Holy Basil: The Queen of Herbs
If you open your spice cabinet or grow a garden, there's a good chance you'll find either some dried or fresh basil. This bright green and aromatic herb has become a staple spice in many dishes and for many people, but have you ever heard about basil's sister plant, holy basil?
While holy basil is not as popular as the basil we use in our regular cooking, it is an herb that has been highly revered for centuries, even thousands of years, for its seemingly innumerable benefits. What are they, you ask? Let's jump right in and get to know our friend, holy basil.
A Brief Background On Holy Basil
Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is native to north central India and has been grown there for 5,000 years. Today, it is grown and cultivated in many eastern world tropics. Holy basil has many names, including tulsi, the elixir of life, the Queen of Herbs, The Incomparable One, and Mother Medicine of Nature. Many of these 'nicknames' originated from holy basil's key role in Ayurvedic medicine, which is the practice of healthy lifestyle habits to take a more holistic and natural approach to maintaining good health and preventing disease.
In Ayurvedic medicine, people consider holy basil to be an adaptogen because of its ability to alleviate the physical effects of stress and ultimately help us adapt to changes in our body and environment. Holy basil is considered a truly holistic plant because it addresses issues in all areas of holistic health: the body, mind, and soul. In Hinduism, holy basil is also associated with the Hindu god Vishnu, and many people use prayer beads that are made of holy basil, believing that those who wear them are protected.
Holy basil essential oil comes from the steam-distilled leaves. Farmers harvest the plant just before it blossoms, and the result is a fresh, spicy-sweet oil that has so many benefits to offer.
What Makes Holy Basil So Special?
Every plant is made up of a mixture of terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds that give it is unique smell, shape, taste, fruit, and benefits. When it comes to holy basil, however, this plant contains so many phytochemicals, compounds, nutrients, and more that it becomes easy to see just why it's called "Mother Medicine of Nature". Here's just a taste of some of the compounds that make up holy basil and make it so special:
- Antioxidants: These help fight against free radical damage, keeping your skin, heart, liver brain, and other parts of the body healthy and safe.
- Vitamin C: Also an antioxidant, this vitamin is especially good at protecting the skin from signs of aging, which are often caused by free radicals.
- B-bisabolene: Studies show that this sesquiterpene (a type of terpene) can kill breast cancer cells when it is is isolated, such as in an essential oil.
- Eugenol: This compound also has antioxidant properties and, according to studies, is particularly good for treating certain types of dental pain and fungal infections.
- Cineole: This terpene can cross the blood-brain barrier, making it great at protecting your memory.
- Linalool: This terpene has great anti-stress benefits and helps your body produce vitamin E. As a result, it helps protect the skin's collagen and elasticity to fight against aging.
- Beta-caryophyllene: Another sesquiterpene, this compound helps fight bacteria and inflammation, particularly that associated with joint pain and arthritis. Beta-caryophyllene also interacts with your endocannabinoid system to activate receptors and ease feelings of pain.
Can you see why so many people love holy basil? With so many compounds such as the ones listed above, it's no wonder that holy basil is so revered. Now that we know what makes up holy basil to make it so amazing, let's dive into what sort of benefits you can experience when you use it.
The Holistic Benefits of Holy Basil
Holy basil's reputation of a revered and sacred plant is mostly within cultures that have used holy basil over time and come to know its many benefits. Today, however, many people don't know about holy basil, or at least don't know about all that it can do for us. As we mentioned before, Ayurvedic medicine considers holy basil to be a truly holistic plant. Here, we are going to just scratch the surface of what holy basil can do to benefit your mind, body, and soul.
- Cortisol, the stress hormone, increases the amount of glucose in your blood. If you frequently feel stressed, the glucose that is released is not actually used like it would be in an actual fight-or-flight situation. As a result, your body can become resistant to insulin and develop Type 2 diabetes. Holy basil can help control the release of cortisol, thus helping to control the amount of glucose in your blood.
- With natural anti-inflammatory compounds such as eugenol, beta-caryophyllene, and cineole, holy basil is great at relieving pain and tension throughout the body, including joint pain.
- Compounds such as linalool help your skin maintain elasticity and proper amounts of collagen. When you experience a flesh wound, holy basil can increase the amount of collagen at the wound site to speed up the body's natural healing process. Holy basil is also antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory, so it can help disinfect wounds and relieve pain.
- Holy basil helps detoxify the body and can activate apoptosis, or cell death, in unhealthy cells. It also acts as a diuretic and can lower uric acid levels. As a result, holy basil can help enhance the body's natural ability to remove toxins, particularly in the kidneys and on an individual cell level.
- Holy basil acts as an adaptogen and helps control the release of cortisol, which is the stress hormone. As a result, holy basil can help relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Attention deficit disorders are thought to be the result of an imbalanced adrenal gland, which is what produces cortisol. By controlling the release of cortisol, holy basil can help improve mental focus and clarity.
- The cineole in holy basil helps reduce the amount of corticosterone. Such a regulated release of this hormone can help improve memory and mental clarity, and it can ultimately protect against age-related memory disorders.
- Holy basil is believed to add sweetness to your tone of voice while also promoting an overall calm disposition.
- Holy basil can help enrich your soul by aiding in greater intelligence and stamina to do what is required of you in life.
These benefits are only the beginning of the list. Holy basil has been used for thousands of years, and it is revered as the Queen of Herbs because it provides many therapeutic benefits that can help with a variety of health issues that we may face in life. Recent studies now support many of the ancient claims, giving us greater insight into all that holy basil can do.
How To Use Holy Basil
A great way to experience the benefits of holy basil is to use its essential oil. As always, it is important to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying them topically to the skin. The same goes for holy basil. You can apply diluted holy basil to the face to help clear acne, or apply the oil to any problem areas on the body.
You can also diffuse holy basil and breathe in its calming, beneficial properties when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
If you want to make your own blends with holy basil essential oil, it pairs great with many other oils, including:
Try using holy basil with these great recipes!
Sore Muscle Relief
Combine all ingredients together, and massage into sore or achy muscles.
Stimulating Scalp Oil
Mix ingredients together in a dark, glass bottle. Before use, warm the bottle up by holding it in your hands. Massage a few drops into your scalp and leave on for 20 minutes. Shampoo and condition your hair as normal. This formula is good for stimulating blood flow to the scalp and keeping hair loss down. Use once a week.
Before using any essential oil, we recommend consulting with a trusted physician or aromatherapist. Avoid using holy basil if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Also avoid if you are taking certain medications, such as blood thinners, scopolamine (for motion sickness), pentobarbital (sedative), or drugs in the benzodiazepine family.
Cohen, Marc Maurice. “Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons.” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. October - December 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/
Neugent, Brenda. “Holy Basil Essential Oil - A Religious Experience with Amazing Benefits.” MONQ. 12 February 2019. https://monq.com/