Holy Basil Herb Varieties and Basils Healing Power and Side Effects

Holy Basil Herb: Spiritual Healing and Benefits

Holy basil, or tulsi (in Sanskrit), is revered and worshipped by Hindus. Aside from its religious significance, the herb has a substantial medicinal connotation and is extensively used in ayurveda.

By Rajgopal Nidamboor

A tropical, much-branched herb, holy basil has small leaves with a pleasantly divine smell, aromatic taste, and purple flowers. There are two basil varieties: green and red. Red holy basil has a stronger smell.

Researchers suggest that holy basil contains powerful anti-inflammatory agents, which significantly reduce inflammation and enhance detoxification (a metabolic process for reducing toxins in the body). Holy basil also has anti-microbial properties, thanks to its oil content, eugenol, present in its leaves.

In laboratory studies, the oil of holy basil has been found to possess significant anti-inflammatory activity.

Holy basil has a reputation in respiratory tract infections too. Hence, researchers suggest that it can play an important role in the management of immunological disorders, such as allergy and asthmatic affections. Experts also praise the anti-spasmodic properties of holy basil due to its action in relieving abdominal pains. And, what’s most important — the herb, it is said, also helps lower blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Apart from India, the herb holds an important place in Surinam’s cultural tradition and medicine. Surinamese have, for long, used the juice of the leaves against fever, and also as an antidote for snake and scorpion bites.

Tonic Effect of Basil Leaf

Holy basil belongs to a plant group called adaptogens. Adaptogens are closely related to what are called phytomedicines – natural product remedies, long used to promote health, healing, and well-being. It is suggested that adaptogens help relieve stress and tension of daily life.

Adaptogenic herbs are known for various actions. This includes: anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, cardio-protective, immune system supportive, nerve revitalizing functions, and improved physical and mental stamina. In many studies, adaptogens seem to protect against the effects of radiation. They also reduce the side-effects of chemotherapeutic drugs, and increase our resistance to chemical carcinogens.

What actually defines adaptogenic herbs is their non-specific response in adjusting to stress and producing a biological state of balance. They also have the exclusive ability to change from stimulating to calming effects, based on the body’s needs. They not only correct bodily disturbances, they also boost our body’s resistance against multiple – physical, chemical, or environmental – stressors. And, the big advantage is – they are safe, and have no short- or long-term side-effects.

Holy basil is a prominent member of the adaptogen family.

Clinical Support of Holy Basil

Scientific data suggest the good value of holy basil in the treatment of arthritis, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, diabetes, fever, influenza, peptic ulcer, and rheumatism. Although clinical data have not been substantial, holy basil has been found to be useful in the treatment of pain, earache, epilepsy (fits), heart disease, malaria, sinusitis, snake bite, stomach-ache and vomiting. Holy basil, in ayurvedic medicine, has for long been used as a anti-worm remedy; it has also been favored to help stimulate lactation in nursing women, and prevent hair loss.

Studies have also shown holy basil’s analgesic activity in the treatment of bronchospasm and dyspnoea [respiratory distress, especially asthma].


Oral administration of extracts of dried holy basil has been found to increase lung vital capacity and relieve labored breathing in asthmatic patients.

Reduces Glucose & Cholesterol

In a randomized, dummy pill-controlled study, the effects of dried holy basil leaves on the levels of blood glucose and serum cholesterol in 40 non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients were assessed. In patients, who received 2.5 gm of leaves [orally] daily, for 4 weeks, blood glucose levels, measured after fasting and eating, decreased by 17.6 per cent and 7.3 per cent, respectively. The mean total cholesterol levels were also found to be reduced slightly – by 6.5 per cent – during the treatment period.

Also, patients treated experienced no unpleasant after-effects.

Anti-Microbial Action

While some studies have reported encouraging results on the anti-microbial activity of holy basil extracts, there are other studies that have shown the herb to be a naturally potent anti-inflammatory and anti-pyretic [fever-reducing] agent.

It is a well-known fact that our ancients favored the use of holy basil leaves in fever states.

Endocrinological & Anti-Ulcer Action

Holy basil is useful in the treatment of thyroid problems and liver affections. Extracts of holy basil leaves have been found to have significant anti-oxidant activity in a variety of studies. Researchers, therefore, suggest that holy basil can prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.


No generalized toxic patterns have been found by the long-term use of holy basil, so far.


Dangers of holy basil are only cautionary. Experts advise that holy basil should not be used during pregnancy and lactation. Some herbalists recommend that holy basil should be used with caution in patients taking drugs such as acetaminophen (e.g., paracetamol) just as well.

Although there is no information available on general precautions, or specific safety measures, concerning medicinal and laboratory test interactions, or pediatric use, researchers suggest that holy basil should be administered in children only under medical supervision.


6–12 gm daily in water – as decoction.

Capsule/pills. 1 capsule/tablet, 250-500 mg, daily, as food supplement.

Some herbalists also recommend the use of holy basil tea [3 cups, per day], which is made by steaming 1 teaspoon of holy basil leaves in a cup of water – for ten minutes.

The volatile oil can also be taken internally – 2 to 5 drops, three times per day.

Summary of Benefits of Basil

Holy basil reduces inflammation and pain. It also reduces nervous tension and cortisol – the stress hormone – levels. Besides increasing physical and emotional endurance, holy basil has been traditionally used to promote optimal respiratory health.

Recent investigations have indicated its anti-stress properties. Holy basil, studies suggest, reduces stress and cortisol levels better than any other herbal or nutritional remedy, and also without harmful side-effects. It works by inhibiting COX-2 inflammatory enzymes – enzymes which play an active role in inflammatory states. Besides this, holy basil has the capacity to increase physical and emotional staying power.

Needless to say, ayurvedic physicians have always made use of holy basil to balance our chakra system. There are, as you may know, seven major chakras in the human body. They form the energy centers, and points of energy flow. They also act as energy “links” in the body. In other words, they mirror our energetic connection with the realm of pure consciousness and our spiritual existence.