Learn More About Holy Basil

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Holy BasilWhat is Holy Basil?

The herb known as Holy Basil, or Tulsi, grows throughout the Old World, but is especially common in South Asia. Holy Basil plays a central role in India’s tradition of ayurvedic healing, and practitioners of Hinduism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity value it as well. In recent years the apparent healing and calming properties of Holy Basil have garnered it much attention in the United States as well.

What is Holy Basil used for?

Studies published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics as well as elsewhere suggest that Holy Basil may help to reduce fasting blood sugar levels in diabetics by as much as twenty percent, and also bring insulin resistance under control and even enhance pancreatic function.

This normalizing effect on blood sugar and insulin levels may be due to Holy Basil’s status as an adaptogenic herb. Like other adaptogens such as rhodiola, Holy Basil seems to produce a general tonifying effect throughout the body, enhancing resistance to both physical and emotional stresses, possibly through action on the adrenal gland and the hypothalamus.

Whatever the mechanism, research indicates that Holy Basil helps people adapt to environmental changes and to minimize damage from stress. A particularly important example of this is how Holy Basil can very likely lower levels of the hormone known as cortisol. Although cortisol is physiologically necessary, if levels of it remain elevated for a prolonged period of time, usually due to chronic stress, elevated blood sugar can be the result, along with an increase in abdominal fat and damage to short term memory. One 1981 study showed it to more powerful than either ginseng or eleuthero for reducing cortisol levels and to a degree blunt the effects of stress and anxiety.

A water-soluble extract of Holy Basil also appears to be a dramatically effective antioxidant, so much so that in vivo research shows that it can even protect against a form of radiation-induced free radical damage known as peroxidation. For this reason, some scientists hope that some day Holy Basil may help to reduce the harmful side effects in cancer patients who under radiation therapy to shrink their tumors, thereby improving treatment outcomes.

Herbalists and scientific researchers also consider Holy Basil to be a treasure trove of essential oils such as eugenol and rosmarinic acid. These compounds may be why Holy Basil exerts a COX-2 inhibiting influence that makes it a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help reduce the pain and discomfort associated with tendonitis and arthritis. For this reason Holy Basil has made its way as an ingredient into such well-known herbal pain-relieving formulas such as Now’s D-Flame and New Chapter’s Zyflamend.

How is Holy Basil taken?

Often Holy Basil is taken as a tea, the traditional method in India. However, in Europe and America Holy Basil has also been made available in extract form, usually in capsule form.

Typical dosages of the capsule are two to four hundred milligrams taken three times per day, sometimes more, especially if the person using it is under a great deal of stress.

Is Holy Basil safe?

As with any herb or medicine, care should be taken to use Holy Basil correctly. In particular, it is important to remember that Holy Basil may act as a mild blood thinner. While this property may actually be of benefit to many people, much as aspirin’s blood-thinning abilities likely reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks, Holy Basil for this reason may not mix well with certain medications such as coumadin.

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