Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) isn’t your average basil. It’s different from the sweet basil you use to make mama’s marinara sauce or the Thai basil you throw into a steaming bowl of pho. Native to Southeast Asia, holy basil has been used medicinally for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. Typically grown in large amounts in the courtyards of many Hindu forts, it was believed that the herb could cleanse the body.
While there’s an array of anecdotal evidence to tout the healing properties of of the plant, like other medicinal supplements, clinical evidence to support claims remains scarce.
- Why so holy? Holy basil is used in Hindu culture for the worship of Vishnu and other deities.
- While it’s not a great fit for your marinara recipe, holy basil is used in some Thai dishes.
In 2010, a review of findings confirmed that holy basil did have therapeutic value and further investigation of holy basil’s “health promoting qualities is sure to bear rich fruit.”
But the downside is that the majority of proof relies on testing done only on animal cells in a petri dish.
Read on to learn about seven potential health benefits for holy basil.
1. Heal Wounds
Holy basil not only has a supernatural mythos, it also holds a superhuman secret. Extracts made from its leaves are thought to boost wound healing speed and strength.
2. Fight Bacteria
Bacterial infections can complicate even the smallest of wounds. Staph infections are a growing problem across the globe, but holy basil appears to naturally exorcise those demons. Research suggests that holy basil may be a powerful antibiotic against these debilitating and deadly bacteria.
3. Prevent Diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes manage their condition by tracking and making changes to their diet. Holy basil may be a good addition. Preliminary research indicates that including holy basil in your diet can help control blood sugar levels. Just be careful if you have diabetes — because it has been shown to lower blood sugar, it could potentially cause low blood sugar levels in those who are on medications to control blood sugar.
4. Cut Cholesterol
Animal research suggests that fresh holy basil can significantly lower harmful cholesterol in the blood. Other research indicates that holy basil extracts may help guard the heart against chronic stress.
5. Protect Your Stomach
Stress can do a number on your stomach. It can contribute to acid reflux and ulcers. But holy basil has anti-ulcer properties. Not only does it reduce stomach acid, it increases the production of protective mucus.
6. Protect Your Joints
Chronic inflammation affects millions of Americans, but holy basil contains several compounds that can help ease inflammation just as well as aspirin.
7. Boost Your Brain
Extracts made from the root of holy basil have been shown to have mentally stimulating and de-stressing capabilities. While that sounds like the perfect cocktail after work, more research is needed before you’ll be able to get it at Starbucks.
Other research suggests it may have other natural barriers against other mental problems besides sluggishness, such as anticonvulsant and anti-dementia, but the medical jury is still out on those claims.
Be Safe, Talk to Your Doctor
While holy basil may sound like a miracle cure for many common problems, make sure you speak with your doctor before incorporating it or any other supplement into your diet. Holy basil is not recommended in pregnancy as it may stimulate uterine contractions.
The proof for the plant’s benefits is lacking, and so are its side effects. It may have anti-fertility effects in men and women and be potentially dangerous for people with bleeding disorders. Holy basil may be too good to be true.