Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a well-respected medicinal herb that has been used for over 5,000 years in its native India. Also known as tulsi, the plant is believed to protect your family from evil and bring peace, harmony and good luck. Many homes in India grow an honored holy basil plant, which is prayed to daily.
These customs have developed for good reason. Holy basil is proven to have a variety of health benefits. It’s also fairly easy to grow, so you can start your own holy basil plant and have a fresh source readily available in your home. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to use holy basil.
1. PREVENT AND FIGHT INFECTIONS
Indian mythology claims that disease cannot enter a house where holy basil grows, and the scent of the plant will purify the air. Science is starting to support this claim. Research has shown that holy basil can act as a strong disinfectant, and the plant’s essential oil has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and insecticidal properties.
Holy basil oil has even been found to inhibit drug-resistant bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The smell of the plant is also known to repel mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects.
How to Use: Traditionally, holy basil has been used to combat a wide variety of infectious conditions, such as ringworm and other skin infections, colds and flu, malaria and even to counteract snake and scorpion bites. Research has not looked into most of these uses, but you can experiment with applying crushed holy basil leaves to skin conditions, as well as consuming holy basil leaves, tinctures or teas to help alleviate colds, flu and other infections.
2. REDUCE STRESS
Holy basil is classified as an adaptogenic herb, which means it’s able to help restore physiological balance in our bodies during times of stress. Holy basil extract has been shown to increase physical endurance and promote healing of stress-induced stomach ulcers.
Holy basil can also help regulate mental stress, such as depression and anxiety. It’s been shown to be as effective as diazepam and other antidepressant drugs.
How to Use: One study found that people who took 500 milligrams (mg) of holy basil extract daily felt less stressed, anxious and depressed, as well as feeling more social.
3. COMBAT INFLAMMATION
A 2014 study revealed that a holy basil extract was more effective at controlling edema than a standard anti-inflammatory drug called indomethacin. Edema is swelling in an area of the body caused by inflammation.
Holy basil extract and oil have also been shown to help reduce the body’s reaction to allergens.
How to Use: A traditional way to get your daily dose of holy basil is to make your own tincture. Simply put one part fresh holy basil and two parts high proof alcohol in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Let the mixture sit for five weeks in a cool, dark location, then strain out the plant parts. Consume a dropperful of the liquid tincture under your tongue at least once a day.
4. REGULATE BLOOD SUGAR
An Indian study found that eating holy basil leaves significantly decreased blood sugar levels in those with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). This decrease was shown during fasting times as well as after meals.
How to Use: The study suggested that those with mild to moderate NIDDM could benefit from eating holy basil leaves in addition to regular dietary therapy and drug treatment. For diabetes, studies have used 2,500 mg of dried leaf powder ingested daily, or one teaspoon (5 grams) brewed in one cup (250 milliliters) of boiling water per day.
5. PROTECT YOUR HEART
The same Indian study also discovered a reduction in overall cholesterol levels in the participants who ate holy basil leaves.
How to Use: Try adding holy basil leaves to your cooking or brewing holy basil tea each day, then consult with your doctor regularly to see how it affects your cholesterol levels.
6. DECREASE CANCER RISK
Certain phytochemicals in holy basil are proven to reduce the incidence of different types of cancer. These phytochemicals increase antioxidant activity, which helps to stop cancer from developing. They also can alter individual cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying and spreading.
Holy basil extracts have been shown to prevent chemical-induced skin, liver, oral and lung cancers, as well preventing radiation-induced DNA damage, which can lead to cancer.
How to Use: For general preventative therapy, studies recommend consuming a single dose of 300 mg to 2,000 mg of holy basil extract daily. You can also consider eating holy basil leaves or taking a tincture regularly, especially if you’ve been exposed to radiation or chemical toxins.
Always speak to your doctor before adding holy basil or any other herbal medicine to your diet to make sure it’s safe to combine with your current treatments.