Basil and Seniors: Meant for Each Other

By Ruby Cemental

A member of the mint family, basil is one of the healthiest herbs you can grow. It's rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. It's also full of antioxidants, including essential anthocyanins and flavonoids. These properties make it great for seniors! Read on for more interesting facts. 

Basics of Basil

Basil is particularly high in the flavonoids zeaxanthin and lutein which, along with vitamin A, helps protect against age-related macular disease (AMRD).

Lab studies have shown that fresh basil has antibacterial properties, probably due to its volatile essential oils. Other studies have shown its potential in preventing cancer, reducing oxidative stress, preventing damage to the heart and brain from free radicals, and reducing inflammation. Whew! And you just thought it tasted good!

Basil Varieties

Basil comes in so many fascinating varieties that you can grow an interesting and colorful windowsill herb garden using basil alone. The first step towards your basil 'medicine cabinet' is deciding which varieties you want to grow. All basils have a brisk, refreshing flavor and come in a variety of sizes, colors, and leaf shapes. 

  • Sweet basil is the fresh basil available in most grocery stores. It's recognizable by its spicy clove scent with overtones of anise.

  • Spicy Globe basil has tiny leaves that pack a big punch of flavor! It's a small plant with a rounded top, hence the name.

  • Lettuce Leaf basil is a fairly small plant with huge, mild leaves. It's the only basil with leaves large enough to use as a 'lettuce' wrap. 

  • Green Ruffles has ruffled leaves and a mild anise/mint flavor. It adds a nice texture and flavor to salads.

  • Purple Ruffles has the same mild flavor but its leaves are purple variegated with green.

  • Red Rubin has large, flat leaves that are a deep reddish-purple color. It's flavor is quite spicy and it makes a very pretty flavored vinegar.

  • Blue Spice basil has a fruity flavor with vanilla overtones. It makes a great herbal tea.

  • Thai basil smells just like sweet black licorice and has a similar flavor.

  • Cinnamon basil has a strong cinnamon aroma and flavor. It's also good for tea.

  • Lemon and Lime basils offer a refreshing splash of citrus flavor. Try them alone or together in tea or when cooking chicken or fish.

Basil is very sensitive to frost, so an indoor garden is ideal for year-round basil production. Gardening can be fun for a senior and can give them a sense of purpose. 

Benefits of an Herb Garden

Whether you decide to grow basil or another herb, there are many benefits of gardening! 

Herb gardening is easy and fun

You can grow herbs in a small backyard garden, a small sunroom, or even in a window box. You can even share the hobby with friends or family to make it more of a social hobby. This can help seniors with their motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and self-esteem.

Herbs can be used as aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is used as a stress reliever and mood enhancer to help treat minor disorders. It helps stimulate the immune system to help fight diseases and infections. The herbs can be dried and used in potpourri, steamed in a pot on the stove, or hung upside down and used as a natural air freshener. 

Herbs have many medicinal purposes

Many herbs are full of cancer-fighting antioxidants and valuable nutrients for seniors. Lemon-balm and lavender have been known to help reduce anxiety, while garlic is good for the heart and cholesterol. Peppermint can sooth a sore stomach, and rosemary can enhance brain function. Seniors will want to consult a doctor first to make sure the herbs do not interfere with other medications they are taking.

Herbs make for great seasonings

The fat-free flavor makes a great seasoning for many foods and will allow the user to experience many new recipes. Many herbs such as basil, sage, and thyme can help flavor meals while also providing great health benefits. During the spring and summer months, many herbs can be added to a salad for a refreshing lunch or dinner. 

At Caring Senior Service, our expert staff is comprised of extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and trusted professionals who take pride in helping your loved one manage their daily activities. Contact a Caring team near you today to learn more!

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Tags: Gardening