Benefits of Holy Basil

Jai McFall

Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), native to Southeast Asia, is used in Indian medicine for various conditions from  ringworm to eye diseases. It differs from common basil in marinara or Thai cuisine and doesn’t even have the same flavor. But it is considered a body, mind and spirit tonic in that it is used to treat various body conditions.

Here are several treatment recommendations using various parts of the plant:
1.      Fresh flowers for bronchitis.
2.      Leaves and seeds with black pepper for malaria.
3.     Whole plant for diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
4.      Pill and ointment for eczema.
5.      Alcohol extract for stomach ulcers and eye diseases.
6.      Essential oil from leaves for insect bites.

Studies also support its therapeutic value and high nutritional content, including vitamins A and C, calcium, zinc, iron, and chlorophyll.

It is also known to reduce stress and anxiety.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction

Holy basil is a plant with adaptogenic qualities which assists the body in adapting to stress and maintaining mental balance. As a natural substance, adaptogens are known for their holistic approach to stress management. Scientific studies indicate that holy basil possesses pharmacological properties effective in addressing various stress types.

We experience various stress sources such as chemical, physical, infectious, and emotional factors. In cases of physical stress, holy basil has demonstrated the ability to enhance endurance in animals. Studies with animals exposed to stress scenarios showed improved metabolism, swimming performance, reduced tissue damage, and lower stress levels in loud environments.

Both human and animal studies support the idea that holy basil can reduce stress, alleviate sexual problems, improve sleep, prevent forgetfulness, and reduce exhaustion. The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine suggests that holy basil's leaves exhibit antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties comparable to certain medications, such as diazepam.

A specific study found that daily intake of 500 milligrams of holy basil extract led to reduced feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression, while enhancing sociability. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend consuming holy basil as a caffeine-free tea made from the leaves, promoting a calming and ritualistic experience similar to yoga.

For those who find the taste unappealing, holy basil supplements in pill or alcohol extract form are available, reducing the risk of contamination compared to natural herb consumption.

Holy basil also helps to revitalize and stimulate the body.

Body Revitalization and Stimulation

Holy basil is rich in antioxidants, aiding your body's detoxification. Research suggests it shields against toxic chemicals, potentially preventing cancer by impeding the growth of cancerous cells.

Extracts from holy basil leaves enhance wound healing by being antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic (pain-relieving). Post-surgery, it's used to accelerate healing, strengthen wounds, and reduce healing time. This includes combating mouth ulcers, keloids (thick raised scars), and acne.

For those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, all parts of the holy basil plant can help lower blood sugar. Studies show a significant decrease in blood sugar levels, but consultation with a doctor is advised, especially for those on medications.

Holy basil addresses metabolic stress, aiding in weight loss and regulating cholesterol levels. Animal studies demonstrated lower bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) and higher good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol).

As an adaptogen with anti-inflammatory properties, holy basil can alleviate stress, anxiety, and inflammation. It may be beneficial for individuals with arthritis or fibromyalgia.

Holy basil counters stress-induced ulcers by enhancing the stomach's defense, decreasing stomach acid, increasing mucus secretion, and prolonging the life of mucus cells. It's a potential alternative to drugs which have side effects.

How to Add Holy Basil to Your Daily Intake

Supplements of holy basil extract come in pill or capsule form. For general prevention, the recommended daily dosage ranges from 300 mg to 2,000 mg. When used as a treatment, the suggested dosage is 600 mg to 1,800 mg taken in multiple doses throughout the day. Supplements and topical ointments may utilize all parts of the plant.

You can also use the essential oil of holy basil which is obtained by distilling leaves and flowers.

If you like drinking tea, you can make holy basil tea using leaves, flowers, or dried leaf powder. Brewing freshly made tea involves placing 2–3 teaspoons of holy basil in a cup of boiling water and letting it steep for 5–6 minutes. The leaves are commonly used in cooking, and some people eat them raw even though it has a spicy and bitter taste.

In summary, there are various ways to include holy basil in your daily routine. You can cook with it, take it as a supplement, or brew tea. Additionally, holy basil is available in essential oil form.