Herb of the Week: Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)

September 07, 2019

Herb of the Week: Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)


• Other names: Tulsi, Tulasi

 Parts used: Leaf

 Taste: Pungent, sweet

 Energy: Warm, neutral

• Traditional and medicinal uses: Cerebral stimulant, antibacterial, antidepressant, antioxidant


Herbal roots grow deep. Ocimum sanctum, commonly known as Holy Basil, has particularly deep roots in eastern culture as a traditional medicinal and spiritual aromatic. Originating in parts of North-Central India, Holy Basil is a sacred plant among Hindus and is commonly used in a variety of religious rituals and services. Beyond its spiritual origins, Holy Basil has a long history of traditional medicinal benefits: users swear by it for its many uses in herbal teas, essential oils, and medicinal tinctures.

The journey toward total wellness – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness – is just as important as healing from chronic illness. If you’re looking for a medicinal herb that can help put you on a path toward both an outer and inner healing journey, look no further than Holy Basil. 


The following are a combination of perceived medicinal benefits of Holy Basil based on historical information, traditional benefits and modern, scientific examples grounded in studies and research. 

• Neural Stimulant 

Historically, Holy Basil was used in India as a neural stimulant. Individuals who experienced brain fog, mental fatigue during menopause, impaired memory and clouded thinking as a result of cannabis use often relied on Holy Basil to sharpen their mental faculties and increase their ability to focus. Modern homeopathic neuroprotective uses for Holy Basil include treatment of ADHD and as an additional supplement when recovering from head injuries and head trauma. 

• Mild Adaptogen

Adaptogens, or herbal substances that can assist the body in adapting to stress and reduce stress-induced symptoms, are critical in maintaining a healthy, well-regulated lifestyle. While many herbal users recognize ginseng as a powerful adaptogen, Holy Basil is an excellent alternative, regulating multiple bodily systems. 

• Antidepressant 

Herbal remedies for symptoms of depression and anxiety are common, and Holy Basil can be a strong addition to a holistic health and wellness regimen. In India, Holy Basil has been used to keep symptoms of anxiety and depression at bay, uses which have been confirmed by modern medical studies. 



• Immunostimulant 

For those combating cancer, Holy Basil is believed by some to act as a holistic option – when combined with other strong immune tonics – to help combat symptoms of immunosuppression from harsh treatment regimens, such as chemotherapy and other radiation-based therapy. An immune amphoteric, Holy Basil is thought to enhance the body’s humoral immunological response while inhibiting hypersensitivity reactions caused by a weakened immune system. 

• Internal Systems Regulator 

We take many of our bodily functions for granted – until they act up! Fortunately, Holy Basil is an excellent internal systems regulator. Gas, nausea, intestinal bloating and fluctuating blood sugar levels are all systemic issues that Holy Basil helps regulate. Through a conscious effort to incorporate Holy Basil into your holistic wellness plan, it is also possible to regulate other systemic issues, including cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Finally, Holy Basil has also been traditionally used to address symptoms of bronchitis, colds and fevers, and taking an infusion of the seed can help with painful symptoms caused by urinary tract irritations and scalding urine. 

• Topical Antiviral 

While many herbs are ingested orally, Holy Basil is unique in that it also possesses a variety of benefits when applied topically. It is an antiviral herb, and as such it has been traditionally used to treat oral, genital or ophthalmic herpes and shingles. Additionally, antibacterial washes can be made from Holy Basil leaves to treat acne and other difficult skin conditions. 

• Gastrointestinal Aid 

The gastrointestinal system is incredibly complex – fortunately, Holy Basil addresses the gastrointestinal system at every level! Ingesting Holy Basil or drinking it as an herbal leaf tea has historically helped stave off symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, gas, gastrointestinal irritation and more. When combined with other laxative herbs, Holy Basil can be used to inhibit or prevent intestinal cramping. 


Consult the herbal combinations below to learn which herbal allies can enhance the efficacy of Holy Basil and provide additional benefits that contribute to a natural, holistic, health-oriented lifestyle. 

• Neurological & Mood-Boosting Combinations

By combining it with Bacopa, Ginkgo, St. John’s Wort and Rosemary, users may be able to increase the potency of Holy Basil and decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD and mental difficulties caused by head trauma.


• Can Enhance CYP-450 Activity

• May Have Antifertility Effects

• May Inhibit TSH Binding

No matter its benefits, always be sure to consult any possible contraindications or drug interactions caused by an herbal ally. For those taking Holy Basil, be aware that it has been shown in animal studies to reduce fertility rates. Expecting mothers should not take Holy Basil during pregnancy. Due to its TSH-binding inhibition properties, those with thyroid conditions such as Graves’ disease should not take Holy Basil. Lastly, it should be noted that Holy Basil can enhance CYP-450 enzymes, which are essential for the metabolism of many medications. Because this can lead to unexpected drug interactions, be sure to consult with your primary care provider before incorporating Holy Basil into your holistic wellness plan. 


Learn more about Holy Basil: find suggested doses, wildcrafting suggestions and more.

Purchase Holy Basil: receive deals from the Embark Herbals store.

Book a one-on-one consultation: consult an expert on how to incorporate herbal allies into your wellness regimen.