Herbs 101

Holy Basil: A Potent Stress Reducer and Energy Stabilizer

holy basil in garden

It’s hard to find an herb that compares with holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum, O. sanctum). Holy basil has been grown and used in India for over 3,000 years and is now widely known throughout the world. In ancient Ayurveda texts holy basil is called the “elixir of life” for its healing powers, and it is considered the pillar of this system of holistic medicine because of its myriad health benefits. If you have room for just one herb in your life, it should probably be this one.

A Plant Worthy of Worship

Also known by the common name of tulsi, meaning incomparable one, in Hinduism holy basil is one of the most sacred plants for Hindus whose worship is considered incomplete without a tulsi plant at the altar. Many Hindu homes may have holy basil plants in their gardens or at least growing in a pot inside for worship.

At Oma Herbals we worship holy basil for another reason: its many beneficial health properties. Primarily, we appreciate holy basil for its role as an adaptogen, which assist the body in defending against environmental stresses. In addition to its role as an adaptogen, the plant is known for its antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it improves liver detoxification to help the body eliminate toxins more efficiently. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the health benefits of holy basil.

The Adaptogen Properties of Tulsi

Adaptogens as a class are gentle in their effects and generally exhibit a normalizing activity on body functions to restore equilibrium. Adaptogens seem to exert their effects primarily by acting in a variety of ways on blood glucose levels. When your body is exposed to an environmental stressor, it experiences a rapid rise in blood glucose levels frequently followed by a rapid drop, causing you to feel alert and then depleted. 

Adaptogens like holy basil work to smooth out the roller coaster ride of stress that impacts our bodies. Holy basil is a calming adaptogen, which means it can mitigate the potential adverse effects of stress on the body by inducing relaxation while providing a sustainable, lasting energy. Of note is holy basil’s ability to normalize cortisol levels in the body. If you aren’t familiar with the stress hormone cortisol, just know that it’s a major player in the body’s response to stress and too much of it can cause you to feel anxious and wired even when you want to wind down. 

As an anecdotal example, my coffee-loving sister says she drinks my Buddha Belly tea, which features holy basil, if she’s had too much caffeine because it helps her to feel calm and stabilizes her energy while others have mentioned they drink teas with holy basil at night to help them relax for bed.

Reducing Damage of Toxins While Improving Cognition

There are books about the health benefits of holy basil, but we only have the space of this blog! One of the other major benefits of holy basil is its ability to protect the body from toxin damage. It has potent antioxidant properties and phenolic compounds that assist the body in managing damage done by when there are too many free radicals in the body and not enough antioxidants to stabilize them. An excess of free radicals in the body leads to oxidative stress, which can be an underlying cause of inflammatory diseases. Being a potent antioxidant, holy basil can bring free radicals into balance and reduce inflammation in the body.

Holy basil also has positive effects on cognition and memory primarily because it keeps cortisol in balance (the hormone also associated with cognitive disorders like ADHD and hyperactivity), helping to improve concentration and focus. It contains a compound known as cineole, which is a terpene that is able to cross the brain-blood barrier to interact with brain cells associated with memory. Cineole is a compound used in treatments for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

How to Incorporate Holy Basil into Your Life

If you’ve been convinced and want to get holy basil into your life--and your body--now, we have some ideas for you. On top of all the health benefits and stress busting properties of holy basil--it also tastes lovely in tea. In fact, we include holy basil in two of our custom tea blends: Happy Place Tea, an uplifting, citrusy blend featuring lemongrass and lemon balm and Buddha Belly Tea, a mellow, fruity blend featuring a few types of basil. And we also sell holy basil on its own for any purists.

If tea isn’t enough, we make a holy basil tincture, which is a more highly concentrated option than tea can offer, though we like to have both. You just can’t have too much holy basil in your life!