According to the American Institute of Stress, as many as 9 out of 10 visits to healthcare professionals are associated somehow with the adverse effects of stress. Surveys revealed that stress is the number one health concern in the U.S. and over 50% of adults reported experiencing high stress on a daily basis.
For humans to survive, it is important to learn and be able to adapt to different stressful situations. However, modern stress has significantly increased the level of stress adaptation, and too much of it can seriously affect the health, well-being, and daily performance.
An increase in stress hormone (cortisol) can lead to numerous health problems, and that includes weight gain, fertility and hormonal problems and insomnia. One particular study even found that stress can shorten the telomeres, which leads to premature aging as well as the increased risk of diseases that associated with it.
Other physical reactions to high levels of stress include:
- Hair loss
- Dry mouth
- Muscle pain
- Higher incidence of allergy
- Weak immune system
- Hormonal and menstrual problems
- Increased risk of stroke and other heart diseases
To alleviate these symptoms, there are natural substances that help reduce inflammation and lowers physical stress in the body. One natural substance that has been used successfully in the prevention of stress-related symptoms is Holy Basil.
What is Holy Basil?
Also known as Tulsi in Ayurveda, Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a native plant in India and Southeast Asia. Many ancient healing systems revere this plant for its healing properties, including Roman, Unani, Greek, Siddha and Ayurveda.
Holy Basil should not be confused with Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum), an herb commonly used in cookery.
In India, it is widely called as Tulsi, which means ‘the incomparable one’, ‘the elixir of life’, ‘the mother medicine of nature’ and ‘the queen of herbs’. In fact, it is recognized as the most sacred herb in Hindu religion. It serves an important role in many religious ceremonies.
In the U.S., Holy Basil has been graded ‘GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status by the FDA.
It is highly regarded for its versatility in promoting and restoring health caused by an imbalance in the body.
Background and Uses
Ocimum sanctum is one of the nearly 60 species of the Basil genera, which consists of aromatic shrubs and herbs native to the tropical regions of Americas and Asia.
At least three types of Holy Basil are found in India – the Krishna Tulsi, having dark green to purples leaves; Rama or Sri Tulsi, having green leaves and Vana Tulsi, which grows in the wild.
Holy Basil has numerous health beneficial properties. Its medicinal activities include anti-lipidemic, anti-stress, anti-diabetic and glycemic lowering properties.
The leading phytochemical compounds found in Holy Basil leaf include ursolic acid (triterpenoid), eugenol (volatile oil) and rosmarinic acid. The seed extract contains linoleic acid and linolenic acid. Other compounds include oleanolic acid and caryophyllene.
Holy Basil has no stimulants or caffeine. The leaf contains nutritional components such as calcium, zinc, iron and Vitamin A and C, including chlorophyll.
Holy Basil in Ayurveda
Many traditional Indian Hindus have at least one living Holy Basil plant. They use it to various things – the leaves for their routine worship, create rosary beads from cut stems for meditation and for medicinal purposes.
Tulsi is categorized as a ‘rasayana’ – herbs that are nourishing and promote perfect health and long-life. For about 5000 years, Tulsi has been touted truly legendary of all the medicinal herbs in India. When most herbs are used for only two or three diseases, Holy Basil is recommended for numerous serious diseases and even given as a daily prophylactic in order to avoid diseases.
In Ayurveda, it is one of the eight indispensable items in any Vedic worship ritual to make sure that every temple and house had at least one bush in its vicinity, which allows easy access for its outstanding health benefits. Until today, Holy Basil can be found planted in most homes in India and is still used widely.
Why You Should Use Holy Basil – Benefits of Holy Basil
Holy Basil is a powerful herb that contains potent phytonutrient with demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties. We already learned how important Holy Basil is in Ayurveda, and while many of these treatments are still to be proven by scientific testing, modern science is now getting their attention to this amazing herb.
However, among all the diseases that Holy Basil can help, the most compelling evidence indicates its role in helping counteract the effects of stress. In fact, a study in India compared Holy Basil to Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and found that Holy Basil has the most powerful anti-stress agent of the three.
How Holy Basil Combats Stress?
Holy Basil works as an adaptogen. It enhances the body’s natural response to any stressful stimuli, whether physical or emotional. Adaptogenic herbs don’t alter the mood, but instead assist the body optimally to cope up with stress.
Numerous scientific studies examined the healing powers of Ocimum sanctum and have found that supplementation of Holy Basil extract may reduce stress hormone levels, particularly corticosterone.
It is believed that lower levels of corticosterone are linked with enhanced memory, and mental clarity and long-term effect include reduced risk of having age-related mental disorders such as Alzheimers.
So how exactly does Holy Basil works? Well, holy basil contains important compounds. Caryophyllene and eugenol are aromatic compounds that are used in essential oils due to their soothing scent. Both plant compounds are said to elevate both the mood and spirit.
What studies support holy-basil’s stress-alleviating effects? One animal study examined the effectiveness of Ocimum sanctum in relieving the stress of subjects exposed to chronic noise. In this research, albino rats were given leaf extract of Holy Basil for seven days. After that, the rats were then exposed to loud noise, with sound level of 100 db. Results showed that pre-treatment prevented noise-induced changes in acetylcholine in the brain as well as changes in cortisol levels.
How to Use Holy Basil for Stress
Holy Basil has a long history of safe traditional use in India. Since the FDA has granted the herb with ‘GRAS’ status, then it means this herb is generally safe for health use. Holy Basil leaf can be administered as tea (infusion), often 2 grams per cup. Dosing of herbal leaf preparations depend on the makers.
Choosing the Best Holy Basil Leaf Powder
Not all Holy Basil powder are made equal. It is so important to be selective. If the herb is already processed and not organically grown, you could be missing out on its most potent active components.Holy Basil leaf powder is made from freshly harvested leaves of Tulsi. It is prepared by drying the leaves at low temperature until the plant tissue achieves a fine powdered consistency. Next, the powder is screened to get rid of impurities and then sealed in bags. The reason why the leaf powder is better than the fresh leaves is that it contains more nutrient and active components, in comparison to the fresh leaves.
Since it is pure and organic, Holy Basil leaf powder is generally safe to use. It easily dissolves in water and is perfect for making herbal tea.
Have you used holy basil leaf powder? What do you think about it? Share your thoughts, experiences and suggestions with us.