Basil Seeds: The Native Chia Alternative

The health potential of basil seeds has long been known in Far Eastern medicine and cuisine. They have similar properties to the chia seeds imported from South America and can therefore replace them very well.

Basil seeds: The European chia seeds

Basil seeds (Ocimum basilicum) look very similar to the now well-known chia seeds. In contrast to the somewhat gray-colored chia seeds, however, basil seeds are completely black and somewhat elongated in shape.

Chia seeds have been touted as a superfood for some time due to their high nutritional content and beneficial effects on digestion. However, they are imported from Central and South America, so some would prefer to switch to European alternatives.

Basil seeds are one such alternative. They come from southern Europe, such as Italy, but are of course also cultivated in other countries and have been used there for many hundreds of years, for example in India, where falooda is a popular dessert, for which the basil seeds are used as a thickening agent. Falooda consists of basil seeds, milk, sugar, Falooda Sev (fine noodles made from corn, sago, or tapioca starch), rose syrup, and ice cream.

After adding water, a gel forms

Just like chia seeds, basil seeds form a gel when mixed with water. It is therefore used in many Asian countries as a thickening agent in the kitchen, but also for medicinal purposes. They are said to have antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and antifungal properties. Unfortunately, there are only a few scientific studies on basil seeds so far. One therefore still relies on what Far Eastern physicians have known for a long time and have gained experience with over the centuries.

Basil seed is used to regulate blood sugar

As is usual with high-fiber foods, basil seeds can also help prevent blood sugar spikes. They can therefore also be used excellently by people with type 2 diabetes. A study from December 2016 showed that an aqueous extract of basil seeds has an antidiabetic (blood sugar lowering) effect and the seeds could therefore be used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and to prevent associated complications such as kidney disease, liver dysfunction, etc.

Basil seed relief from heartburn

Basil seed gel develops through contact with water. The soluble fibers now pass from the outer layer of the seeds into the water. The gel has an extremely positive effect on the health of the digestive system – similar to flaxseed mucilage.

The mucous membranes are protected, the intestinal flora is nourished and peristalsis is stimulated, so that – as with linseed and chia seeds – a digestive effect occurs. The antispasmodic effect also relieves stomach cramps and flatulence. The absorbent gel also helps with heartburn.

To treat constipation, drink 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of basil seeds, which have been soaked in a large glass of water (250 ml) for at least 30 minutes, in the evening (1-2 hours before bedtime).

Basil seeds suppress appetite

Because the seeds expand in water to thirty times their original size, they fill you up quickly, reducing appetite and aiding in weight loss. To do this, drink a glass of water (250 ml) half an hour before meals, into which (30 minutes before taking) a spoonful (tsp/tbsp) of basil seeds has been stirred.

Respiratory help

Traditionally, basil seeds are used for colds, flu, coughs, and asthma because of their antispasmodic effects on the bronchi.

Mood lift

The small seeds are also said to elevate mood and help with depression and migraine headaches.

Relief from skin ailments

Basil seeds can be ground and mixed with oil. In this form, they are used in Far Eastern countries to treat wounds, cuts, or skin infections. To do this, take 100 ml of coconut oil and add 1 teaspoon of ground basil seeds. The mix is ​​now heated for 5 minutes, filtered or strained, and can now be applied to problematic skin areas such as psoriasis and eczema.

For fresh breath and healthy teeth

Chewing some basil seeds over and over will bring fresh breath. The antibacterial properties of the seeds also help fight tooth decay and plaque, so regular chewing of basil seeds improves long-term oral and dental health.

Basil seeds reduce inflammation

The anti-inflammatory properties of the basil seeds led to the fact that the seeds were or are prescribed in Ayurveda for arthritis to reduce swelling in the joints and also against deposits in the blood vessels. The latter is also always accompanied by inflammatory reactions on the blood vessel walls.

Basil Seeds: The Nutrient Values

Not all the nutritional values of basil seeds are known yet. However, problematic substances were not found in it, so that their consumption is considered safe, such as u. found in a 2017 study. They examined the nutritional profile of basil seeds and assessed the safety of their consumption. It turned out that basil seeds can be eaten without any problems, so they do not pose any health risks.

In addition, the researchers explained that the seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, and minerals – certainly part of the reason that basil seeds are occasionally served with sugar syrup during the Islamic month of fasting to replenish nutrients.

Iron, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids in basil seeds

Iron levels (12 mg/100 g) and magnesium levels (300 mg/100 g) are also said to be high in basil seeds. It also contains numerous polyphenols – secondary plant substances with e.g. anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, e.g. B. Orientine, Vicenine, etc.

However, since the seeds – just like chia seeds – are usually eaten whole, you get the fiber, but not the other nutrients. You would have to finely grind the seeds first.

The omega-3 content (alpha-linolenic acid) is significantly lower in basil seeds (11 g) than in chia seeds (18 g), so basil seeds are not quite as good at covering this fatty acid. But here, too, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids from chia seeds can only be utilized if the seeds are finely ground.

Uses of Basil Seeds

If you already have favorite recipes with chia seeds, you can also prepare them with basil seeds, e.g. B. Chia pudding. The thickening properties are very similar and the taste of basil seeds is – in contrast to the basil leaves – rather neutral with a nutty-pithy aroma so that the seeds can be eaten with sweet and savory dishes.

Basil seeds soak up the water a little faster than chia seeds and soften in just a few minutes, which can take up to an hour for chia seeds. However, it makes sense to leave the basil seeds in the water for at least 30 minutes to a couple of hours. The germination process then begins to break down any substances that inhibit digestion so that the seeds are then very well tolerated.

The basil seeds can then be used as follows:

  • You can add them to drinks such as fruit juices, coconut milk, or teas.
  • You can mix them in smoothies.
  • They can be sprinkled over salads as a topping.
  • You can add them to sauces or vegan cheese recipes, so add them anywhere a creamy/thicker consistency is needed.
  • The seeds can be added to desserts that are formulated with tapioca or other thickening agents. There they replace the original thickeners. To obtain a pudding-like consistency, add 1 tablespoon of basil seeds for every 100 ml of liquid. If you prefer a shake, you can use fewer seeds or more liquid.
  • You can also mix them in yogurt or quark and of course in muesli.
  • Since the seeds are germinable, you can easily sow them and grow basil plants from them.

Always take basil seeds with plenty of water

Basil seeds should not be eaten without being soaked, as they absorb a lot of liquid in the body and can stick there. If you want to eat basil seeds without soaking them, you should drink plenty of water, a large glass (250 ml) per teaspoon of seeds.

In the beginning, you should start with small amounts of basil seeds so that your body can get used to the new food and the fiber.

Who shouldn’t eat basil seeds

Small children or people with swallowing difficulties should avoid eating foods with whole basil seeds. Just as with flea seeds, chia seeds, or flaxseeds, it also applies here that sensitive people can have problems if the seeds clump together.

Some sources claim that basil seeds have a blood-thinning effect. Anyone who takes the appropriate medication should therefore keep an eye on their blood coagulation in order to avoid blood that is “too thin”, which must be considered in particular before operations. However, it is not known whether this effect actually occurs to a noticeable extent.

Where to buy basil seeds

Basil seeds are available in organic quality in organic shops, health food stores, and in the relevant online trade. They are also available in Asian shops, but rarely in organic quality. In terms of price, they are well above chia seeds, but can definitely be used from time to time and thus bring variety to the kitchen.

Be sure to buy the seeds of the regular basil: Ocimum basilicum and not those of other varieties. The seeds should be suitable for direct consumption. Because seeds for sowing could be treated. Therefore, buy the seeds in the grocery store and not in the garden center.

Basil Seed Lemon Ginger Drink

A very simple recipe that allows you to enjoy basil seeds without any effort is the following drink:

You need:

  • 200 ml cold water
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp basil seeds
  • Wafer-thin slices of ginger to taste
  • 2 tsp yacon syrup (or another sweetener of your choice)

Soak the seeds in the water for 30 minutes. Now add the lemon juice and the ginger slices, sweeten as desired, and stir well. Then drink a glass of water afterward. The cooling effect of the swollen seeds makes them a very pleasant and refreshing ingredient, especially in all kinds of summer drinks.

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Written by Micah Stanley

Hi, I'm Micah. I am a creative Expert Freelance Dietitian Nutritionist with years of experience in counseling, recipe creation, nutrition, and content writing, product development.

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