Holy basil is known as “the queen of all herbs” because of its powerful therapeutic, stress relieving and immune-boosting properties. Its botanical name is Oicimum sanctum, but it goes by many other names too, including holy basil, tulsi, Green tulsi, sacred basil and Ocimum tenuiflorum.
Holy Basil Benefits
This powerful herb has been used for 3,000 years by the ancient Indians. It’s well known for its anti-stress properties, being widely used as an adaptogenic herb that can help to promote the health of your entire body. As an adaptogen, holy basil benefits the body by assisting your mind to cope with various stressors, including mental, physical and emotional triggers. (1)
Holy basil is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for a variety of ailments, including issues with immunity, depression, anxiety, stress, libido, eczema and high blood sugar levels. Ayurvedic practitioners actually recommend the regular consumption of holy basil or tulsi tea as an essential lifestyle practice. (1)
Holy basil’s many uses come from its therapeutic constituents, including ursolic acid, eugenol and eucalyptol. Today, holy basil grows in many tropical climates across the globe, and it has become popular as a medicinal plant that can be consumed in supplement form or as a tea. (1,2)
Holy Basil Benefits that are Backed by Science
Although there are many herbs that are used for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, holy basil is one that’s uses have been supported by scientific data. Research published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine indicates that holy basil is considered a potent adaptogen that has a “unique combination of pharmacological actions that promote wellbeing and resilience.” (1)
As an adaptogen, holy basil helps our bodies to deal with chemical, physical, infectious and emotional stressors that lead to a number of health conditions. Because holy basil helps the body to react to stress and it promotes homeostasis, it can be beneficial for the following uses:
Holy basil has antiviral and antibacterial properties, so it can help to fight infections and boost immunity. Research conducted in India also shows that holy basil has immunomodulatory effects. When healthy volunteers took three 100 milligrams capsules of ethanolic extracts of tulsi, researchers observed a statistically significant increase in T-helper, T-cytotoxic and NK-cells. (1, 3)
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There’s also research suggesting that a combination of Ayurvedic herbs can help to increase NK-cells. When healthy volunteers drank a tea that was fortified with ashwagandha, licorice root, ginger, holy basil and cardamom, they experienced immune-enhancing effects, with enhanced NK-cell activity, which is an important aspect of our early innate immune response to infections. (10)
2. Balances Blood Sugar Levels:
There is some evidence that indicates holy basil’s role in lowering blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes. In a human study conducted in India, treatment with holy basil leaves lead to a significant decrease in fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels when compared with placebo leaves. Mean total cholesterol levels also showed mild reduction during the holy basil treatment period. (4)
There is also evidence, suggested by an animal study conducted in India, that the administration of holy basil may be able to rectify dyslipidemia and restore antioxidant levels in rats with prediabetes. (6) But keep in mind that people with type 2 diabetes should consult with their physician before changing their treatment plan.
3. Benefits Mood and Anxiety:
Research suggests that holy basil can be used as a therapeutic agent for people suffering from stress and anxiety. When 35 participants with generalized anxiety disorder took two 500-milligram capsules of holy basil after meals for 60 days, their symptoms improved significantly. Plus, the holy basil treatment attenuated stress and depression among patients. (5)
4. Protects Liver:
Some research also indicates that holy basil may act as a liver protectant in humans. Although studies investigating the liver protectant effects of holy basil involve animals with liver damage, the results show promise. Studies also suggest that holy basil may be synergistic with the popular liver protectant milk thistle. (7, 8, 9)
How to Take Holy Basil
Holy basil is available as a tea or supplement in capsule and tincture forms. For a stronger, more therapeutic effect, it seems that ethanolic extraction works best because it involves the fat-soluble substances of the plant. Holy basil doses range from 300 milligrams to 2,000 milligrams for general purposes, and can increase up to 1,800 milligrams divided into multiple doses per day for specific medicinal purposes.
Taking holy basil in tea form, using the leaves and flowers, is commonly used as a general tonic. Holy basil essential oil, which is extracted from the plant, is also available for use in aromatherapy and can be diffused at home or work. The essential oil is also used in soaps, perfumes, lotions and hair products.
Holy basil benefits can be enjoyed through cooking, simply add the raw or cooked leaves to soups, sauces or juices. In India, it’s not uncommon for people to eat raw tulsi leaves to boost their immunity and fight off colds.
Holy Basil Precautions
For adult use, there are generally no side effects with holy basil reported. But holy basil shouldn’t be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or by children and infants. If you are taking any medications and you plan on incorporating holy basil supplements into your diet, be sure to talk to your doctor beforehand.
It’s also important to make sure that the holy basil you are consuming comes from a reputable company that offers an organically grown product that is grown in a low pollution area and has been third party tested for impurities such as heavy metals.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored “Eat Dirt” and “Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine,” and he operates the No. 1 natural health website in the world at DrAxe.com, with over 15 million unique visitors every month. He’s a co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, where the mission is to restore health, strength and vitality by providing history’s healthiest whole food nutrients to the modern world.
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