A study has found that the aromatic herb basil has strong anti-inflammatory action. Several varieties of fresh basil leaves have been shown to be as strong as anti-inflammatory medication when it comes to easing the swelling and pain of arthritis.
The research, presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester, found that, when taken orally, concentrated extracts from two types of basil - Ocimum americanum and Ocimum tenuiflorum - reduced joint swelling by up to 73 per cent within just 24 hours.
The lead author from India explained: "We assessed the anti-inflammatory capacity of both plants and found they were similar to those seen with diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug widely used in the treatment of arthritis."
But unlike diclofenac and other drugs of its type, basil has not been found to cause side effects such as gastro-intestinal irritation and abdominal burning and pain.
Basil As A Healer
Previous research has found that various basil varieties have healing properties and are associated with treating anti-inflammatory conditions ranging from bronchitis and asthma to skin diseases and arthritis. Basil is commonly used in traditional medicine as a herbal infusion (pour just-boiled water over the fresh leaves) or added fresh to curries or salads.
Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned many of the healing benefits of basil in his Prophetic medicine, and recent studies have found that basil has strong antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
This new study provides further evidence of what makes basil such an effective remedy, as explained by author,
"Research indicates that eugenol, the oil that gives basil its distinctive aroma, is the active molecule responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect".
The basils in the research are grown mainly in India and South East Asia. The leaves are smaller than the European variety - Ocimum basilicum or sweet basil - and the flavor is stronger due to the higher levels of eugenol. However, sweet basil does contain some eugenol and therefore can also be associated with having an anti-inflammatory effect.
Prakash P, Gupta N. Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: a short review. Indian Journal Physiol. Pharmacol 2005; 49: 125-131