Basil seeds have a long history of use in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Potential benefits include being high in fiber, a good source of minerals, and rich in plant-based omega-3 fat.

Many cuisines use basil as an herb to flavor dishes. Not only does basil have a unique flavor but it also is a great source of nutrition. The seeds of basil plants are also edible. People in India and Southeast Asia often mix them in desserts and drinks, and basil seeds are becoming more commonly used in other parts of the world as well.

Practitioners of Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine have used the seeds from basil plants in herbal remedies throughout history. The consumption of basil seeds is becoming more popular in Western culture.

Preliminary research suggests the seeds may have health benefits, such as supporting gut health, helping with weight management, and helping prevent diseases such as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Although promising, current research is scarce and in its early stages.

In this article, we will discuss basil seeds, including their nutritional information, possible benefits, and potential risks.

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Basil seeds come from a variant of basil known as sweet basil (Ocimum bascilicum), which is native to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia. These seeds are known by several names such as sweet basil seeds, sabja seeds, and tukmaria seeds. They are oval shaped, black in color, and swell up when soaked in water, producing a gelatinous mass.

Research shows that the nutritional composition of basil seeds varies depending on where people grow them. Evidence suggests that 100 grams (g) of basil seeds from India contain:

  • 14.8 g of protein
  • 13.8 g of lipids
  • 63.8 g of carbohydrates
  • 22.6 g of fiber

The main minerals contained in 100 g of basil seeds are:

  • 2.27 milligrams (mg) of iron
  • 31.55 mg of magnesium
  • 1.58 mg of zinc

Research also suggests that 100 g of basil seeds from India contain roughly 442 calories — or around 57.5 calories per tablespoon (13 g).

Basil seeds are high in dietary fiber. Only 5% of people in the United States meet their daily recommended intake of dietary fiber. One of fiber’s many health benefits is that it helps relieve or prevent constipation, which is the most common stomach issue in the U.S. It does this by helping waste move through the body and also contributes to a healthy gut microbiota.

Fiber may also be beneficial for people aiming to manage their weight. A diet with adequate amounts of fiber can prolong the feeling of fullness after eating. Research shows that increased fiber intake can be associated with promoting weight loss and greater success when adhering to a diet.

Evidence also shows that fiber may reduce the risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

A 2016 study suggests that these potential antidiabetic properties may also be present in basil seeds. The aqueous extract of basil seeds was an effective treatment for rats with diabetes, lowering both body weight and blood sugar levels. While promising, further studies using the whole basil seed will be necessary to fully understand any effects on humans.

Basil seeds contain compounds such as phenolic contents and flavonoids, which appear to have antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants are substances that can counteract unstable molecules, known as free radicals, in the body that may damage cells. The oxidative stress caused by free radicals has been associated with cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and certain cancers. Evidence suggests that basil seeds may have better antioxidant potential than other seeds and may therefore be beneficial to a person’s health.

Preliminary research suggests basil seeds may also have promising antibacterial properties. A study found the seeds were effective against several different bacteria, and most effective against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that can cause pneumonia.

Further health benefits from basil seeds may come from the fatty acids they contain. They are particularly high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is an essential fatty acid. The body cannot make it, so people must obtain it from food sources. ALA, as well as other fatty acids, can be a beneficial component in a healthy diet.

Some studies suggest that due to their ALA content, basil seeds may have anti-inflammatory effects on conditions such arthritis, and potential antiulcer properties. However, most of the research on the effects of ALA is either in the early stages or animal studies.

Research into basil seeds and their potential health benefits shows promising results but in many cases is still in its early stages.

When people soak basil seeds in water, the seeds swell and create a gelatinous mass. This may present a choking risk for children or people with swallowing difficulties.

Since basil seeds contain high levels of fiber, eating too much of them may cause symptoms such as bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.

People can avoid these symptoms by introducing sources of fiber into their diet gradually, increasing how much water they drink, and increasing levels of exercise.

Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica, which, like basil, is also part of the mint, or Lamiaceae, family. Although they have a similar appearance, chia seeds are slightly larger and more oval shaped than basil seeds and come in a variety of colors. People tend to eat them raw, as well as soaked, whereas people generally prefer eating soaked basil seeds.

Both have bland tastes, making them a suitable ingredient to add to many dishes. They also both swell up when soaked in water, although basil seeds swell up more quickly. Much like basil seeds, chia seeds also contain high levels of fiber, fatty acids, and bioactive compounds, all of which may provide many of the same health benefits as basil seeds.

Since the nutritional composition of basil seeds varies depending on their origin, it is not simple to compare the nutritional values of both seeds. However, chia seeds tend to contain more fat and have slightly more calories per serving.

Although there are small differences between the two seeds, emerging research suggests that both chia seeds and basil seeds may provide similar health benefits, and people can easily incorporate both into a diet.

Basil seeds have a mild flavor and a gelatinous texture when soaked, making them easy to add to drinks and desserts. In many parts of Asia, people commonly use basil seeds this way. An example is falooda, a very popular dessert in many parts of India.

There are many recipes online for different basil seed dishes. People may refer to them in many of these recipes as sabja seeds or falooda seeds.

To add basil seeds into a dish, people can start by soaking them in water. Recipes differ on how long to soak them for, but most recommend soaking them for between 30 minutes and 2 hours before straining off the water. Once strained, people can mix the seeds into, or add them as a topping to:

  • cold desserts
  • smoothies and milkshakes
  • lemonade or other drinks
  • yogurt
  • oatmeal

People can also grind basil seeds up and add them to baking recipes, rather than soaking them in water.

Basil seeds have a beneficial nutritional value and people can easily incorporate them into many dishes.

Although research into other potential health benefits of basil seeds is in early stages, consumption in moderate amounts may contribute towards a healthy diet.