Basil: Healthy or Carcinogenic?

Basil – healthy and delicious? Sure, but what about during pregnancy, and what about the carcinogenic substances in basil?

Basil is a healthy component of Mediterranean cuisine and has been successfully integrated into domestic cuisine for years. Whether in caprese, pesto, on pizza or in delicious spaetzle dough – the medicinal plant is very popular. But is basil healthy during pregnancy? After all, it should also contain carcinogenic substances…

Basil: Healthy culinary herb with healing effects?

Basil (lat. Ocimum basilicum) is a plant that has a particularly good effect on various ailments. These effects make the herb very popular – after all, we also want the healing powers of the plant to work on us.

It actually suits us quite well that the plant also tastes so delicious and not quite as unpleasant as a nasty cough syrup. The aromatic herb is sometimes also called royal herb or basil and is a representative of the so-called mint family – but perhaps not everyone has seen a flowering basil plant, even if that can happen very quickly even at home. Good to know: the essential oil content of the leaves is at its highest just before flowering.

That’s why we turn back to the question of what basil can actually do and how healthy it is – or not. As with so many plant species, there are different types of basil that differ in terms of ingredients in that they contain different amounts. The Genovese basil is the one we use most often – it’s also in the pesto alla Genovese.

Basil: Carcinogenic Substances?

Basil has many different ingredients. The spectrum ranges from essential oils to substances that are actually considered carcinogenic. Does that make the basil diet dangerous and what’s the deal with basil during pregnancy?

First of all, there are carcinogenic substances in basil, but they are usually harmless. You’d have to eat 20 or more basil leaves a day for weeks and months to really get into potentially unhealthy areas.

The substances estragole and methyleugenol are to blame for the rumor that basil is carcinogenic. In animal experiments, scientists once found that these have a carcinogenic effect on rats, i.e. carcinogenic. It has also been proven that they can change the genetic material.

Therefore, in 2002, the Federal Office for Risk Research warned against excessive consumption and set limit values ​​that the plants should not exceed, as a kind of order to the breeders. Therefore, the moderate consumption of basil is considered harmless in this regard. It is also good to know that this effect has not yet been scientifically proven in humans.

Even when using basil oil as an essential oil – as is common in Ayurveda, for example – care should be taken not to use too large quantities, since estragole and methyleugenol are part of the essential oil in basil.

Basil during pregnancy: what you should pay attention to

Even pregnant women do not have to worry about the carcinogenic substances when eating them. The ingredients are harmless in the usual amounts, even during pregnancy. Nevertheless, there is a connection that could be problematic when looking at basil and pregnancy – if you consume a lot of it, i.e. several times a day for a long time.

This is the ingredient camphor (or camphor). This is considered to be a stimulant in high amounts. However, you don’t need to worry too much about it during your pregnancy, as normal amounts of basil in the diet cannot trigger this effect. So, you can eat basil when you are pregnant without worrying.

Basil: ingredients that do good

Despite the carcinogenic substances and despite the camphor, basil is healthy thanks to its ingredients, because these substances only occur in small amounts, as mentioned. Therefore, you can also get health benefits from the herb with a view to a healthy diet.

The following ingredients make basil, whether pure, in basil oil or basil tea, a medicinal plant:

  • Vitamin A
  • vitamin k
  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B2
  • vitamin C
  • beta-carotene
  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • niacin
  • Linalool (in essential oil)
  • Eugenol (in essential oil)
  • monoterpenes
  • sesquiterpenes
  • Linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid)
  • tannins
  • flavonoids
  • caffeic acid

Basil: Healthy medicinal properties of the herb

Basil should only be consumed in small amounts. Then it is beneficial for your diet and can have beneficial health effects. We have clearly listed for you what other positive health effects Ocimum basilicum actually has. dr medical Gudrun Lind-Albrecht states the following basil effects in a guest article for the German Morbus Bechterew Association:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • pain relieving
  • antioxidant
  • antibacterial (e.g. against listeria, E.coli and staphylococci
  • cholesterol lowering
  • preventive against osteoporosis

However, it also notes that people who take certain blood thinners should be cautious about eating basil.

In naturopathy, however, the properties of basil are also used. Here, the use of the medicinal plant is expected to have effects against a feeling of fullness, loss of appetite and digestive problems, as the Munich Tumor Center writes. There are also various studies (here and here) that certify that certain plant extracts from the plant have an anti-cancer effect.

So, in the end, it all comes down to the amount of herb you ingest. Ocimum basilicum is healthy and has a number of amazing properties that validate its status as a medicinal herb. And the fact that carcinogenic and anti-cancer substances are contained in a plant shows that good and bad are often not that far apart – even when it comes to aromatic spices in the kitchen, it cannot be denied.

Avatar photo

Written by Paul Keller

With over 16 years of professional experience in the Hospitality Industry and a deep understanding of Nutrition, I am able to create and design recipes to suit all clients needs. Having worked with food developers and supply chain/technical professionals, I can analyze food and drink offerings by highlight where opportunities exist for improvement and have the potential to bring nutrition to supermarket shelves and restaurant menus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rosemary: Effect Of The Healthy Medicinal Plant

Sage: Effects, Side Effects And Uses