Holy basil has been a staple of Ayurvedic remedy for thousands of years. It was commonly used to treat a host of different illnesses such as stress, anxiety, heart disease, and diabetes. It can be used in traditional dishes and also used medicinally for certain ailments and health benefits associated with it.
Holy basil may be considered one of the most recognizable herbs in ayurvedic teachings. Because of this, it is important to establish what is holy basil and is it safe to consume?
What is Holy Basil?
Holy basil, also called tulsi or Ocimum tenuiflorum, is a potent herb that is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. This herb is considered as a sacred plant by the Hindus. It is also known to add culinary textures and provide health benefits to individuals who use them. They add a certain spicy flavor to food earning them the moniker of “hot basil”.
In terms of health benefits, holy basil has been called an “adaptogen.” It’s an herbal medicine used to combat stress and normalize bodily functions during bouts of extreme anxiety and stress. Holy basil has a lot of supposed benefits so it is worth discussing it here in this article.
Health Benefits of Holy Basil
As an adaptogen, it is but natural for tulsi to have key health benefits in terms of patient mood and stress levels. Aside from these health benefits however, there are a number of other health advantages stemming from the use of Tulsi, viz:
Helps reduce Stress and Anxiety
Holy Basil is an extremely powerful herb that can help reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety. It helps control blood sugar and cortisol levels in the body thereby reducing stress.
Has Anti-inflammatory Properties
Tulsi contains a strong anti-inflammatory component, COX-2, which aids in the body’s response against inflammation.
Has brain enhancing properties
This ayurvedic herb can also aid in enhancing common brain functions such as memory. It can also help prevent the onset of faulty memory caused by old age and possible development of alzheimer’s disease.
Improves Cardiovascular Function
It has been shown to improve cardiovascular function. It reduces the inflammation of heart tissues and prevents plaque accumulation in the arteries
Reduces High Blood Pressure
Due to the significant potassium content of Holy Basil, it can help reduce and alleviate hypertension.
Helps Manage Blood Sugar and Insulin levels
Tulsi can significantly reduce sugar levels in the blood thereby resulting in better insulin production for the body.
Helps in protecting the liver
It has been observed that the alcohol component of holy basil can actually help protect the liver and increase its chances of fighting off toxin induced damage.
Alleviates and heals Stomach Ulcers
Similar to its liver protecting properties, the alcohol component of holy basil can help heal and prevent the development of stomach ulcers.
Rich in Antioxidants
The alcohol component of Tulsi which is Eugenol, has been identified as a catalyst that increases the production of antioxidant enzymes in the body.
It has been shown that Tulsi can alleviate pain may even be as effective as other over the counter painkillers as an analgesic such sodium salicylate
Increases Immune System Response
Tulsi extract, when taken in recommended doses (300 mg per day), was shown to significantly increase the body’s immune system response.
Helps in fighting cancer
It has been shown to help fight certain cancers such skin and breast cancer and prevent other types of cancers such as liver and oral cancer.
Protects against radiation exposure
Tulsi has certain anti- radiation properties that can help protect the skin and the body from radiation induced skin damage.
Aids in the faster healing bones
Tulsi has been shown to improve the body’s production and uptake of calcium and other bone health related minerals resulting faster bone healing and improved skeletal health.
Has antibacterial properties
This ayurvedic herb showed significant protection against certain bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, and Pseudomonas. Some studies even showed that it can be as powerful as penicillin in fighting sexually transmitted diseases caused by certain microbial species.
Has antiviral properties
Related to Tulsi’s contribution to an improved immune system, it was noted that Tulsi may help the body’s antiviral response.
Regular intake of holy basil has been shown to increase testosterone.
Protects against cataracts
By increasing the levels of antioxidants in the body, Holy Basil can protect individuals from developing cataracts.
Helps against graying hair
Tulsi increases catalase which may help in keeping an individual’s hair black, healthy and youthful.
Is it Safe to Consume?
Generally speaking, Holy Basil is relatively safe to consume. As stated early, the numerous health benefits of Holy Basil or Tulsi has been acknowledged for thousands of years and its overall impact on health is undeniable. There are a few caveats in the use of Holy Basil and they are:
Tulsi essential oils can have increased toxicity
Going beyond the recommended tulsi essential oil dosage can lead to increased toxicity per 42.5 kg of body weight
Holy Basil can have antifertility effects
Tulsi may have adverse effects on fertility and those wanting to start a family may have to be careful in overusing this potent herb
Unknown contraindications for pregnant women
There have been no studies of what Holy Basil can do to pregnant mothers and their children so it is best for pregnant women to use caution when using any essential oils such as holy basil.
Holy Basil can have adverse effects on those suffering from thyroid diseases
Studies have shown that Holy Basil may not be the best alternative health choice for people suffering from thyroid since there is no direct correlation between increased tulsi intake to an improved thyroid condition. Hence, people with this said ailment may opt to seek the advice of a medical practitioner first before exclusively using Holy Basil for thyroid treatment.