Holy basil is a plant native to Southern Asia. This plant is also sometimes known by its sanskrit name “Tulasi” or “Tulsi” which means “The Incomparable One.” This plant is revered by several cultures and religions as being sacred, and is treated with great care and respect. Holy Basil is a culinary herb as well as a medicinal herb and has many health benefits, but the main reason I want to talk about holy basil today is because of its ability to help lower excess stress hormones, namely cortisol levels, in the body.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is one of your stress hormones. Produced by the adrenal glands, cortisol is released in times when you perceive stress. Cortisol’s main role in the body is to mobilize stored blood sugars so that they can be converted into usable energy by the liver. The reason that the body would want to mobilize stored body sugars in times of stress is to give your muscles the fuel they would need in order to fight or to run. Cortisol will also give you a temporary immune and memory boost, as well as helping to control blood pressure.
Cortisol is a normal hormone that is released at different intervals throughout the day, even when you are not stressed. In a healthy person cortisol levels will be higher in the morning, and lower at night. It is a regulatory hormone that you do need.
Cortisol can become a problem when it is when it is overproduced. When you are in a state of prolonged stress, your adrenal glands will be pumping out high levels of cortisol which over time can cause health issues such as:
- Impaired blood sugar regulation
- Decreased immunity
- Weight gain in the abdomen
- Poor memory/concentration
- Intense food cravings
- Elevated cholesterol levels
As you can see, having elevated cortisol levels over a long period of time is not very good for your body.
Holy Basil Can Help You Adapt To Stress
This is where Holy Basil can come to your rescue. Holy Basil is classified as an “adaptogenic herb” meaning that it helps the body adapt to stress. The two main compounds found in Holy Basil that lend it its adaptogenic qualities are eugenol and caryophyllene. These two compounds help to lower cortisol levels and improve the way the body reacts and responds in times of increased stress.
This herb can also be used as a preventative measure because taking it on an ongoing basis when you are not particularly stressed can actually reduce the amount of stress hormones your body will produce when it is under stress. Taking Holy Basil can also help to improve mood and mental clarity.
Now remember, there is no one supplement that is going to be a cure-all for stress. What Holy Basil will do is help to support your body in times of stress, but it is going to be most effective when combined with other diet and lifestyle behaviours like deep breathing, proper sleep, adequate hydration and whole foods.
Other Uses For Holy Basil
Holy basil is not only amazing for helping to regulate cortisol. In Ayurvedic medicine Holy Basil is used to help treat and prevent a number of illnesses:
- Helping to balance blood sugar in those with diabetes
- Common cold
- Stomach ache
- Mercury poisoning
- Poor circulation
- Snake bites
- Skin conditions
- Tumor protective
- High antioxidant content
Holy Basil is a super herb that can help with so many health issues. It can be prepared as a tea, taken in tincture form or in capsule. Generally there will be dosing instructions on the bottle, or you can speak with a herbalist or other qualified health care practitioner that you trust to figure out how much is optimal for you.
When you’re using medicinal herbs, quality is key. Overtime, dried herbs can oxidize and lose their potency, so if you’re relying on herbs to support you in your healing, you must be sure yours are effective. Finding the cheapest source is not the ideal way to select herbs. Here are a few sources you can try:
Harmonic Arts Adapting Gems tea blend (with holy basil)
Harmonic Arts Holy Basil Liquid Extract (tincture)
Gaia Herbs Holy Basil Liquid Phyto-capsules
Other Adaptogenic Herbs:
Holy Basil can work well all on its own, but it can also be taken in conjunction with other adaptogenic herbs and herbs that support the adrenal glands. Other herbs to look into are:
- Siberian Ginseng
- Liquorice root
Again, be sure to check in with a qualified health care practitioner if you are unsure if these herbs are right for you, especially if you are taking other herbs or medications.
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