Holy basil, or tulsi, is a medicinal herb famous in Ayurvedic medicine because of the vast health benefits it offers. For hundreds of years, it’s been widely utilized in Southeast Asia. Today, it’s starting to make a name for itself in Western medicine as more and more people are finding out about its impressive properties.
It is available as an essential oil, supplement and tea. Continue reading this article to learn more about it and how you can benefit from this supplement today.
What is holy basil?
Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), is a green leafy plant native to India. It is especially popular in Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogen, a substance that helps the body normalize when it is exposed to severe stress. The local name for holy basil is “tulsi,” which may be translated to “the incomparable one.”1 This is especially understandable as the plant positively influences human health in more ways than one, making it almost “incomparable” to other herbs.2
Tulsi, sometimes referred to as tulasi, has been treasured in India by Hindus as one of their most sacred herbs3 — it’s the plant manifestation of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of “wealth and purity”.4,5 In another legend, a single holy basil leaf has more value than gold.6 Judging by how holy basil can positively influence important body processes, it’s no surprise that it’s revered to this day as the “queen of herbs.”7
Today, the number of holy basil products available in the market is increasing, which makes it easier for you to acquire this herb. One of these products is holy basil supplements, which are typically made from powdered leaves, as indicated in one study.8
How can you benefit from holy basil supplements?
Based on the numerous possible benefits of holy basil, it may be one of the most impressive herbs in the plant kingdom. Its usefulness in the realm of Ayurvedic medicine knows no bounds as the whole plant may be utilized for various human conditions. Some of the benefits you might get from holy basil supplements include:
• Helping abate stress and anxiety — Holy basil is well-known for its adaptogenic properties, which may help the human body cope when exposed to stressful environments. In a 2007 animal study, holy basil was found to contain ocimumosides and ocimarin, two compounds that have antistress properties.9
• Supporting the immune system — Holy basil is thought to be useful for combating infections due to its powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. A 2011 study found that holy basil boosts the immune system by increasing cytokine and immune cell efficacy in mounting immune responses.10
• Protecting the liver — Holy basil may inhibit toxin-induced damage in the liver because of its membrane-stabilizing properties. A 2011 animal study shows that holy basil may help reduce fatty changes and cloudy swelling in the liver.11
• Helping alleviate pain — According to a 2015 study, holy basil contains analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic properties. It may help alleviate arthritis and joint pain due to these characteristics.12
• Managing diabetes symptoms — Holy basil may manage diabetes symptoms by helping affected people by controlling weight gain and cholesterol, as well as regulating excess insulin in the blood.13
Studies show that holy basil may boost your dental health
Holy basil is rich in various active compounds that may largely influence important body processes.14 In fact, the health benefits holy basil possesses are backed by numerous scientific studies and research. Among these is its potential for improving dental health.
Two 2016 studies observed the effectiveness of holy basil as an antimicrobial agent for oral health. The first study, published in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, collected bacterial samples of Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans from five patients with periodontal disease. After introducing a 6% concentration of holy basil to the bacterial cultures, the researchers concluded that holy basil may be used to help fight bacteria linked to periodontal disease.15
The second in vitro study, which appeared in the Journal of Clinical Diagnostic Research, used ethanolic extracts of tulsi to observe its antimicrobial function against P. actinomyctemcomitans, P. gingivalis and P. intermedia.
The 5% and 10% concentrations of holy basil proved to be effective against P. actinomycetemcomitans, but the succeeding two bacterial strains expressed resistance against the extract. The researchers noted that holy basil may be used as an aid for periodontal conditions, together with other treatment options.16
Watch out for these possible holy basil side effects
Holy basil is generally considered safe for consumption without causing serious side effects or complications. The only downside reported is a mild case of nausea, according to a 2017 study.17
However, note that there are little to no studies claiming that holy basil supplementation is safe during pregnancy; while holy basil may look beneficial for your health, there is no clear indication whether it’s safe for your unborn child. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should veer away from this supplement to stay on the safe side.18
Holy basil is an impressive herb, but it’s not a magic bullet
Holy basil has a long history of improving human health, and it has played a significant role in Ayurvedic practice for protecting people from disease even before it was introduced to Western medicine. Now that supplements have been developed, its health benefits have become more accessible.
However, remember that overall health cannot depend on this or any other one supplement alone. Holy basil may help you in achieving your best self, but remember that it is just as important to implement healthy lifestyle strategies, such as optimizing your diet, following a regular exercise regimen and minimizing your exposure to environmental toxins, to ensure that you maintain your health for the better.
Frequently asked questions about holy basil
Q: What is holy basil good for?
A: Holy basil may benefit various medical conditions such as metabolic and mental stress, and microbial infections, as well as providing protection against heavy metals.19
Q: Where can you buy holy basil?
A: Holy basil supplements, tea and other products are available at numerous health stores across the country. There are also a handful of online stores that sell holy basil supplements. However, make sure you get only the highest quality products from trustworthy companies.
Q: Are holy basil supplements safe?
A: Holy basil supplements are safe to ingest for most people.20 But before taking one, consult with your doctor and contact the doctor right away if you develop any severe side effects.