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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

The Modern Legacy of Blessed Basil

Since the dawn of civilization, herbs have been used for medicinal purposes. Many centuries ago, a group of dedicated Benedictine monks in Italy took the time to laboriously copy over a rare manuscript they owned on the use of various herbs and their medicinal value. Without their dedicated work, it’s possible that we would simply disregard the many powerful and life-enhancing herbs that grow abundantly all around the world. Thankfully, today we have access to a wealth of information about thousands of herbs and their potential effect on the human body.

One of the most popular and easy to grow herbs is basil. Although commonly known as an Italian herb, basil is actually native to India, Iran and some tropical regions of Asia. It is a member of the mint family, with leaves that release a spicy scent when crushed. This annual plant comes in several varieties, including sweet basil, lemon basil, licorice or Thai basil, cinnamon basil and purple basil.

In addition to tasting great in soups, sauces and many other dishes, basil contains a host of vitamins, minerals and health boosters. Basil leaves contain essential oils that are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Basil also 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. The vitamin K found in basil is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood and plays a vital role in strengthening the bones.

Basil contains minerals, too, including iron, potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Iron is a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells and determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

Basil is antiseptic, checks the formation of gas in the gastrointestinal track and aids in dispelling any gas that has already formed. It can strengthen and tone the stomach and stimulate the appetite by promoting digestive secretions. It can also stimulate the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. A tea made from basil leaves can help nausea and dysentery.

The best part about basil is the ease in planting and cultivating its leaves. Basil can be grown in the garden or in a window pot near plenty of sunlight. As an outdoor plant, basil grows throughout the summer, producing abundant leaves when frequently pruned. When purchasing basil, look for crisp, vibrant green leaves, with no sign of decay. To store excess basil leaves for use throughout the winter, place them in a jar with a pinch of Himalayan salt and cover with olive oil. Basil can also be dried out for several days and stored in airtight bags. When using dried basil in place of fresh, cut the quantity in half.

Basil Spinach

½ cup walnuts ½ cup sunflower seeds 1 large clove garlic 4 cups spinach, packed very tightly ½ cup fresh basil 1 tsp olive oil 2 Tbsp coconut aminos -( Pinch cayenne pepper 1 cup mushrooms ½ red bell pepper

Soak the walnuts and sunflower seeds in 4 cups filtered water overnight and drain. Chop the mushrooms, garlic, spinach, basil, walnuts, sunflower seeds, olive oil, coconut aminos and pepper in the food processor until well blended. Serve as a side dish or as a dip for fresh vegetables.

Tomato Basil Raw Soup

3 cups very ripe tomatoes 1 clove garlic 1 cup red bell pepper 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice ½ cup fresh basil 1 tsp Himalayan salt 1 Tbsp olive oil 2 Tbsp water

Put all ingredients in the Vita-Mix and blend until creamy and smooth. If you blend longer, the soup will naturally heat up.

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