Holy Basil Benefits

Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

IN BRIEF

Though it tastes nothing like the basil that goes into pesto, holy basil is something to consider adding to your diet. Here's a little more about this Ayurvedic herb also known as tulsi.

Basil is a delicious herb grown in many different varieties. Although it is most associated with the heavenly flavors of Italian cuisine, it’s Asian variety with its far more distinct licorice flavor is also becoming popular. However, a lesser-known variety, holy basil, is an Indian herb that can offer many health benefits. Formally known as Ocimum sanctum L or by the name Tulsi, holy basil has been used in Indian medicine for centuries. The seeds, stems, roots, flowers, and leaves are used to treat a long list of ailments, offering many health benefits for the mind and body. (1)

The Nutritional Value of Holy Basil

Holy basil has nutritional value including: (2)

  • Vitamin C and A
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Chlorophyll and phytonutrients

It also assists in the digestion, absorption, and use of nutrients from the food you enjoy. (2)

Holy Basil Can Help Mood And Memory

Four studies on the “neurocognitive” effects of holy basil showed significant improvements in mood and/or cognitive function including cognitive flexibility, short-term memory, and attention. Although one study did not show a significant difference in stress levels, three studies saw impressive reductions in anxiety and stress levels when higher doses were taken over longer periods of time. In two of the studies, a decrease of 31.6%–39% was noted in overall stress-related symptoms in patients with psychosomatic problems. Research also found holy basil saw comparative results as an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication to diazepam and antidepressant drugs. (3,4)

Holy Basil Can Fight Infection

Holy basil has properties that assist in fighting infection which can act as an effective antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal treatment. It can also work as an effective pain reliever thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. It can fight infections in wounds, mouth ulcers, keloids, raised scars, and acne. (1)

Holy Basil Can Reduce Blood Sugar

Both animal and human studies showed holy basil can reduce blood sugar levels, making it an excellent choice if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Studies in rats found the plant could prove to be an effective medicine to treat diabetes mellitus with a 26.4% decrease in blood sugar after 30 days. Renal glycogen content increased 10 fold and hepatic and skeletal muscle glycogen content decreased by 75 and 68%. A literature review of human studies showed holy basil could be an effective treatment for diabetes. (5,6)

Holy Basil And Cholesterol

Animal studies show holy basil can be effective in reducing cholesterol levels. For example, a reduction in total cholesterol in the liver, kidney, or heart was seen when rats were given the leaf powder, while normal albino rats, given fresh leaves saw increases in HDL (good) cholesterol and total fecal sterol contents, and decreases in serum total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. (7)

Holy Basil Can Ease Joint Pain

Holy basil tea offers a soothing warm beverage that can help you manage joint pain. The effect is related to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties contained in the leaves. As a result, people have found relief from conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. (1)

Holy Basil and Tummy Troubles

Fighting discomfort from stomach acids can be challenging as many drugs prescribed for heartburn have unpleasant side effects. However, as a natural treatment for stress-induced ulcers, holy basil can assist by: (1)

  • Decreasing stomach acid
  • Increasing mucus secretion and mucus cells
  • Extending life of mucus cells

In addition, in animal studies, holy basil performed just as well in treating gastric and duodenal ulcers as ranitidine, making it a possible candidate in treating peptic ulcers. (8)

Holy Basil As A Sleep Treatment

If you suffer from poor sleep, especially related to stress, holy basil could help. The stress hormone cortisol is released from your adrenal glands when you are stressed. It also helps trigger wake up times between 6 and 8 in the morning. When you are under constant stress and you have more cortisol in your body, your sleep cycles are affected. This can cause you to wake in the middle of the night. When you use holy basil, it can lower cortisol levels helping to improve your sleep cycle.  When sipped as a tea, it can assist with fatigue as well as sleep issues. (9)

Holy Basil And Potential Weight Loss

As already mentioned, holy basil can lower blood sugar levels making it not only good if you have diabetes, but also for weight loss. Lower blood sugars can help reduce food cravings and stabilize mood, making it a potential diet-friendly tea. (9)

A Bit More On Holy Basil

Tulsi is the Sanskrit word for this medicinal aromatic herb used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3000 years. Often called the “Elixir of Life” it is revered for healing powers in Southern Asia. According to the “Indian Materia Medica” the extract from tulsi leaves can be used in the treatment of: (10)

  • Bronchitis
  • Rheumatism
  • Pyrexia
  • Epilepsy
  • Asthma
  • Dyspnea
  • Hiccups
  • Cough
  • Skin and hematological diseases
  • Parasitic infections
  • Neuralgia
  • Headache
  • Wounds
  • Inflammation
  • Oral conditions

As mentioned, different parts of the plant are associated with different healing properties. For example, the juice of the leaves makes an effective drop for earaches, and tea from the leaves is ideal for gastric and hepatic disorders. All parts can be used including the roots and stems which have been applied to ease mosquito bites, snake bites, and malaria going back thousands of years. (10)

Some Precautions

As with anything taken for health purposes, you should always find a reliable source for natural treatments like holy basil. Be Serene offers an excellent option, especially when seeking assistance with anxiety. Containing adaptogens, high-quality tulsi in hand with other natural ingredients can help promote a state of calm, happiness, and relaxation.  Follow the manufacturer’s directions to see the best results. If you have a mint allergy avoid holy basil and products containing tulsi, as it could trigger allergies. (11,9)

Holy basil can be used for many health issues, with promising results especially when it comes to anxiety and stress. (1)

Sources:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/basil-benefits#Not-your-basic-basil
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249909/
  3. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2017/9217567/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14698524/
  6. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2017/9217567/
  7. http://cdn.naturaldispensary.com/downloads/A_Research_Review_of_Holy_Basil.pdf
  8. http://ispub.com/IJGE/11/1/14310
  9. https://www.parkinsonsresource.org/news/articles/holy-basil-to-beat-stress-and-sleep-better/ 
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5376420/
  11. https://www.be-serene.com/be-serene/ 

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About Dr. Morgan Camp M.D.

Dr. Morgan is an expert in Functional and Integrative Medicine with a Strong Emphasis in stress related illnesses like anxiety and insomnia. In addition to his 20 years of work in Functional Medicine, he has expanded his practice to include work on the deeper aspects of our being that point to the root cause of our illnesses working with Mind Body Wellness, Energy Medicine, and Healing with Consciousness.
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