Uses and Benefits of Holy Basil

Herbs have been important to medicine and cuisine for thousands of years, but we’re only beginning to understand the extent of their uses. Holy basil, not to be confused with its cousin, sweet basil, could be among the most beneficial and versatile, and underused. Traditional Indian practitioners revere the herb so much, they consider it a manifestation of the goddess Tulsi and refer to it as an “elixir of life.” 

What Is Holy Basil?

There are numerous species of basil used all across the world. In the United States, sweet basil is the most common. Holy, or sacred, basil is one of its close cousins. According to Herbal Academy, this highly aromatic herb comes in a handful of varieties:

  • Holy basil Kapoor is the most common holy basil in the United States. It has small, green leaves.
  • Holy basil Rama also has green leaves, but it has a purple stem.
  • Holy basil Krishna has leaves that can range from dark green to purple, and it also has a purple stem. Its flavor and aroma tend to be much stronger than in other varieties.
  • Holy basil Vana grows wild, with green, mildly fuzzy leaves.

All varieties have strong aromatic properties reminiscent of licorice and mint, although specific profiles can vary depending on the individual plant. Holy basil is called Tulsi in India, named after the Hindu goddess and revered as her earthly manifestation. 

What Are the Health Benefits of Holy Basil (Tulsi)?

Practitioners of traditional Indian medicine often refer to holy basil as an “elixir of life” and they use the herb to ease bronchitis, joint inflammation, fever and gastrointestinal upset. But it might have even far greater benefits.

Research into its properties has shown impressive results including that it may protect against diabetes, cancer, inflammation, immune dysfunction and liver damage. One study showed it could knock out asthma symptoms within 3 days of regular use. It may also treat headaches and earaches. Used topically, holy basil may help treat ringworm and also work as a mosquito repellant.

Beware, however, that this herb may not be right for everyone. People with blood clotting issues or on blood-thinning medications may need to take special precautions, as holy basil may increase the risk of bleeding. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should also probably avoid supplements containing holy basil.

Holy Basil as an Antidepressant

Holy basil could help to improve mood as well. Studies have shown it has both antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties. It may also improve sleep, reduce stress and improve cognitive function. For this reason, some practitioners consider drinking a daily tea made with this herb as “liquid yoga.”

We could go on and on about this beautiful herb and its uses. And many studies do show promise so we're big fans here at Wellness. Holy basil could very well be the holy grail of herbs. With numerous potential medical uses and a strong flavor profile, this incredible plant really does have it all. Experiment with it in different foods or try it as a supplement to see what it can do for you.

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9/4/2020 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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