The Super Adaptogen: Holy Basil
Holy Basil or Tulsi is one of the most powerful herbs alive. The name “Tulsi” means “The Incomparable One” because of its unique health benefits. The herb was a staple of Hindu mythology and considered sacred by the Indian royalty. Modern science has shown that this distinctive herb is incredibly good for balancing the mind, body and spirit.
Holy basil is a small shrub with scented leaves that is a part of the mint or Labiatae family. It grows wildly throughout south Asia where the natives in these areas have been using it for centuries. It is known to help the bodily systems adapt, balance and increase resilience.
The Adaptogenic SuperStar!
Holy basil is known in natural medicine as an adaptogenic herb in that if helps the body to better adapt to stress. Adaptogenic herbs don’t affect an individual’s mood but they help the body function at its optimal level during times of stress. They do this by modulating the production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (1, 2).
Chronic, low-grade stress is a modern day epidemic that creates sluggish metabolism, chronic inflammation and abnormal immunity. High cortisol creates digestive problems and leaky gut syndrome, increased appetite, weight gain, thyroid disorders and accelerated brain degeneration (3).
This is a common finding in the brains of those with anxiety disorders, depression and other psychological disorders. Many auto-immune conditions and cancer are also linked to chronically elevated stress hormone production as a catalyst for this abnormal immune response (4, 5).
Stabilize Cortisol Levels:
One of the key components that adaptogenic herbs offer is their ability to lower and stabilize cortisol levels. High cortisol drains the precursers to major hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogen (6).
With less than adequate raw materials, the body becomes sex hormone deficient. This process rapidly accelerates the aging process and makes an individual’s life miserable.
Healthy individuals have stable cortisol levels that naturally spike in the morning and then level off and stay consistently low during the day before tapering at night. This allows us to wake up with energy in the morning and maintain that energy until nightfall when we should naturally be gearing down and getting ready for sleep.
Stable cortisol levels result in improved mental clarity and memory. The individual feels as though they are less agitated and anxious and therefore able to perform better and have higher quality of life.
Holy Basil Contains Powerful Anti-Oxidants:
Holy Basil is rich in aromatic essential oils that have powerful effects on the body. These phytonutrient rich oils include ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, caryophyllene and eugenol among others. These oils have a great smell that naturally boosts mood and spirit. Eugenol has been shown in studies to combat stress and enhance mental clarity (7, 8).
Holy Basil acts to modulate stress levels and blood sugar levels by stabilizing cortisol and insulin. A study out of the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry indicated that holy basil may reverse some of the damaging effects of diabetes such as neuropathy and retinopathy (9).
Holy Basil contains vitamin C, vitamin A and essential oils which are all anti-oxidants that go through the body scavenging free radicals and improving cellular integrity, blood flow and genetic expression. It is particularly good for cardiovascular health and brain function protecting against heart disease and brain degeneration (10).
Holy Basil Helps the Immune Coordination:
Holy basil helps to strengthen the body’s immune system, helping it to fight off opportunistic parasites such as Candida, viruses and MRSA staph infections (11). As an adaptogen it is able to modulate the immune system turning it up higher when it is necessary to fight a toxic invader.
It also has the ability to quiet down the immune system to reduce inflammation when it isn’t necessary. The strength and coordination of the immune system plays a very important role in preventing and destroying cancer cell growth (12).
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food described holy basil’s ability to combat the development of cancer. It significantly reduced the formation of cancerous micronuclei, while increasing antioxidant levels and healthy enzyme activity.
Sources For This Article Include:
- Panossian A, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Sep;4(3):198-219. PMID: 19500070
- Panossian AG. Adaptogens in mental and behavioral disorders. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2013 Mar;36(1):49-64. PMID: 23538076
- Bremner JD. Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2006;8(4):445-461.
- Elenkov IJ, Chrousos GP. Stress hormones, proinflammatory and antiinflammatory cytokines, and autoimmunity. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 Jun;966:290-303. PMID: 12114286
- Stojanovich L, Marisavljevich D. Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease. Autoimmun Rev. 2008 Jan;7(3):209-13. PMID: 18190880
- Wagner H, Nörr H, Winterhoff H. Plant adaptogens. Phytomedicine. 1994 Jun;1(1):63-76. PMID: 23195818
- Hakkim FL, Shankar CG, Girija S. Chemical composition and antioxidant property of holy basil (Ocimum sanctum L.) leaves, stems, and inflorescence and their in vitro callus cultures. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Oct 31;55(22):9109-17. PMID: 17924700
- Garabadu D, Shah A, Ahmad A, Joshi VB, Saxena B, Palit G, Krishnamurthy S. Eugenol as an anti-stress agent: modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and brain monoaminergic systems in a rat model of stress. Stress. 2011 Mar;14(2):145-55. PMID: 21034296
- Hussain EHMA, Jamil K, Rao M. Hypoglycaemic, hypolipidemic and antioxidant properties of tulsi (Ocimum sanctum linn) on streptozotocin induced diabetes in rats. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. 2001;16(2):190-194.
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- Prakash P, Gupta N. Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: a short review. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2005 Apr;49(2):125-31. PMID: 16170979
- Baliga MS, Jimmy R, Thilakchand KR, Sunitha V, Bhat NR, Saldanha E, Rao S, Rao P, Arora R, Palatty PL. Ocimum sanctum L (Holy Basil or Tulsi) and its phytochemicals in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2013;65 Suppl 1:26-35. PMID: 23682780