Basil Nutrition facts and health benefits

Organic Food

There are several herbs which are called by the name basil and they all are clubbed under the mint family of Lamiaceae.  It is an aromatic annual herb. The basil leaves that are commonly used in cooking belong to the basil plant whose scientific name is Ocimum basillicum L. The term basil originates from the Greek word basileus which means “king” (1, 2).

Basil is cultivated extensively in Asia, Africa, South America and in the Mediterranean (1). Basil plant cross pollinates easily and therefore there are several species which come under the genus Ocimum. Based on the place its grown basil is known by different names. In English basil is called common basil or sweet basil. In India it goes by the name Tulsi (2). There are more than 160 types of basil available and the most commonly known one is sweet basil (O. basilicum).

Basil flavour varies and it may smell like cinnamon or liquorice or lemon or anise. The essential oil present in the leaves is responsible for the distinct aroma whether it is that of sweet basil or cinnamon basil (2).

Nutrition facts of basil

Fresh basil is made up of 92 % water. Basil is a good source of minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. It is also a good source of vitamins such as folate, vitamin A and vitamin K (3).

The moisture content of dried basil is about 10 %. Dried basil is a source of 47 % carbohydrate 37 % fiber and 22 % of protein. After drying the micronutrient concentration that is the mineral and vitamin content in basil goes up.

Phytoconstituents of Tulsi

Tulsi leaves contain 0.7 % volatile oil, 71 % of which is eugenol and 20 % methyl eugenol. The volatile oil also contains carvacrol and sesquiterpene hydrocarbon caryophyllene. The leaves contain phenolic compounds which exhibit antioxidant activity, flavonoids. Tulsi contains a number of sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes too (4).

Uses of basil

Basil is widely used as herb. It is used for various purposes and in different forms. Basil leaves are used as fresh leaves or in the dried form or as frozen or in the powdered form. The essential oils are extracted and are also used (2).

Fresh and dried basil are used to season tomato dishes, vegetable dishes, salads, soups, fish and meat dishes. The basil extracts with aromatic compounds are also used in other commodities such as flavouring agents, dental, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products (1).

Herbs including basil are used in small quantities. Fresh and dry basil are good sources of antioxidants and minerals. Even when used in small amounts the micronutrients and antioxidants in the long run would contribute beneficially towards health.

Health benefits of holy basil (Tulsi) and sweet basil

Many medicines are made from plants as they are rich in secondary metabolites and essential oils which have therapeutic properties. Medicines from plants have advantages such as safety, effectiveness, easily available and most important they are economical. Because of all these benefits medicinal plants such as basil have been used a lot in traditional medicine (5).

In many countries be it India or Turkey or Bulgaria basil has been used in traditional or folk medicines to treat a variety of complaints from acne to heart ailments (6). Basil has been used in Ayurveda, and Unani medicine to cure skin issues.

Tulsi or holy basil

Tulsi or the holy basil earlier called as Ocimum sanctum and now Ocimum tenuiflorum has been mentioned in Ayurveda medicine for a long time (1). Tulsi is also called “Queen of herbs” because of the medicinal value it has and also because of its mention in Hindu mythology (5). It is considered a sacred plant with medicinal properties and in Sanskrit the word Tulsi means “incomparable”.

Holy basil has been said to be beneficial in combating oral problems and it also has been thought to have

  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Ulcer healing
  • Antioxidant
  • Immune-modulatory properties (5).

In a review of the literature published on holy basil where the form of basil used and dose and the time periods of the study varied, they concluded that holy basil reduced fasting and postprandial blood glucose, improved lipid profile and also decreased blood pressure of the subjects who were diabetic and obese (1).

The data collected for a review suggest that Tulsi is a safe herbal intervention which may help in normalising glucose, blood pressure and lipid profiles. It also aids with psychological and immunological stress (7).

Tulsi has been known to be taken to deal with fever, common cold, cough, sore throat, respiratory problems, stress, mouth infections, skin and teeth issues, head aches etc (4).

It was also found that Tulsi reduced anxiety and stress. At the same time basil improved memory and cognitive attention. There were no adverse effects reported during the studies by the participants (1).

Holy basil also improved immune response (1).

Sweet basil

Sweet basil has several health benefits such as prevents and treats cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, menstrual cramps, digestive disorders, neuro-degenerated disorders and cancer. It has been also stated that it has antioxidant, antimicrobial and larvicidal properties. Several components present in sweet basil are reported to be responsible for the beneficial effects (6).

Final word

Basil whether it is sweet basil or holy basil is used as culinary herb to season several dishes. At the same time, they have so many medicinal uses that makes basil a precious herb. Well-designed research work is needed to confirm certain claims. But there is no doubt that basil provides innumerable benefits. Therefore, it is important to be aware of all the benefits it can bestow on us and use basil as regularly as we can in our daily lives.



  1. Singletary, K. W. (2018) Basil: A brief summary of potential health benefits, Nutrition Today. Vol. 53(2).

  1. Al-Maskari, M.Y., Hanif, M.A., Al-Maskri, A.Y. and AlAdawi, S. (2012) Basil: A natural source of antioxidants and neutraceuticals, Natural Products and Their Active Compounds on Disease Prevention.

  1. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture. Basic Report:  342608, Basil, raw.

  1. Deshmukh, A. S., Deshmukh, G. B. and Shirole, P. D. (2015) Ocimum sanctum: A medicinal gift from nature, International Journal of Pharmacognosy. Vol. 2(12).

  1. Mehrotra, V., Garg, K., Sharma, P. and Singh, R. (2015) Holy Basil: A natural healer for human suffering, European Journal of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Vol. 2(4).

  1. Purushothaman, B., Srinivasan, R.P., Suganthi, P., Ranganathan, B., Gimbun, J. and Shanmugam, K. (2018) A Comprehensive Review on Ocimum basilicum, Journal of Natural Remedies. 18(3).

  1. Jamshidi, N. and Cohen, M. M. (2017) The clinical efficacy and safety of Tulsi in humans: a systematic review of the literature, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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