Whether you use it to reduce stress, improve sleep, or boost your immune system, holy basil — also called tulsi — is an amazing herb. According to the Hindu religion, the plant is an earthly manifestation of the goddess who was devoted to Vishnu, the god who preserves creation and life. Tulsi is often grown around Hindu shrines and offered in worship as a sacred plant, and because of its role in that religion, some consider chewing the leaves a disrespectful act. Because of its many therapeutic properties, Ayurvedic practitioners have used holy basil for centuries.
What Is Holy Basil?
Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum, sometimes called Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a green, leafy plant with purple flowers. Part of the mint family, this aromatic shrub was originally native to India. Don’t confuse holy basil with sweet basil (also called Thai basil) commonly used in cooking; though related, they’re two different plants. The leaves, seeds, and flowers of holy basil contain many nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, zinc, and iron.
The Benefits of Taking Holy Basil
Both ancient tradition and modern science attribute an array of health benefits to holy basil. Natural healthcare providers use this herb to promote lung, liver, eye, kidney, bone, thyroid, metabolic, and respiratory health. Historically, healthcare providers also used holy basil for skin conditions and to calm digestive issues. Below are the most common benefits that holy basil offers.
1. Reduces Occasional Anxiety & Stress
Holy basil is a natural adaptogen, which is a substance that reduces occasional anxiety and stress. Adaptogens help your body adapt to stress by boosting your immune system, increasing endurance, and balancing moods. When several people took 500 mg of holy basil twice daily, they reported improvements in their overall mood. Two antioxidants that this herb contains, rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, help protect cells. These powerful antioxidants counteract free radicals and radiation, battling environmental stresses on a cellular level.
2. Supports Balanced Blood Sugar
Holy basil’s positive encouragement of blood sugar levels is one of its most powerful and important benefits. When people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes took 2.5 g (2,500 mg) of holy basil leaves every day for four weeks, they experienced more normal blood sugar levels. It can lead to substantial reductions in fasting blood glucose levels and blood glucose levels.
3. Helps Heart Health
It turns out holy basil may benefit your heart health, as well. A team of researchers looked at how eugenol essential oil — one of the components of holy basil — affects diabetes. While doing so, they discovered it promotes healthy cholesterol levels. Other studies have shown that the herb can help promote normal blood pressure in people. In a nutshell, holy basil may strengthen the cardiovascular system and boost heart health.
4. Freshens Your Breath
If you grow the plant yourself, you can chew holy basil leaves as a mouth freshener. Holy basil is an herb that can deter the germs in your mouth, giving you fresher breath and better oral health care. You can also buy holy basil powder, which is ground-up leaves, and use that in place of toothpaste. Just sprinkle some on your toothbrush, and brush as normal.
5. Improves Sleep
You may want to start adding holy basil to your nighttime routine for better sleep. After a group of researchers from India gave adults ages 18 to 65 1200 mg of holy basil before bed, they experienced more restful sleep and felt less tired during the day.
6. Soothes Occasional Headaches
One of holy basil’s most popular uses is relieving head discomfort. Ayurvedic practitioners believe the herb balances the three doshas, which are energies in the body. Holy basil is also used in Ayurveda to relieve the body tension that creates headaches. Studies have found that patients who regularly take holy basil supplements experience fewer headaches.
7. Relieves Earaches
If you have an earache, holy basil may help. A drop of juice from the leaves can apparently soothe and improve earache symptoms in both kids and adults. This might be related to its ability to reduce pain sensitivity as well as swelling and irritation in the body.
8. Protects the Stomach
Ancient practitioners of Ayurveda used holy basil for stomach conditions; science has since confirmed its benefits to the digestive system. Researchers found that holy basil oil promotes a healthy stomach lining. It may even prevent you from developing stomach sores in the first place.
9. Reduces Body Fever
People have used holy basil — specifically the juice from fresh leaves — for centuries to reduce fevers and boost the immune system. In past times, people even used holy basil to treat malarial fever. The eugenol in holy basil was used against mosquito larvae, which cause malaria.
10. Improves Skin Health
The eugenol found in holy basil — a compound also found in clove oil — deters harmful organisms. Bacteria, such as Cutibacterium acnes (formerly called Propionibacterium acnes) can cause acne and minor skin blemishes. Various herbal anti-acne gel combinations with combinations of holy basil, crepe jasmine, tea tree oil are as effective as other products on the market for acne.
11. Boosts Brain Function
Like the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha, holy basil supports cognitive function — in other words, memory and learning. It boosts anti-stress agents in the brain. Specifically, holy basil improves brain activity by increasing glutathione peroxidase activity — an enzyme that protects your cells from oxidative damage. Holy basil can even protect neurons in the brain from damage.
12. Promotes Eye Health
Traditionally, practitioners used holy basil eye drops for a variety of conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma, or conjunctivitis. Eye drops containing the leaf extract have soothing antioxidant activity that reduces redness and irritation and improves eye health.
Holy Basil Nutrition Facts
One gram of fresh holy basil has 0 calories and 3 mg of potassium, but no fat, cholesterol, sodium, or sugar. Holy basil also contains trace amounts of vitamin A and C, calcium, and iron. Concentrated extracts and essential oils may provide more of these nutrients.
How to Take Holy Basil
Holy basil is available in many forms, such as powders, essential oils, extracts, and teas. You can grow holy basil or buy it fresh. The seeds, leaves, and flowers can all be used.
To brew a cup of holy basil tea, check out this calming recipe that combines tulsi with other herbs that help anxiety. You can add the ingredients to a fill-it-yourself tea bag, a metal strainer, or you can just boil everything together in a pan or kettle, then strain the herbs out afterward.
Stress Relieving Tulsi Tea Recipe
- 1/4 teaspoon dried rosebuds
- 1 teaspoon peppermint leaves
- 1 teaspoon chamomile
- 1 ml Global Healing Tulsi™ liquid extract
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 teaspoon Stevia or raw honey
- Steep the dried rosebuds, peppermint leaves, and chamomile in hot water for 10 minutes.
- Strain and add the Tulsi extract to the tea.
- Sweeten with Stevia or raw honey if desired.
- Enjoy your calming tea!
Holy basil has a warm, spicy, sweet aroma. When using holy basil essential oil, keep in mind that it’s extremely concentrated, so you have to dilute it in a carrier oil like almond oil or coconut oil before applying to your skin. By putting holy basil oil in a diffuser, you can enhance your home’s aroma. You do not have to dilute essential oils when used in a diffuser. Never take an essential oil orally unless it is certified food-grade.
There are many holy basil supplements available. These usually come in 500 mg per tablet and you can take more than one at a time to get the serving amount you desire.
Always look for the purest, highest-quality, organic extracts available. Global Healing recommends avoiding ethanol-alcohol based extractions. Instead, try Global Healing Tulsi — the most groundbreaking holy basil supplement on the market. We macerate fresh, raw tulsi leaves, concentrate its nutrients, and add Energized Trace Minerals using their Raw Herbal Extract™ technology.