Lemon Basil: The Herb With Citrus Flavors

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Lemon basil is cultivated mostly in southern Asian and Northern Africa. It is a hybrid of sweet basil and African basil and is a relative of mint.

The history of basil goes all the way back to Ancient Greece where it was a symbol of mourning. It was also an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine.

Lemon basil flavor profile

As you may have guessed from the name, lemon basil has clear citrus notes. Its lemon and lime notes make it perfect for use in salads and other raw preparations. Its flavor is mild enough that it does not overpower subtler flavors. In order to get the most benefit from lemon basil, you should chop it and add it fresh towards the end of cooking time. Its delicate flavor does not stand up well to longer cooking times.

Lemon basil has a citrus flavor because it contains more citral and limonene than other basil varieties. Limonene is responsible for the citrus flavor present in other herbs such as lemon peppermint and kaffir lime leaves.

Lemon Basil

Health benefits of lemon basil

Lemon basil has high levels of various nutrients, including the ones that are responsible for its distinctive fragrance and flavor.

  • Citral and Limonene: Limonene has well known anti-inflammatory benefits. Those anti-inflammatory benefits are among the reasons that it may be able to protect against skin cancer. Researchers have found that it is a potential inhibitor of cancer cell growth. It may also be particularly effective at protecting against breast and colon cancers. Research has shown citral to be effective at inhibiting the growth of hepatic cancers and preventing the production of new cancer cells. Evidence also exists that citral limits the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • Beta Carotene: Lemon basil is rich in beta carotene which is a pigment found in many brightly colored vegetables. The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which is essential for good vision and functioning mucus membranes.
  • Vitamin K: Lemon basil is an excellent source of this vitamin, which is used to help with blood clotting and with the development of healthy bones. Your body absorbs this vitamin in the small intestine and stores it in your fatty tissue and in the liver.

Lemon Basil and gastrointestinal conditions

Because of its limonene content, lemon basil can be used to treat heartburn. Research has shown that limonene may help to treat heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux. It neutralizes gastric acid and regulates peristalsis.

Common uses of lemon basil

In Indonesia, lemon basil is called kemangi. It is served raw along with raw cabbage or cucumber alongside fried duck. Indonesians also eat the flowers from the lemon basil plant; they are considered enjoyable in salads.

Thai cooks use lemon basil in various curries and in the fermented noodle dish, khanom chin.

In Malaysia, it is used in Nasi ulam. This is a dish consisting of rice along with various herbs and vegetables.

In the west, lemon basil is sometimes served with seafood; it can also be chopped and served with julienned vegetables. It is particularly useful for sweet applications and can be added to pastries or to simple syrup for making lemonade.


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