A favorite in many types of ethnic cooking, all basil, particularly Italian, sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a nutritionally potent herb to include in your diet, home medicine kit, and your garden.

The primary biologically active ingredient in sweet basil is a compound called eugenol, which gives sweet basil its distinct scent and many of its health protective benefits. Eugenol has antioxidant properties, and along with other flavonoids contained in sweet basil, helps protect the body’s cells and tissues from free radical damage. A good source of the mineral magnesium, basil also supports healthy circulation. Other health benefits of basil include anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects.

Essential oils made from basil are often used for treating cuts and skin infections. Basil is often included in aromatherapy preparations that promote relaxation. When planting your spring garden, be sure to include basil. The herb acts as a natural insect repellent.

Sweet basil is available as a fresh herb, dried spice, tea, and oil or tincture preparation. Anyone who takes a blood thinner should check with a physician before taking basil as a nutritional supplement. If you’re allergic to herbs in the mint family, you might also be allergic to basil. Before taking sweet basil as a nutritional supplement, consult with a holistic physician to determine the best form for your needs.