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Is Hydroponic Basil as Healthy?

The antioxidant, phytonutrient, and vitamin content of basil grown in water (hydroponic) is compared to basil grown in soil.

June 27, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Amanda BH Slater and Natalie Maynor.

Transcript

At one of the Farmer’s markets I go to there’s a farmer with a hydroponic greenhouse such that I can get fresh basil all year ‘round, but I was always curious how hydroponic basic—grown in water—compared nutritionally to basil grown in soil. Same seeds, one in water, and one in soil. What do you think they found, in terms of vitamin content, antioxidant content and phytonutrient content?
The hydroponic basil won hands down, more antioxidant power and more vitamins and key phytonutrients. Why? Because the basil doesn’t like it. It's the same reason organic greens are healthier, they get bitten by bugs and in defense they manufacture more of those wonderful glucosinolate compounds that are so good for us. Likewise, under environmental stress drowning in the water basil may release these phenolic antioxidant phytonutrients like rosmarinic acid and we reap the benefits.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Herbs and spices are among the healthiest plants to consume. See one of my favorites for example, Antioxidants in a Pinch and Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods. The glucosinolates I mention are the broccoli compounds featured in videos such as Broccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem Cells, Sulforaphane: From Broccoli to Breast, and The Best Detox. For how our food crops have been doing in general over the years see Crop Nutrient Decline and for more on the organic question: Can Pesticides Be Rinsed Off? and Fungal Toxins in Apples. There are also hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

For more context, check out my associated blog post, Antioxidants in a Pinch: Dried Herbs and Spices.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Herbs and
    spices are among the healthiest plants to consume. See one of my favorites for
    example, Antioxidants in a Pinch and Antioxidant Content of
    3,139 Foods. The glucosinolates I mention are the broccoli compounds
    featured in videos such as Broccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem
    Cells, Sulforaphane: From Broccoli to Breast, and The Best Detox.
    For how our food crops have been doing in general over the years see Crop
    Nutrient Decline and for more on the organic question: Can
    Pesticides Be Rinsed Off? and Fungal Toxins in Apples.  There are also hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

  • http://poxacuatl.wordpress.com/ Strix

    I wonder if I’m better for all my life’s struggles ;^) 

    I like this report; I like the idea — or at least the impression — that when I get hydros they are “cleaner.” Good to know they’re more nutrient dense.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Herbs and spices are among the healthiest plants to consume. See one of my favorites for example, “Antioxidants in a Pinch” and “Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods.” The glucosinolates I mention are the broccoli compounds featured in videos such as “Broccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem Cells,” “Sulforaphane: From Broccoli to Breast,” and “The Best Detox.” For how our food crops have been doing in general over the years see “Crop Nutrient Decline” and for more on the organic question: “Can Pesticides Be Rinsed Off?” and “Fungal Toxins in Apples.” There are also hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects for you to check out!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shane-Jackson/1135727622 Shane Jackson

    Interesting I came to the opposite conclusion before watching video. Well that certainly bodes well for future hydro farming.

  • Rschommer

    Same as regular exercise, within limitations, for our own bodies and brain. 

    Healthy stress: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual all good for the body, mind and soul. 

    It’s even healthy for the plants we eat. 

  • Darrell Williams

    Hi Michael, I continue to have trouble hearing your message. I don’t have this trouble with other sounds/voices coming over my computer. I am wondering if others have this problem and if perhaps you can find a different microphone.

    I don’t write comments but that doesn’t mean that for years I haven’t been a “regular” attendee of your work and continually think how lucky I am to live at a time where you put this news out and at a time when biochem/nutrition research is burgeoning.

    Darrell Williams in Austin, Tx.

    • carfree

      sounds okay to me!

    • Dave

      The sound level has always been excellent when I view these terrific videos. Thanks Dr. Greger!

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Sounds fine to me as well.  Dr G’s older vid’s were very low in acoustic volume and it sounded like he was whispering and I still have to turn up my volume all the way up to hear him in those videos.  I thought it was because he started recording those videos early in the morning or late at night when his family was sleeping and he didn’t want to wake them up so would whisper into the mic.  Don’t know but now they sound fine.

    • Troy

      sounds good to me… maybe your speakers have a frequency hole right where Dr Greger’s voice sits :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=583799778 Sandy Kelly

    Most hydroponic growers add liquid nutrients to the water. Were liquid nutrients added to the hydroponically grown basil? And if so, could that be one of the reasons the hydro-basil scored so much better? Just curious on the details..

    • Troy

      I know nothing about hydroponics, but wouldn’t all hydroponic growing require nutrients in the water as fundamental building blocks for the plants?

    • laguna

      Without the mineral/nutrient mix being added to the water, plants will not grow. Plain water will NOT grow plants.

  • carfree

    I would expect mineral content to be lower, but I also expected antioxidant content to be lower. Any info on minerals?

    • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

      That was my question as well – how was the mineral content?

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    I think half my city is high on hydroponics and it’s not the basil.

    Half of the residents have Medical Marijuana cards (MMC’s) where I live (at least that’s what the paper reported).  90,000 persons with 45,000 MMC’s–they take their plants seriously here.

    Some of my patients when I teach them to go plant based say, “Already there Doc.”

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    An interesting note:  There were 3 groups tested 2 hydroponic batches, one grown for 20 days (20H), one for 35 days (35H), and 1 group in soil for 35 days (35S)
    When you click on the cited study above and study the graphs the group that had the highest nutrient density was the 20H.  Wow!  Really?!?

    I interpret that as eat your plants when they are young not old.  The younger the better?  We’re not talking wine here.
    So does this apply to sprouts?
    Are Basil sprouts more nutrient dense then 20 day old Basil? 

    IDK.  But this vid about Broccoli sprouts makes me want to believe it may be so.
    http://nutritionfacts.org/video/biggest-nutrition-bang-for-your-buck/

    • Barbara Danielson

      You suggested I add broccoli sprouts to my other sprouts that I grow. I love the peppery taste. Thank you for starting me on my “plant based” diet. I have lost 8 lbs in the 2 months since I last saw you.

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        Great to see you are perusing Dr. Greger’s fantastic site!  Also great to hear you are losing weight!  That’s fantastic!  I’m sure you are “sprouting” up with more energy as well ;)
        Keep up the great work!!

  • Melanie

    I wonder if this may also apply to other hydroponically grown vegetables. I know tomatoes are often (or perhaps mostly) grown hydroponically. In Canada, we complain how bad they taste for 9 months of the year, but from time to time you can get nicer-tastings ones (in my experience, on the vine), as well as during our natural harvest times.
    As for sprouts, I do remember one book I read stated that the maximum state of nutrition of a sprout was when it was twice as long as the seed. I suppose this could be true of the vitamins and minerals, but definitely was regarding enzymes. That said, I have heard enzymes are destroyed by our stomach acid, but every once in a while, I wonder if it is possible for a few enzymes to sneak into the lower digestive tract. 

  • Gary Conway

    May I chime in that a hydroponically grown plant ‘scores’ better is little surprise to me.  For a plant grown in vibrant alive soil to score better it would have to be measured for the full breadth of the impact of what vibrant alive soil provides.  I doubt that such full measurements are even possible or that mankind even fully understands what is happening in the soil (we tend to think we understand many things, but it is only a matter of time before we see this is clearly not the case).  I say this assuming that the hydroponic solution is a fabricated mix of ingredients assembled based on our best understanding of what those ingredients would optimally be.  

  • Paul Holden

     Great video presenting vital information.  Thanks, Dr. Greger!  May I
    offer two comments on language from an English and foreign language
    teacher… First, radicchio is from Italian and is pronounced
    “rah-deek-ee-o”… in other words “ch” is always pronounced like “k” in English in Italian.  “Ci” is always pronounced “chee” as in “arriverderci.” 

    I know I am fighting a losing battle on this second point but I simply must try…

    “Healthy” and “healthful” are both adjectives.  The former refers to the
    physical (and mental and so on) status of anything alive, man, beast,
    or plant.  If, for example, a basil plant is healthy, it is thriving. 
    However, if one is pondering whether basal as a food substance is
    nutritious, the proper adjective is clearly “healthful” or ‘full of
    health” for the eater thereof.  As a linguist, I know that the tendency
    is for all languages to become simpler as they evolve, but must we
    permit this at the cost of clarity?
    Also I would like to ask if the difference in healthfulness of hydroponically grown basil is worth the effort to invest in the equipment necessary to grow it that way.  I have some growing in a mixture of peat moss and potting soil that makes wonderful pesto!
    Grazie!

  • Ian

    Here is where we may not be looking at the whole picture. Don’t disagree with your finding at all BUT. What else may be in that Basil. Try comparing Organic Basil with your hydroponic vegetables. Where do you think this wonderful basil gets it’s nutrients. Not from JUST the water. Must be sometime in that water. Wonder what it might be? Not ground up green veggies. Could it be commercial fertilizer?. Maybe some anti fungicidal products. Would you actually mix up a cup of fertilizer tea? Or drink this mix in that water all day long?

    But you are basically doing that, all be it is watered down in this case. And what about heavy metals, etc that are in there as a by product of just making this plant food. Don’t get me wrong, ANY green plant based diet is superior to meat, egg, fish and dairy. Almost every single study that you tell us about confirms this (and we thank you very much). 

    But as cool as hydroponics are and it’s pretty neat stuff, why would you want to ingest commercially manufactured fertilizer? Every day, you warn us that small amounts of unhealthy chemicals can build up in our body and slowly have the possibility of becoming toxic, cause cancer or some type of possible harm.Please don’t take this as a vote against you, your interesting study (which is most enlightening) or hydroponics, which has given many people the opportunity to get fresh green vegetables.

    • laguna

      Your analysis shows a complete non understanding of both hydroponics and basic agricultural science…

  • Rodica

    I wonder though, aren’t missing several minerals compared to the basil organically grown in soil? Thank you.