Holy basil, also known as ‘tulsi,’ is not only a sacred plant but also a traditional home remedy for alleviating numerous health as well as mental issues, including anxiety, depression, panic attacks and stress. Its benefits mainly come from its antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Is Holy Basil Good for Anxiety: Does it Really Work
In a research article, published in the journal ‘Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine’ it was reported that after application of an extract of Ocimum tenuiflorum for six-weeks, stress-related symptoms reduced in subjects.
A study published in ‘The Nepal Medical College Journal’ in 2008, reported decreased symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and patients exhibiting a willingness to adjust when given 500 mg of holy basil supplement twice daily for sixty days.
When an ethanolic extract of holy basil leaves was given to rats, it prevented changes in the plasma level of corticosterone, acetylcholine, neutrophil functions even after being exposed to noise-induced stress.
In one study, ethanolic leaf extracts of holy basil showed an enhancement of cognitive ability in humans.
How Does it Work
Holy basil is considered to function as an adaptogen by enhancing the response to physical and emotional stress and promoting homeostasis. It can decrease the serum cortisol levels released during stress, and may also improve sleep.
The high content of polyphenolic compounds and antioxidant properties in holy basil may help in protecting the body against toxins by eliminating free radicals. It is said to increase the levels of antioxidant molecules and enzymes in the body like glutathione and catalase respectively that may protect the body from industrial and chemical toxicants, and the effects of metabolic stress.
How to Use Holy Basil for Anxiety
You can take holy basil tea by steeping 2-3 teaspoons of the leaves in boiling water for 4-5 minutes.
Fresh tulsi leaves can be eaten raw or used as a culinary herb.
Supplements of holy basil extract are available in pills/capsules or liquid form as drops. The dosage to treat anxiety usually varies from 300-2000 mg on a daily basis.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Although holy basil is considered to be safe, there is not much information about the effect of using it during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is advised to consult a doctor before using it for anxiety related symptoms as animal studies have shown that it may stimulate uterine contractions.
Tulsi or holy basil consumption is safe for a short period, up to around six weeks. Use over a longer period may induce some side effects like slow blood clotting. One study even associated long-term use of the herb with decreased sperm count in men.