Holy basil isn’t the same as the herb in your favorite tomato sauce. Rightfully called the “queen of all herbs,” this plant has been used in Ayurveda — the Indian health science of yoga — as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments from high stress levels to insomnia to high cholesterol. So if you've been feeling particularly burned out, this ancient herb can boost your health and improve your life in more ways than one!
Firstly, holy basil (also known as "tulsi") is an adaptogen, or an herb that helps the body adapt to both physical and emotional stress. In Ayurveda, it’s been used to treat conditions like eczema, bronchitis, stomach problems and ulcers, and even anxiety and depression. In fact, a study published in the journal of Ayurvedic Integrative Medicine supports that holy basil was just as effective as diazepam and other antidepressant drugs. Other studies have indicated that holy basil can improve cognitive functions like memory while also improving mood, even making people feel more social! This could be because it has a calming effect on the nervous system, encouraging relaxation, rejuvenation, and you guessed it — better, deeper sleep!
When it comes to physical stress, holy basil can help with that too. Both animal and human studies have shown that holy basil reduced tissue damage and exhaustion, sped up cell renewal, enhanced metabolism, and lessened sexual problems in subjects exposed to environmental stressors. This may be because it’s a powerful analgesic, antibacterial, and antifungal. It's also a potent anti-inflammatory, which helps with reducing joint pain and muscle tension. That means you can kiss those aches goodbye!
Holy basil has also been studied for improving other health conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes and prediabetes, and metabolic disorders. Research shows that eating holy basil leaf powder reduced HDL (bad) cholesterol while improving LDL (good) cholesterol in animal subjects. Similarly for diabetics or pre-diabetics, treatment with holy basil leaves improved blood sugar by reducing blood glucose levels significantly in human subjects. And because of its ability to control blood sugar and cholesterol, the adaptogen proves itself to be a helpful weight-loss solution.
While Ayurveda recommends consuming your holy basil in tea form, you can also purchase supplements that will help you reap the benefits. Many health food stores will carry holy basil tea, but you can also buy it online, like this one from Alvita ($8.59, Amazon). If you’d rather take supplements, try these from Gaia herbs ($19.60, Amazon). As always, get a doctors OK before starting on any new supplement regimen.
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