Basil

Basil is one of those great summer crops you can get all year round, but there's something special about basil in the summer. I love the smell of fresh basil and I love planting basil in between my tomato plants - I can almost see a dish forming right there in the garden. But there's more to basil than just its dynamic smell. Basil helps reduce inflammation and swelling, has anti-bacterial properties, and is full of antioxidants.

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Inflammation

Basil essential oil helps block the activity of the enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). Anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen) inhibit COX, but so does basil. Basil qualifies as an anti-inflammatory food that helps provide relief from inflammatory issues.

Anti-Bacterial

The essential oil of basil has anti-bacterial properties that protect against unwanted bacterial growth. 

Studies published in the February 2004 issue of Food Microbiology, have shown that washing produce in solution containing either basil or thyme essential oil at the very low concentration of just 1% resulted in dropping the number of Shigella, an infectious bacteria that triggers diarrhea and may cause significant intestinal damage, below the point at which it could be detected.

Think about adding some fresh basil to your next salad to help protect against any produce that may have some additional bacteria that you might have missed during washing.

Antioxidants

Basil is also high in antioxidants which fight against free radicals that can attach onto cells and cause cancer, specifically phenolics which include vicenin, orientin, eugenol and anthocyanins. They work together protecting cells from damage. 

So toss some fresh basil in your recipes and you'll start reaping its benefits before you even know it!