Thai Basil

All the Health and Dietary Benefits to one of the most popular Herbs in Thailand

Sweet Basil

One of the oldest herbs known to mankind is Thai Basil and it's widely used in Thailand. There are numerous plant species of basil grown around the country and now obtainable in supermarkets and oriental shops throughout the western world. There is also lemon scented hairy basil, sweet basil and holy basil varieties of this herb found in Thailand.

Thai Basil is also known as Asian Basil or Oriental Basil, and is a close cousin of sweet basil. It's frequently used in Thai cuisine. This particular basil is often referred to as anise or licorice basil because of its unique taste sensation.

Sweet Basil or Bai Horapa found in abundance in the west comes close to the Mediterranean variety. The leaves are a shiny, deep green colour and arranged on purple-hued stems. They also have a faint aniseed taste and when added to curries and salads, they impart a fresh spicy flavour.

Holy Basil or Bai Krapow is another type of sweet basil that has rather dull, narrow green leaves which tend to have serrated red or purple edges. They also have a much more pungent flavour when added to spicy dishes.

Hairy Basil or Bai Manglak is a lemon-scented basil that has a slightly peppery taste. It's seldom seen outside Thailand as it does not travel well.

Lemon scented Hairy Basil

Health Benefits

1) Basil has plenty of powerful antioxidants to potentially protect your body from damage caused by toxins and free radicals.

2) Basil helps prevent memory loss associated with old age.

3) Basil helps in the treatment of constipation, stomach cramps, indigestion and flatulence when used as a tea.

4) Basil together with thyme helps in the prevention of food poisoning when added to both cooked and uncooked foods.

5) The essential oil in basil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

6) The essential oil in basil helps in the fight against inflammation, thereby ideal for treating arthritis.

7) The essential oil in basil has an anti vomiting agent to help suppress vomiting caused from the sea and other motion sicknesses.

8) The essential oil in basil has effective properties to provide relief from colds, influenza, whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis and sinus infections.

9) The essential oil in basil is effective in helping stress related problems and provides a calming effect when used in aromatherapy massage.

10) The essential oil in basil helps enhance the luster of dull looking hair.

11) The essential oil in basil has effective properties to help improve the skin by reducing acne and pimples and other skin problems such as psoriasis.

Thai Basil

Dietary Source

1) Basil is a great source of fiber

2) It's a rich source of Beta-carotene

3) It's a great source of magnesium

4) It's a great source of iron

5) It's a great source of calcium

6) It's a great source of potassium

7) It contains vitamins C and K

8) It contains two important water-soluble flavonoids to help protect cell structures and chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage.

What are flavonoids! They are natural nutrients found in foods of plant origin and play a potentially advantageous role in the prevention and treatment of disease thus necessary to sustain human life.

Spicy Squid with Sweet Basil

Preparation and Storage

Whether adding basil to cooked foods or salads, avoid chopping the leaves, but rather strip them from their stems and either tear them into pieces, or add them whole. It's as simple as that. To store them, wrap bunches of basil in paper towels and then place in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator or alternatively stand them up in a jug or cylindrical bowl half full of water and cover with a lid or plastic bag. That way, they'll last a few days.

Growing Thai Basil

If you are having difficulty in finding fresh supplies of basil for that special Thai Recipe you want to create, it might be worth considering growing your own from seed. There are lots of garden and hardware markets all over the world selling a full range of the Thai basil variety. Basil is a herb that can grow well in all sorts of hot climates apart from the Nevada or Sahara deserts of course. You start them off in pots on a warm window sill and keep moving them if there's a frost threat. Basil can also grow in your garden.

More Herbs and Spices you may like to try

Kaffir Lime and Leaves is a sub-species of the citrus family, has a strong fragrance and flavour and is highly prized in Thai cuisine.

Curry Leaves are excellent as a herbal tonic and is similar in style to bay leaves, but with a hint of green pepper and has a tangerine fragrance.

Cilantro is an edible herb known as Pak Chee in Thailand, but in other countries it's known as coriander. It is also sometimes known as Chinese Parsley. 

Lemongrass is a wonderful aromatic herb with a distinct lemony flavour but more than that, it also provides a whole host of herbal and therapeutic benefits.

Galangal is popularly known as Krachai in Thailand and is considered to be more of a spice than a herb. It has a strong and sharp peppery flavour.

Tamarind is available in a variety of forms. It's available as fresh, compressed blocks and dried slices, all of which have been around for quite some time.

Thai Long Pepper is a tangy spice known as Dee Plee to the local Hmong Hill Tribe people of northern Thailand. It's also referred to as Piper Chaba.

Chilli Peppers needs no real introduction. They are good for your heart, they improve blood circulation and best of all, they also help to lift your spirits.

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