in ‘pesto’, a green sauce that is added to soups, vegetables, and fish, and to pasta in Mediterranean cooking.

  • A kind of flavor drink made of Basil seeds is popular in Asian countries.

Medicinal uses of basil herb

  • Basil leaves contains many health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene and terpineol. These compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

  • An important essential oil, eugenol has been found to have anti-inflammatory function by acting against the enzyme cycloxygenase(COX), which mediates inflammatory cascade in the body. This enzyme-inhibiting effect of the eugenol in basil makes it an important remedy for symptomatic relief in individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and inflammatory bowel conditions.

  • Oil of basil herb has also been found to have anti-infective functions by inhibiting many pathogenic bacteria like Staphylococcus, Enterococci, shigella and Pseudomonas.

  • Basil tea (basil water-brewed) helps relieve nausea and is thought to have mild anti-septic functions.


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