Basil: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Medically Reviewed on 7/7/2022
Basil: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Uses, and More
Learn about the nutritional benefits and uses of basil

Basil is a flavorful herb that is used widely in many different types of cuisines. 

In addition to being an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, basil also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that are good for your health.

Learn about the nutritional benefits and uses of basil.

What is the nutritional profile of basil?

Table: Nutritional facts about basil
Nutrient Value
Calories 23
Protein 3.15 grams
Total lipid (fat) 0.64 grams
Carbohydrates, by difference 2.65 grams
Fiber, total dietary 1.6 grams
Calcium 177 mg
Iron 3.17 mg
Magnesium 64 mg
Phosphorus 56 mg
Potassium 295 mg
Sodium 4 mg
Zinc 0.81 mg
Copper 0.39 mg
Manganese 1.15 mg
Selenium 0.3 µg
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid 18 mg
Thiamin 0.03 mg
Riboflavin [mg] 0.08 mg
Niacin [mg] 0.9 mg
Pantothenic acid [mg] 0.21 mg
Vitamin B-6 [mg] 0.16 mg
Folate, total [µg] 68 µg
Vitamin A, RAE [µg] 264 µg
Carotene, beta [µg] 3142 µg
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg] 46 µg
Vitamin A 5275 IU
Lutein + zeaxanthin 5650 µg
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.8 mg
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 414.8 µg
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.04 grams

7 health benefits of basil

1. Reduces oxidative stress

Basil has a high number of antioxidants, including eugenol, limonene, anthocyanins, and beta-carotene.

Antioxidants can effectively combat cell damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to a wide variety of diseases.

2. Reduces inflammation

Basil contains anti-inflammatory compounds, including eugenol, linalool, and citronellol.

The anti-inflammatory properties of these compounds can help prevent diseases caused by chronic inflammation.

3. Prevents heart disease

Eugenol present in basil can block calcium channels, which can significantly lower blood pressure levels in addition to bad cholesterol levels. Basil also contains magnesium, which improves blood flow and thus protects heart health.

4. Regulates blood sugar

In animal studies, basil extract has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and may help people with diabetes

5. Helps fight cancer

Basil contains phytochemicals that can help prevent different types of cancer, including cancers of the lung, liver, mouth, and skin.

6. Boosts the immune system

Basil has the potential to improve the immune system because it enhances the ability to destroy cells infected by viruses and T-helper cells. Basil has been used to help fight several infections due to its antibacterial properties. 

7. Improves mental health

According to some studies, basil may help improve mental health and brain health by:


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Who should avoid basil?

Basil is generally considered safe when used in amounts commonly found in food. However, prolonged use of basil supplements can be harmful.

People may need to avoid basil in the following cases:

What are different varieties of basil?

  • Sweet basil: Commonly used in Italian cuisine and has a licorice-clove-like flavor
  • Bush or Greek basil: Has a strong aroma with a mild flavor and can be substituted for sweet basil
  • Thai basil: Commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine and has an anise-licorice flavor
  • Cinnamon basil: Native to Mexico and has a cinnamon-like flavor and aroma
  • Lettuce basil: Has large, soft leaves with a licorice-like flavor

How to use basil

Basil can be used fresh or dried and is quite versatile in recipes:

  • Layer basil leaves with fresh mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes along with some fresh cracked black pepper and drizzle with olive oil
  • Use as a topping on pizza or pasta (whole or chopped)
  • Mix into homemade soups or sauces
  • Add to homemade pesto or hummus
  • Sprinkle over vegetables in a lasagna
  • Mix into a salad or use as a garnish

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Medically Reviewed on 7/7/2022
Image Source: iStock image

WebMD. Health Benefits of Basil.

Baliga MS, Jimmy R, Thilakchand KR, et al. Ocimum sanctum L (Holy Basil or Tulsi) and its phytochemicals in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2013;65 Suppl 1:26-35.

Khanna K, Kohli SK, Kaur R, et al. Herbal immune-boosters: Substantial warriors of pandemic Covid-19 battle. Phytomedicine. 2021 May;85:153361.