Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum), also known as Tulsi, is one of the most highly
regarded plants in Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used for centuries in
India to treat an array of conditions such as inflammation, digestive
complaints, asthma, arthritis, and skin conditions. In the West, it is most
well known for its ability to counteract stress, calm the mind and lift the
spirit. Holy Basil is an adaptogen that promotes a healthy stress response
and can protect one from breakdown due to chronic stress, emotional turmoil
or work overload. Research shows that Holy Basil counteracts stress-induced
changes in neurotransmitters and enzymes. It normalizes and brings balance
to biochemicals in the body’s stress center such as cortisol, epinephrine,
and dopamine. Holy Basil is helpful for individuals with stress-related
conditions, such as anxiety, irritability, depression, irritable bowel,
digestive disorders, hormonal fluctuations, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, and
immune deficiency. Holy Basil encourages emotional well-being and restores
homeostasis to individuals who feel like stress has gotten the best of
Holy Basil has also been found in numerous studies to have hypoglycemic
effects. A 1996 study involving patients with type-2 diabetes reported a
significant decrease in the patients’ fasting blood glucose levels when
treated with Holy Basil compared to treatment with a placebo. Total serum
cholesterol levels were also reduced. A more recent 2006 study found that
Holy Basil stimulates insulin secretion from the pancreas, which
contributes to the plants' anti-diabetic action. In addition, Holy Basil
decreases the stress hormone cortisol, which rises when one is exposed to
chronic stress. Elevated cortisol levels trigger the body to produce more
glucose causing an unhealthy increase in blood glucose levels. This can
also result in weight gain. Holy Basil can be helpful for those with type-2
diabetes, pre-diabetes, or rapid blood sugar swings.
Holy Basil contains numerous polyphenols such as eugenol, ursolic acid and
rosmarinic acid that acts as powerful antioxidants to fight free radicals
and protect cells from oxidative damage. These compounds also fight
inflammation and inhibit the production of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)
enzymes. A study published in
Phytomedicine measured the activity
of Holy Basil’s phenolic compounds to ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin.
Holy Basil is therefore indicated for relieving inflammation and pain
caused by arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, sports injury and physical
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