Scientists and health experts have noticed that in specific localities and cultures in Asia— especially in Southeast Asia— certain people appear to live longer, healthier lives than the average person. What do all of these individuals have in common? It’s very likely that it could be the daily consumption of an incredible plant called holy basil! Very closely related to Italian, green or “sweet” basil, holy basil is more aromatic and flavorful in nature, and is famous for quite a few health benefits. Though there are far more healing properties than what we’ll list in this article, here are 7 powerful benefits of holy basil that make it a worthwhile herb to include in your daily self-care regimen.
What is holy basil?
A member of the mint family, holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)— also called tulsi or sacred basil— is an annual plant (in temperate regions; perennial in warm regions) that is used in Asia as a healing herb, food spice, and tea all in one. Though the use of the leaves is the most common, the flowers and seeds were also used. Some traditional remedies that holy basil was used for include digestive tonifying, colds and flu, helping the body strengthen and recover from illness, and more.
It’s these powerful uses (and many others) that drew attention to this herb from the Western world. In India, where some groups consume the plant daily as tea (and have a longer life expectancy on average), the plant is also planted in front of homes where it is believed to ward off evil influences and confer a longer, healthier life.
7 powerful benefits of holy basil
From its origins as a simple garden remedy or daily tea to reputable supplement today, it’s holy basil’s adaptogenic health properties that have captivated the health world— “adaptogenic” or adaptogen, meaning that it helps the body “adapt” to external factors that could wear it down: stress, illness, free radicals, and more.
An exquisite herb full of healing phytochemicals and antioxidants, it’s these following 7 main benefits that have really pushed this magnificent herb to such a high status and a top choice for daily health-boosting use.
What science- and tradition-supported health effects can you look to in a tasty, incredible herb like holy basil?
Holy basil protects the immune system
Boosting the immune system is one of holy basil’s foundational properties and which makes it such a powerful healer. Thanks to its antioxidants and phytochemicals, including a compound called eugenol, holy basil ramps up the body’s ability to keep itself healthy and fight off foreign invaders that could make it sick or worse.
Studies show that as a daily tonic, holy basil can reduce the risk of colds and even help protect the body against cancer (not cure it— but work as an antioxidant to prevent cancer-causing free radicals). This science may prove why holy basil is connected to helping people live longer, healthier lives when they use it often!
Holy basil helps reduce inflammation
Immunity and inflammation are very connected: if you have an out-of-balance immune system, this tends to lead to chronic inflammation, which has negative effects on the body and health in many ways. This could mean digestive disorders, autoimmune issues, skin problems, or even just fatigue, increased headaches, and more.
Because of holy basil’s immune-boosting and antioxidant nature, the plant could help restore some balance in the body where chronic inflammation is concerned. It may help forestall inflammation while also acting as holistic support (like a vitamin) to the body for those who have inflammatory diseases.
Holy basil could help with aging
This is holy basil’s biggest claim to fame: it seems to have benefits that ease the transition of aging and was (and still is) a highly used remedy and daily tonic in areas— such as in India or other parts of Asia— where life expectancy is higher than normal.
In classic Ayurveda, holy basil is often called “the elixir of life” because it was so strongly tied to these effects of enhancing longevity and vitality throughout history. With all its scientifically supported benefits of boosting immunity, reducing inflammation, and kicking out free radicals as an antioxidant, it’s really no surprise that holy basil could help you live a longer and healthier life: because all these properties can help make it so.
Holy basil could help support stress
Besides basic adaptogen qualities, holy basil or tulsi seems to have a “specialty” when it comes to stress and the nervous system. Indeed, it has been thought of and used as a specific tonic to help the body deal with stress of all kinds: mental, physical, and also spiritual.
This means it has a beneficial effect on the nervous system and could help heal against burnout, grief, sleep issues, and maybe even trauma, on a purely nutritive level. However, studies show tulsi may help other types of “stress,” like stress on metabolism (blood sugars or diabetes) and the symptoms of that.
Holy basil could support anxiety & depression
Because holy basil appears to have an affinity with the nerves, it may be helpful for supporting anxiety and depression holistically, too. To be more specific: its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects are connected to healing the nervous system and any inflammation that could be causing anxiety or depression.
One study showed that when holy basil was used as a “functional beverage” (in tea form), it helped subjects deal with anxiety, stress, and potentially depression much better than test subjects that didn’t take the beverage: most likely because its antioxidants and phytochemicals helped protect the nervous system against the stresses they were facing.
Holy basil may help heart health
Many plants in the basil “family” have a strong connection to heart healing and heart health, and this includes holy basil. While tulsi is not the most well-known for being a “heart remedy,” some of the science showing what it can do for the heart is incredible.
In one study, holy basil was shown to be a powerful cardioprotective herb. It helped lower blood lipids, reduced chance of stroke, lowered hypertension and overall boosted heart health while lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease in test subjects.
Holy basil may protect brain and nervous system health
Remember how holy basil may have some special benefits to the nervous system— such as for stress and mental health? On an even more foundational level, holy basil is shown to have good properties for the brain and nervous system in general.
One study even mentions that the antioxidants found in tulsi or holy basil could have “neuroprotective” effects! This means not only that it could support the protection and possibly reduce the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, it could also have an effect on protecting against stroke risk, Parkinson’s risk, and more. It may also help boost cognition, memory, mental energy, learning ability, neuroplasticity, and other functions related to the brain and nerves.
Holy basil is a truly special plant. Backed by ancient lore, hundreds of years of traditional use connected to improved longevity, and scientific studies, it’s a powerful herb with plenty of benefits for including in your daily herbal self-care— and you can find it in our tasty, drinkable supplement powder!