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The re-discovery of different variety of seeds from diverse traditional cultures is surely exciting. One such among them is sabjaa seeds — a type of Tulsi seeds, well known in Ayurvedic medicine. These are the seeds of the sweet basil also called Thai Holy Basil, which is different from the holy basil, the tulsi plant revered in India.
Native to Asia, particularly Maharashtra , sweet basil has been used for thousands of years as a culinary and medicinal herb and is also known for its therapeutic benefits. The seeds resemble the South American Chia seeds and are tiny round black, and become gelatinous when soaked in water for about an hour.
They form a translucent gel like membrane around each seed resembling frog eggs. They are used in drinks in Asian countries such as Thailand and desserts such as Arabic falooda or sherbet.
In the past, basil seeds were used to relieve indigestion, sore throat, constipation and diarrhea. Few studies suggest that the fibre in the mucilaginous layer surrounding the seeds after soaking is responsible for its bilk-forming laxative effect.
Perhaps, the gelatinous texture and highly-soluble fibre (80 per cent) of the swollen basil seeds help to make a filling drink, which could help to curb appetite if consumed before meals. Although research is still in preliminary stages, basil seeds may help control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, according to the Sutter Gould Medical Foundation. Keeping blood sugars stable in weight watchers has the potential to help reduce appetite and craving for food.
In Thailand, three published studies have described the use of sweet basil seeds in treating constipation, diabetes and lowering high cholesterol levels. Interestingly, even today basil seeds are served in sugar syrup during Muslim fasts to replenish lost nutrients.
In South East Asian Cuisine, the seeds are often combined with water, sugar, honey and sometimes coconut milk to create sweetened beverages, some of which could be thick with a consistency similar to tapioca. The traditional recipes are high in sugar, which can be replaced by an alternative sweetener to reduce sugar calories. Having a distinct texture, it creates an interesting and nutritious addition to desserts and puddings. Soaked basil seeds can also be added to your favourite juice, tea or sprinkled on top of salads. But, do remember to soak them in hot or cold water for about an hour before using. Children and elderly could choke on swollen seeds and should be discouraged from consuming them.
Unfortunately, despite its common use in Asia not many people are aware of these seeds and there are hardly any clinical studies on the potential healing effects of basil seeds. While, more research studies are needed to validate its benefits, it may be worthwhile introducing these tiny seeds into your diet.