Also known as tulsi, holy basil is an herb that’s been used as medicine in India’s traditional medical system known as Ayurveda. In fact, holy basil is a sacred plant in Hinduism, which is why it’s planted at many temples in India. While in the same family as the basil found in pasta sauce and tomato soup, holy basil is different from basil. Given its historical use as medicine, the therapeutic qualities of holy basil leaf are being studied today.
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Holy Basil Health Benefits
Research supports several measurable health benefits holy basil can provide. Whether you need a natural remedy or want to promote general wellness, here’s what holy basil leaf offers:
- Promotes Metabolic Health
Holy basil has a natural anti-diabetic effect by promoting metabolic equilibrium. In clinical trials, holy basil was found to lower high blood sugar levels and even cholesterol .
In a study on 30 obese individuals, 250 mg of holy basil taken twice daily was shown to reduce insulin resistance . When insulin resistance gets too high, prediabetes or diabetes can start to develop. While more research on larger groups is needed, the current data suggests holy basil could help promote a healthy weight and potentially aid in diabetes prevention.
- May Have Anti-Cancer Effects
Caffeic acid is a bioactive compound found in holy basil that provides anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer effects . In petri dishes, holy basil extract has been shown to stop the growth of colon and ovarian cancers and increase the death of cancer cells. Another test-tube study determined that holy basil halted the proliferation and migration of human pancreatic cells .
While clinical research hasn’t been conducted, the lab research suggests holy basil could potentially help prevent the development and spread of certain cancers in humans.
- Supports Heart Health
Holy basil contains powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radicals. The buildup of free radicals over time can contribute to the development of heart disease if left unchecked by antioxidants. In addition to providing antioxidants, holy basil also helps your heart by lowering cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation .
- Helps Heal Stomach Ulcers
Research has confirmed that holy basil heals stomach ulcers with an effectiveness rate comparable to conventional drugs . In addition to targeting drug-resistant bacteria, holy basil may also fight stomach ulcers by stimulating the production of protective mucus cells.
- Relieves Stress and Anxiety
According to Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil is an adaptogen, which is a type of herb that helps the body adapt to stress and maintain homeostasis . One study on animals put this to the test. In mice exposed to high levels of noise over long periods, intervention with holy basil was found to reduce stress hormone levels .
In a human trial, 35 participants were given tulsi extract in 500 mg doses twice daily. After 60 days, the results of the study showed tulsi significantly improved symptoms of anxiety . In a 30-day trial, holy basil was found to lower anxiety and improve cognitive performance at a dose of just 300 mg per day .
- Improves Quality of Sleep
Holy basil has also been studied for its ability to help with insomnia. After just eight weeks of use, it was found to improve quality of sleep and reduce stress compared to a placebo . Holy basil isn’t a sedative. However, its stress-lowering effects could be responsible for its sleep benefits. By promoting equilibrium in the nervous system and reducing the release of stress hormones, holy basil may increase your outcome for a quality night’s sleep.
- May Promote Oral Health Naturally
In Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil was traditionally used as an oral and topical antiseptic because of its germ-killing abilities. It was used on fungal infections, earaches, snake bites, skin diseases, and more . Today’s scientific literature confirms that antimicrobial agents in holy basil are able to kill common strains of oral bacteria. Mouthwash formulated with tulsi extract has been shown to have antiplaque activities, suggesting why chewing the leaves was part of the Ayurvedic system .
Holy Basil Dosage
It’s always important to stick to the recommended dosage on the label of any herbal supplement for the best results. In research studies, a daily dose of holy basil extract ranging from 250 mg to 2,000 mg has been used. One teaspoon of dried holy basil leaf steeped in one cup of boiling hot water is an effective way to make a medicinal daily dose .
Holy Basil Safety Profile
Holy basil is widely recognized as safe. Fortunately, there are no reports of toxicity occurring with holy basil, and side effects with this herb are virtually nonexistent. The FDA has granted it a status known as GRAS, or generally recognized as safe .
However, there are a few warnings to be aware of. If you’re taking any blood-thinning medications, be sure to ask your prescriber if it’s safe for you to try holy basil. Because of holy basil’s ability to lower blood sugar, patients with hypoglycemia should also avoid holy basil or ask their doctor before trying it.
Pregnant women should also steer clear of holy basil because of its potential to cause miscarriage. Any herbal supplement poses the risk of allergic reaction in some people, so discontinue the use of holy basil if you experience any adverse symptoms.
Holy Basil Can Boost Your Health
When you learn the various ways in which holy basil promotes better health, it’s clear why this plant has been consumed for medicinal purposes for centuries. It’s believed in Hinduism that tulsi planted in front of the home can ward off negative energy. Similarly, holy basil may help in preventing diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. It also provides mental health benefits, from fighting everyday stress to improving symptoms of anxiety.