If you enjoy adding flavorful spices into your cooking, you are probably quite familiar with more than one variety of the herb basil.
Italian cooking often features sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), which has a faint taste of anise, while Thai cooking heavily relies on Asian basil (Ocimum thyrsiflora), which has a sharper, spicier taste.
However, you may not be as familiar with holy basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn), sometimes referred to as tulsi. Like many Asian herbs, it often serves a dual purpose as both a culinary and a medicinal herb.
Holy basil has a long tradition within Ayurvedic medicine for many uses, both internal and external, as well as being an excellent source of a number of nutrients that are vital for the body.
Read further to see the many ways in which holy basil can be used to treat a wide variety of your patients’ health conditions.
Various parts of the plant can treat a number of conditions. The flowers can be used to treat bronchitis. The whole plant is often used for gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting; a pill or ointment extract can be taken for eczema; and an alcohol extract can be used for stomach ulcers and eye diseases.1-3
Furthermore, testing has shown that holy basil is high in vitamins A and C, calcium, zinc, iron, and chlorophyl.2
Stress and anxiety
Holy basil is thought to work like an adaptogen to treat stress and anxiety by helping the body adjust to stress. A number of animal studies have shown that holy basil contains properties that can help reduce stress.3
Lab animals given holy basil extracts showed better performance on a number of tests that are commonly used to measure stress and anxiety in animals:1-3
- enhanced metabolism
- improved swimming time
- less tissue damage
- lower stress levels in loud environments
A 2014 paper in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine reviewed a number of studies on holy basil, including one that looked at the antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects of holy basil compared to the anti-anxiety drug Valium and antidepressants.1
This study found that patients who took a daily dose of 500 mg of holy basil extract reported feeling less anxious, stressed or depressed, as well as feeling more social.
Holy basil has been shown to decrease stomach acid, and increase mucus cells and secretion to protect the stomach against ulcers caused by stress. A 2012 study in the Internet Journal of Gastroenterology investigated the protective effects of holy basil against GI ulcers in both rats and guinea pigs.4
In this study, the researchers noticed a significant protective effect against both gastric and duodenal ulcers at both 100 mg/kg and 200 mg/kg. Furthermore, the effectiveness was comparable to standard drugs given to treat these types of ulcers.4
Finally, holy basil can be used for cooking traditional South Asian dishes, such as curries.
However, it does tend to have a sharper, more bitter taste than the better known varieties of basil. Nevertheless, holy basil is an excellent herb for both cooking and addressing a wide range of your patients’ health issues.
1. Pattanayak P, Behera P, Das D, Panda SK. Ocimum sanctum Linn. A reservoir plant for therapeutic applications: An overview. Pharmacognosy Review. 2010;4(7):95-105.
2. Cohen MM. (2014). Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrated Medicine. 2014;5(4):251-259.
3. Yates B. Holy basil: An overview of the research and clinical indications. Available at: gaiaherbs.com/uploads/1596_HPR_HolyBasil_ResearchPaper-1371567034.pdf Accessed Jan. 29, 2019.
4. Kath R, Gupta R. Comparison of efficacy of Ocimum sanctum against gastric and duodenal ulcers in animals. Internet Journal of Gastroenterology. 2012;11(1).