Holy basil, or tulsi's
scientific name is Ocimum sanctum. This is an extremely potent herb, and it has a history of medicinal use in Southeast Asia dating back thousands of years. Today, there is a growing interest in tulsi in Western countries as well. This is because more people realise how important this herb is for overall well-being.
What Is Holy Basil?
31 Science-Backed Holy Basil Benefits
- Holy Basil Reduces Inflammation
- Holy Basil Helps Eliminate Candida Overgrowth
- Holy Basil Assists People with Histamine Intolerance
- Holy Basil Heals Stomach Ulcers
- Holy Basil Eliminates Biofilms
- Holy Basil Improves Cognitive Function
- Holy Basil Improves Immune Function
- Holy Basil May Fight Cancer
- Holy Basil Supports Hormone Balance
- Holy Basil Is Neuroprotective
- Holy Basil Supports Blood Sugar Levels
- Holy Basil Protects Your Liver
- Holy Basil Reduces Pain Levels
- Holy Basil Protects Your Heart
- Holy Basil Supports Your Digestive Health
- Holy Basil Is Antibacterial
- Holy Basil Is Antiviral
- Holy Basil Improves Focus
- Holy Basil Accelerates Bone Healing
- Holy Basil Can Boost Your Testosterone Levels
- Holy Basil Protects Against Cataracts
- Holy Basil Can Stop Greying Hair
- Holy Basil Benefits for Respiratory Issues
- Holy Basil Reduces Stress
- Holy Basil Promotes Mouth Health
- Holy Basil Prevents Kidney Stones
- Holy Basil Relieves Headache
- Holy Basil Prevents Disorders with Your Lungs
- Holy Basil Can Cure Fevers
- Holy Basil Can Stop Diarrhea
- Holy Basil Soothes Insect Bites
What Is Holy Basil?
Holy basil is a leafy green plant that is native to India. Extremely popular in Ayurvedic medicine
, the primary use for this plant is to help the body normalise itself when you're exposed to severely stressful situations. Called "tulsi" in India, this name translates to "the incomparable one."
The Hindus have treasured holy basil for thousands of years. It's one of their most sacred herbs. It's widely believed to be the plant manifestation of the Hindu goddess of fortune and prosperity, Lakshmi.
Currently, the number of products containing holy basil is rapidly growing, and it's important that you understand how this plant can benefit you. You can currently get holy basil supplements in capsule, liquid extract or tablet form. There are also many teas available that feature holy basil.
31 Science-Backed Holy Basil Benefits
This is arguably one of the most impressive herbs used today because of the long list of health benefits. We've rounded up the top 31 science-backed holy basil benefits. This list will give you a good idea on why you want to incorporate this herb into your diet.
1. Holy Basil Reduces Inflammation
For people with inflammation
, this can be a painful and debilitating medical condition. Usually, when people think of inflammation, they think of joint inflammation from arthritis, but you can also have system-wide inflammation due to infections or trauma.
One study showed that the extract from this plant can significantly reduce
the number of inflammatory agents that are present in human cells. Another study gave a group of people holy basil in place of NSAIDs and found that it can be just as effective at reducing inflammation
as Naproxen, Ibuprofen and aspirin without any of the common side effects you can get with NSAIDs.
2. Holy Basil Helps Eliminate Candida Overgrowth
Everyone has certain amounts of Candida fungi in their intestines. However, if this fungus starts to multiply at a pace that is too quick for your body to handle, you get Candida overgrowth
. This can cause a variety of symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, gas and inflammation.
Fortunately, holy basil has strong antimicrobial properties
that allow it to quickly stop the Candida fungi from overgrowing and flooding your system. Laboratory studies showed that this plant could combine with traditional treatments to act as a fungicide
and get rid of the excess fungus.
3. Holy Basil Assists People with Histamine Intolerance
Histamine is a naturally-occurring chemical in some of your body's cells. This is what causes your typical allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes and runny nose. Histamine intolerance is where the normal levels of histamine build up in your body and cause a reaction for no particular reason.
Researchers found that the fatty oils in holy basil seeds can actually counteract
this histamine buildup in your body. In animal trials
, researchers found that tulsi was effective in stopping the cells from releasing histamine, and this stopped the histamine buildup throughout the body.
4. Holy Basil Heals Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers or gastric ulcers are painful open sores that develop in your stomach's lining. They can cause a gnawing or burning pain in your stomach, and you may also feel sick. Common causes of ulcers are taking high doses of NSAIDs or an H.Pylori infection.
Ingesting holy basil can help to increase the mucous layer
that protects your stomach lining from your stomach acid. Studies with rats
showed that when the rats got 100mg/kg doses of this extract for 10 days, their ulcers went away and the pain levels decreased.
5. Holy Basil Eliminates Biofilms
The bacteria in your digestive system have a thin and slimy layer of mucous that adheres them to the lining of your stomach and intestines. This layer is called a biofilm
, and it's one of the reasons bacterial infections are difficult to treat. Antibiotics can have difficulty breaking through this thin layer.
Holy basil has eugenol
in its makeup, and this compound can disrupt the biofilm and cause it to break down faster. Additionally, cell studies showed that holy basil is able to disrupt the bacteria's quorum sensing activities
. This can slow down how rapidly an infection spreads.
6. Holy Basil Improves Cognitive Function
Generally speaking, a person's cognitive function refers to several brain activities including reasoning, memory, language, attention and acquiring information. Old age, trauma and some diseases or conditions can impair a person's cognitive function. This can make it difficult for them to live normal lives.
One study showed that holy basil inhibits MMP9
, helping to restore your body's natural blood-brain barrier. Another animal study showed that mice who received doses of this plant were protected against both drug and age-induced cognitive function issues
like slowing down mentally and memory loss. This is great news for people who live with any form of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
7. Holy Basil Improves Immune Function
Your body's immune system is the system that protects you against illnesses or infections. It recognises anything that may be foreign in your body like bacteria or parasites and it works quickly to destroy them to keep your body safe and healthy.
One study gave participants 300mg of holy basil extract a day and found that it increased how many immune cells
were present in a person's body, which improves your immune function. They also found that taking this extract gave your immune system response a jump start
so it could respond to threats quicker.
8. Holy Basil May Fight Cancer
In the United States alone in 2018, estimates suggest that there will be as many as 1,735,350 new cases
of cancer reported. It is also estimated that roughly 609,640 people will die from cancer before the end of 2018. Breast and lung cancer are the two leading cancers.
While more research is needed, a promising study showed that tulsi exhibits powerful anti-cancer activity
and that it may be effective against skin, lung, breast, liver and stomach cancers. Another study showed that this plant could potentially stop the spread
of some forms of cancer.
9. Holy Basil Supports Hormone Balance
Your body naturally produces hormones, the regulatory agents that help your body stay balanced. They help to control most of your major body functions, and things like puberty, menopause, medications, some conditions and certain illnesses can cause a hormone imbalance.
One of the biggest things holy basil does in connection to hormones is to stabilise the levels of cortisol
in your body. Having high levels of cortisol can have negative impacts on your estrogen, testosterone and progesterone levels. Tulsi also helps your body regulate how much adrenaline
is in your system. It does this without disrupting your current mood.
10. Holy Basil Is Neuroprotective
When something is a neuroprotective agent
, this means that it works to protect your nerve cells from degeneration, damage and impairment. It helps to prevent the breakdown of your central nervous
system due to an injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Neuroprotective agents can't reverse any current damage but they can help prevent more damage from occurring.
took participants and measured their stress levels to see how high stress can damage cells. One group got a placebo and one group got 300mg of plant extract. The participants who got the plant extract had less damage at the end of the study.
11. Holy Basil Supports Blood Sugar Levels
Glucose, or blood sugar, refers to the main sugar that you find in your blood from the foods you eat. People who have diabetes have trouble regulating their blood sugar on their own. This can lead to blood sugar fluctuations and other health complications.
However, a promising randomised trial
showed that holy basil could lower a Type II diabetic's blood sugar levels by as much as 17.6%, and it also lowered their fasting blood sugar by 7.3%. An animal study
showed that tusli extract lowered rats' blood sugar levels as well.
12. Holy Basil Protects Your Liver
The largest solid organ in your body is your liver. It performs several important functions including cleaning your blood of any toxins, storing glycogen, making bile and helping you control your cholesterol levels. Certain diseases, injuries or medical conditions can influence how well your liver functions.
Scientists gave rats 200mg/kg of holy basil extract to see how it affected their liver. They found that this extract protected the rats' liver from damage due to toxins
. Additionally, combining holy basil with milk thistle had a positive synergising effect
on the liver's health and productivity.
13. Holy Basil Reduces Pain Levels
Pain is defined as an unpleasant emotional and sensory experience that is closely associated with actual or potential tissue damage. For many people, chronic pain is a reality. Unfortunately, chronic pain may not respond to over the counter medications well. This is one reason why many people turn to more natural remedies to get relief.
A rat study
took an alcohol extract made out of holy basil and gave it to the rats in 500mg/kg doses to see if it was effective. They found that this extract was as effective as 300mg/kg of certain NSAIDs. Another study
showed that it could positively reduce the signs of pain in mice.
14. Holy Basil Protects Your Heart
Your heart is the centre of your circulatory system, and it is the muscular organ
that is responsible for pumping blood throughout your body. As you age, you can start to experience problems with your heart like cardiovascular disease or a thickening of your arteries, which can cause a heart attack.
An extract from holy basil showed that it has significant benefits
in reducing inflammation in your circulatory system, and this reduces your risk of a heart attack. It's also proven useful for stopping plaque buildup
in your arteries.
15. Holy Basil Supports Your Digestive Health
In the United States, roughly 70 million people
suffer from some form of digestive issues each year. This can range from things like gas and bloating up to more chronic conditions like IBS, GERD, Celiac disease, diarrhea, constipation and general discomfort.
Taking holy basil as part of your daily routine can help protect your digestive health. As we mentioned earlier, this herb can decrease stomach acid. However, studies show that it can also increase mucous secretion
. This can help move food along and it can also increase your mucous cells' longevity
, promoting digestive health.
16. Holy Basil Is Antibacterial
Bacterial infections are something that most people will deal with at one point or another during their lives. You treat most bacterial infections with antibiotics but some bacterial strains are resistant to regular antibiotics. This means you'll need a more rigorous course to eliminate the bacteria from your system.
showed that holy basil's antibacterial properties are strong enough to eradicate even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Testing with cows showed that injecting holy basil extract can enhance your immune system
and lower your overall bacterial count.
17. Holy Basil Is Antiviral
When you have a viral infection, the virus enters your body and hijacks your healthy cells. Once it does this, the virus begins to mutate and spread throughout your system. The virus eventually destroys the cells it hijacks, and this is when you start to feel sick. Viral infections don't respond to antibiotics and they usually heal on their own when your immune system destroys them.
A randomised trial that lasted two weeks took two groups of healthy adults and gave them one gram of holy basil leaf extract. They found that the participants had enhanced immune function
when it came to viruses. Another test showed that this extract is also effective against Swine Flu and H1N1.
18. Holy Basil Improves Focus
When you focus on a task, you devote your attention to it. However, thousands of people have trouble focusing. This can be a minor problem or it can cause people to get frustrated, feel unorganised or fall behind in their daily activities.
Fortunately, one test involving mice showed that this plant extract can promote memory and help you focus your attention on one thing. It does this by inhibiting the production of acetylcholinesterase
. In turn, important chemical levels rise in your brain that are essential for concentration and focus.
19. Holy Basil Accelerates Bone Healing
The skeletal system of a human is made up of
206 different bones. When you're born, you have 270 bones, but these bones fuse together as you age. Also, your skeletal system reaches its maximum density around age 30. Your chances of breaking or fracturing a bone increase after you reach age 50.
Tulsi extract contains two different flavonoids
that can help to accelerate your bone's healing process. They're called vicenin and orientin, and they work to protect your blood cells and bone marrow from damage, particularly from radiation. This is promising for people who have radiation therapy and break a bone.
20. Holy Basil Can Boost Your Testosterone Levels
For men, testosterone is a hormone
that controls libido, bone mass, strength, muscle mass and fat distribution. As men age, their testosterone levels start to drop, and this can lead to flagging energy, low sex drive and reduced bone mass.
Researchers performed a study
involving rabbits. They gave the rabbits two grams of holy basil leaves once every day for a month and monitored their testosterone levels. At the end of the study, they found that the rabbit's levels of this hormone significantly increased.
21. Holy Basil Protects Against Cataracts
Your eyes have a natural clear lens. This lens bends the light that comes into your eyes, and this helps you see. However, when your natural lens starts to thicken, you get cataracts. This is a common condition in older adults and you can correct it with eye surgery.
Scientists found that taking 5 and 10mg/kg of holy basil extract
can decrease your chances of developing cataracts by 20% and 60%. Another study
featuring rats showed that this extract could reduce the amount of cataract-causing enzymes in your eyes in people with diabetes.
22. Holy Basil Can Stop Greying Hair
Premature grey hair
is a problem for a lot of people. But, did you know that hair doesn't actually "turn" grey? Instead, your hair follicles produce less colour as they age, and they grow grey or white instead of "turning" grey. Unfortunately for many people, genetics plays a large role.
The good news is that incorporating holy basil into your diet can help reduce the amount of grey hair you have, and it can also prevent premature greying. Two different studies
showed that this extract can increase an enzyme that breaks down hydrogen peroxide. This prevents your hair from changing colour
23. Holy Basil Benefits for Respiratory Issues
Worldwide, it is estimated that around 235 million people have asthma and 200 million people have COPD. Annually, around four million people die each year from respiratory infections. Older adults are at a higher risk of developing respiratory infections and these infections can fluctuate in their severity.
Since tulsi has both antibacterial and antiviral properties
, it's effective at fighting off a range of respiratory issues. Another study
showed that the extract of this plant is effective at alleviating asthma symptoms and chest tightness that can come with an asthma attack. For chronic asthma sufferers, this is great news.
24. Holy Basil Reduces Stress
When you feel stressed
, your body releases chemicals in response to the perceived threat. For people who have chronic stress, their body systems can get overloaded and the stress has no outlet. This can build up in your system and make you have headaches, chronic fatigue, body aches and high blood pressure.
Every part of holy basil can act as an adaptogen
to help your body combat stress. This means that it'll go to work balancing out your system and hormone levels while helping your body adapt to stress. Several studies
prove that this plant promotes cellular health by protecting cells from the effects of stress.
25. Holy Basil Promotes Mouth Health
Did you know that your mouth is packed with bacteria? At any given time, there are between 100 and 200 bacteria species
present. Poor oral hygiene can allow these bacteria to grow at damage your teeth and gums. This can cause inflammation, canker sores, cavities and bad breath.
Making a mouthwash with holy basil extract is effective at fighting the bacteria in your mouth. A study showed
that this extract was effective for killing dozens of different types of bacteria, including the bacteria that cause inflammation, bad breath and mouth sores.
26. Holy Basil Prevents Kidney Stones
Kidney stones form when there are high levels of salts and undissolved minerals in your urine. These salts and minerals harden and form small stones in your kidneys. These kidney stones can travel down your ureter and you expel them when you go to the bathroom. If it gets stuck, you experience pain until it passes.
Studies show that holy basil is a mild diuretic that helps to reduce the amount of undissolved minerals and acid in your system. In turn, this decreases your chances of having kidney stones form. Another study
showed that this extract can help dissolve kidney stones and break them down.
27. Holy Basil Relieves Headache
It is estimated that over one billion people
worldwide suffer from migraines, and millions of those people have chronic migraines. Migraines are headaches that come with severe symptoms like nausea, light sensitivity, vomiting and a reoccurred, throbbing pain in one or both sides of your head that can be debilitating.
One randomised trial
showed that as little as a single serving of holy basil extract can have positive effects on migraine symptoms. Over 60% of the trial participants reported that they experienced relief from their migraine symptoms and the severity of them.
28. Holy Basil Prevents Disorders with Your Lungs
Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable lung issues in the world. Today, over one billion people smoke. Smoking causes damage to your lung cells and it can also lead to scarring. Additionally, lung conditions like tuberculous or lung cancer can cause damage to your lungs.
that holy basil is effective at reducing the amount of damage that these conditions do to your lungs. It can also reduce the amount of scarring and damaged cells that are present in your lungs. Additionally, this extract helps to reduce any inflammation
in your lung tissue.
29. Holy Basil Can Cure Fevers
When you have a fever, your body is usually trying to fight off an infection. It's when your body temperature rises above normal and you can feel chilled or get cold sweats.
As we mentioned earlier, holy basil is a powerful antiviral and anti-fungal agent that can enhance your immune system. Studies show
that this plant helps your body fight off infections and this can help to reduce your fever.
30. Holy Basil Can Stop Diarrhea
Several things can cause you to have diarrhea. Some people have it on a chronic basis. Diarrhea is a condition where you have very loose and watery feces two or three times a day. There are several causes for this condition, including an infection or trouble digesting certain foods.
People with bouts of diarrhea or chronic diarrhea participated in a randomised trial
to see how holy basil benefits would help with their loose stool. They received set amounts of this extract each day and reported that they had reduced diarrhea episodes.
31. Holy Basil Soothes Insect Bites
When an insect bites or stings you, you'll most likely experience a mild allergic reaction to the venom that the insect injects into your skin. Some bites or stings can hurt right away and others itch rather than hurt.
Holy basil's anti-inflammatory agents, combined with their pain relieving properties, can help soothe insect bites. One study showcased
this plant's anti-inflammatory qualities when mice ingested it. This included internal inflammation around the joints as well as external inflammation due to bug bites. Additionally, the antimicrobial properties in holy basil can prevent infections, and this is great for bee stings.
These 31 holy basil benefits can help you safely and naturally alleviate common medical issues and symptoms. Unlike medications, this herb doesn't have side effects to worry about, which can give you peace of mind. Keep in mind, you should ask your physician before starting anything new to ensure it will be all right for you to use as part of your daily routine.