The “Queen of Herbs” as it’s often referred to, holy basil (tulsi) is one of nature’s strongest adaptogenic herbs. A natural remedy for stress and anxiety, Ayurveda medicine has been using it to treat a wide range of maladies for years including disease prevention, hormonal balancing, and for improving digestive health. Holy basil can be eaten raw or cooked, diffused into a tea, or be taken in extract form for maximum benefit.
The herb is native to Southern Asia, and is cultivated by the peoples there for use in traditional medicine, as well as essential oil formulations. The oil of holy basil is thought to be both relaxing and restorative. This plant is considered extremely valuable to the Vaishnavas of the Hindu religion, yet is fast becoming revered worldwide for its many health benefits.
Phytonutrients Key to Holy Basil Health Benefits
Phytonutrients are used in medicine for a variety of “beneficial” uses that help the body to fight all forms of inflammation, including oxidation damage, as well as use in pain relief. Phytonutrients are labeled as such because they’re not considered essential to the body — yet. As science doesn’t fully back their long-term use.
For instance, the healthful use of almost all known phytonutrients is well documented with laboratory tests, such as how carotenoids help prevent eye disease. However, the reason carotenoid supplementation isn’t medically endorsed is because studies have shown that smokers and workers exposed to asbestos may be more susceptible to cancer when taking high doses of beta carotene (a carotenoid). This finding isn’t conclusive, but scientists are very careful about the recommendations they make.
Some phyto plant extracts such as alkaloids, are also used as poison, such as the curare “arrow” poison used by South American natives to hunt and kill their prey.
Luckily for all who read this, the phytonutrients found in holy basil have proved time and again to be nothing but beneficial to the human body.
These phytonutrients and their benefits are why I suggest using extracts more than I do eating the raw or cooked herb. When these ingredients are extracted from the plant and concentrated, you can rest easy knowing you’re getting the most phytonutrient content including: eugenol, rosmarinic acid, apigenin, myretenal, luteolin, B-sitosterol, and carnosic acid
Continue reading to learn more about what this adaptogenic herb can do for you, including health benefits, side effects, and a list of this site’s top recommended holy basil products.
Holy Basil Benefits
1.Lowers Stress by Balancing Mind, Body and Soul
This health-boosting effect of holy basil is what its most known for, as long term stress leads to weight gain, anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance (diabetes), cancer, chronic illness, depression, poor cognitive performance, and an entire laundry list of other issues. However, don’t view the use of holy basil as a cure, so much as a preventative that can help reduce stress levels now and keep them that way for the rest of your life.
The “stress hormone” called cortisol is something we all need to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, we live in a world that’s far more fast paced and unpredictable than our genetic makeup is designed to handle. We were designed as hunter/gatherers who “occasionally” had to fight or flee from a sabre tooth tiger, or come together with our fellow tribesman to take down a massive woolly mammoth to feed our families.
In such instances, our body releases cortisol as a signal to our fight-or-flight system made up of adrenal glands, thyroid hormones, and other energy management systems that allow our heart and muscles to work at maximum capacity. Unfortunately, in the modern landscape, stressors are a constant — pollution, traffic, work, preservative and sugar laden foods — even staring at a computer or smartphone for too long evokes a never ending stress response.
Holy basil has been used to balance the mind, body, and soul for thousands of years in Ayurveda medicine. Recent studies have shown supplementation with this herb can curb unneeded stress at all levels: mind, body, hormones, and metabolism. Though modern healthcare has yet to catch up to this dictum, it’s well-known to those who practice natural health and wellness methods that all aspects of our anatomy need to be in balance in order to manage stress, in order to avoid the consequences of a lifetime of unchecked stress.
2.Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Holy basil has tons of research backing its ability to fight and even prevent many types of cancers. Holy basil is an immune-booster, and a compromised immune system makes the perfect environment for cancer cells to grow and spread. Cancer is an even bigger issue when harmful chemicals enter the body on a regular basis, often leading to liver, lung, mouth, and skin cancers due to exposure to carcinogens.
Holy basil has shown in lab tests to increase antioxidant activity, which boosts the immune system. Those same tests and other similar studies have shown regular consumption of the herb also promotes healthy gene expression, while inducing cancer cell death at the same time.
Last, holy basil helps to protect the body from radiation poisoning resulting from cancer treatment. According to the Journal of Cancer Research, the herb has an uncanny ability to selectively protect healthy cells from damage, while allowing the radiation used in cancer treatment to do their work on damaged cancer cells.
Prevention of cancer, plus the ability to help conventional medicine to isolate cancer and not cause further damage. Incredible!
3.Protects Against Diabetes
Holy basil has shown that it can control blood glucose levels in non-diabetics and diabetics (a metabolic disorder) who don’t need insulin in order to control their sugars. Unlike so much of the research that exists on health food supplements these days, the research behind this benefit extends to human trial evidence in addition to animal testing.
Research has confirmed lowered sugar levels across the board, in all tests used to measure the level of severity of the disease including: fasting, postprandial (Ie., blood sugar taken 90 minutes after a meal), and levels of excreted sugar in the urine. As one would expect, cholesterol levels also dropped in test subjects during testing periods, since high/imbalanced cholesterol is a predictable side effect of poorly managed blood sugars.
4.Supports Eye Health
Holy basil, or “tulsi” as it’s called in Ayurveda, has been used for centuries to treat and later prevent a host of eye issues and diseases. The list of eye problems it has been shown to prevent include pink eye (conjunctivitis), and virtually every bacterial or fungal infection known to medical science. The polyphenols found in the plant are what make this benefit a reality.
Even better, research from years back showed that eye drops made from concentrated holy basil can help treat cataracts. Cataracts are very painful, leading to eventual permanent vision loss, and require surgery to correct in most cases. Holy basil makes for, at the very least, a supplement that can halt the disease in its tracks until a patient is able to undergo surgery.
Holy basil has been used in Ayurveda for centuries to combat a host of respiratory issues, and is now gaining worldwide recognition for this benefit too. Everything from bronchitis, to respiratory infections, and even mild asthma can be effectively treated using an all natural holy basil supplement.
There are a few key components found in the leaves of the plant that are believed to be responsible for this holy basil benefit, namely eugenol, camphene, and cineole. These ingredients not only help to improve breathing but can also alleviate coughs brought on by bronchitis, colds, respiratory infections, and the flu.
Holy basil and its ingredients help to fight both bacterial and viral infection throughout the body. One of the most common side effects of each is for the body to up-regulate its temperature in an attempt to kill the invading infection off. This super herb helps to fight fever by killing the source of the problem (Ie., the viral or bacterial infection).
7.Oral Health Boost
Natural healthcare experts recommend adding a drop or two of holy basil essential oil to a glass of water every day, in the morning or before bed, in order to cleanse the mouth of harmful bacteria that can lead to infection. Much in the way it kills cancer inside the body, it can also stop the growth of cancer cells in the mouth, too. Ayurveda practitioners chew the leaves directly from the plant for this benefit, but a drop or two of the extract is much easier on the taste buds!
Since holy basil is so effective at killing bacteria, it should be a given that it’s the perfect remedy for battling acne and other bacteria-related skin conditions. If you’ve ever heard how effective clove oil is as a natural acne treatment, it’s because of the ingredient eugenol; an ingredient also present in holy basil. Nearly 42% of holy basil’s makeup is eugenol.
Take holy basil internally to treat minor acne symptoms. For more severe breakouts mix a couple of drops of holy basil oil with a teaspoon of coconut oil and apply directly to the skin twice daily.
Best Way to Take Holy Basil
For long term health benefits, an extract supplement offers much more potency and ability to gauge just how much of it you need to cure whatever ails you. However, for relief from headaches, occasional digestive issues, or to fight fever, a cup or two of holy basil tea is often all one needs to feel the power of this herb.
Luckily, despite its wide spread appeal, this “super herb” is extremely budget-friendly to take as an everyday supplement.
If you prefer to go the fresh route, it’s best to grow it at home or find a local greenhouse that grows it, so you can eat it as fresh as possible. While it is a tasty plant to consume, there isn’t much nutrition to be found other than the phytonutrients, aside from a small amount of vitamin A and a larger dose of vitamin K. It’s also important to note that unlike many other fresh herbs used in cooking, this one doesn’t taste very good at all (you’ve been warned!)
Holy Basil Dosage
No firm dosage recommendations exist for holy basil. However, it’s well tolerated in even higher doses up to 3000 mg for treating aggressive problems such as anxiety, diabetes, respiratory issues, and cataracts.
The consensus is that 300 to 1000 mg daily is perfect for preventing certain conditions, whereas 1000 to 3000 mg is ideal for treating symptoms.
As with anything you put in your body, start on the lower end of the spectrum and ramp up slowly until you find the dose that’s just right for you.
Recommended Holy Basil Supplements
1.New Chapter Holy Basil
New Chapter brand holy basil is the most recommended by naturopathic practitioners worldwide. This product’s purity is unmatched, with single sourced plants and third party testing prior to the product finding its way to you. New Chapter has their prices set higher than many competitors because they don’t take shortcuts when extracting the precious ingredients from the plant. Their supercritical CO2 extraction technique ensures nothing is destroyed during manufacturing, and each capsule comes with double the dose (538 mg) of competing brands.
2.Organic India Holy Basil
This top-selling holy basil supplement is a hit with consumers. It’s organic, non-GMO, and made in a USDA certified facility, using herbs imported from India. Each serving size comes with 900 mg of holy basil extract (300 mg per capsule). The capsules contain extracts from both the leaves and blossoms of the plant, and are sourced from carefully selected family farms in India. All Organic India products are packaged in opaque glass bottles to maintain purity.
3.Herb Pharm Certified Organic Holy Basil
Many of the treatments suggested further up the page call for liquid extracts to treat skin conditions, oral health and for homemade eye drop remedies. This liquid concentrate offers all the goodness you’ll need to treat a host of symptoms. It can also be added to your favorite beverages and dishes if you like to avoid capsules. Herb Pharma is well-known for their long line of superfood extracts. This product is one of the purest you’ll find, thoroughly screened for mold, parasites, herbicides and pesticides.
The only common side effect of holy basil is one that’s beneficial for most people. This supplement thins the blood, which means that if you have trouble clotting already, either because of a vitamin K deficiency or because you’re on blood thinning medications, it’s advised you avoid holy basil.
Holy basil just might be the key to long term health and wellness for many of you reading this. There are very few supplements available that have shown such effectiveness at balancing hormones, reducing stress, fighting cancer, lowering blood sugar (and other negative diabetic health markers), along with improving eye and oral health.
The best thing about holy basil is the vast amount of human trials that have been done to prove its effectiveness at preventing and treating all the ailments mentioned already. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better, or less expensive superfood into your diet.
Here’s to your continued good health!