Holy basil has been grown and used in India for over 3,000 years. It’s often referred to as Tulsi, or the Incomparable One, and is considered one of the most sacred plants in all of India. Many Hindus believe holy basil carries the essence of Vishnu and his wife Lakshmi, and worship the plant as a god.
The ancient Padmapurana text says,“Every house, every village, every forest, where Tulsi grows, there misery, fear, disease, and poverty do not exist.” Here in the West, we are just tapping into its role in health and wellness.
Holy basil is closely related to sweet basil used in cooking, but has much broader activity. Similar to herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola, holy basil protects against physical and mental stress by balancing cortisol, a hormone linked to chronic stress and aging. By normalizing cortisol, holy basil helps to elevate mood, enhance memory, and support long term brain health. The essential oil eugenol in holy basil in particular aids mental processes, promotes clear thinking, and can calm nervousness.
In a study with 158 people, holy basil significantly decreased stress markers like sleep problems, sexual symptoms, exhaustion, and forgetfulness. In all areas, holy basil was 39% more effective than the placebo and was well tolerated by the subjects studied. Still, holy basil showed the strongest results against forgetfulness, a major stress effect common in men and women juggling busy work and family lives.
I find holy basil improves word retrieval issues. Over the years, I’ve become one of those moms looking for that “thing” they cannot remember the name of. Holy basil helps me in this regard, and keeps me more focused from task to task.
Like other adaptogens, holy basil offers special benefits. Not only is it an important stress aid, it also fights colds and flu and boosts immunity during high risk seasons. It’s a potent antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory herb. Holy basil can also be used topically as a skin rejuvenator in cases of acne or cysts.
In Ayurveda, holy basil is used as a digestive tonic, especially for people prone to poor absorption, overacidity, or ulcers. Further, evidence suggests holy basil can reduce high blood sugar before and after meals. In this way, it aids high sugar-related irritability, fatigue, or nervousness.
When you think of holy basil, imagine it bringing you calm, grounded energy. Try it with eleuthero in Stress Daily Tonic for relief of day- to-day stress. For fast relief in a high stress situation, try it with kava in Serenity Now spray. Both are highly effective, can sharpen your mental clarity, and help your body become more resilient.