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Holy basilOcimum sanctum / Ocimum tenuiflorum, has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years in India and S.E. Asia.  Its distinct cooling mellow “peppery” flavor distinguishes it from other varieties of basil.  The aroma is a blend of peppermint, cloves, licorice and lemon.  This flavor and aroma make holy basil an essential ingredient for Thai cooking.  In addition to its culinary use, holy basil is a medicinal herb in the category known as “adaptogens.”

Adaptogens are the precious gemstones of botanical medicine.  Ancient traditions gave them spiritual significance and made amazing claims of supernormal healing abilities based on their consistent extraordinary results.  The Hindu name for holy basil is “Tulsi” which means “the incomparable one.” Tulsi holds a special status in Hindu mythology where it is considered sacred. Today clinical research and scientific studies are verifying many of the medical claims of the ancient masters.

The wide range and depth of healing abilities of adaptogens is due to their ability to promote homeostasis (balance) throughout the body.

Chronic stress contributes to a wide spectrum of health problems.  Holy basil enhances the body’s ability to function optimally in the face of physical, mental and emotional stress.  The  primary adaptogenic metabolic pathway taken by holy basil is to balance adrenaline, cortisol and corticostrone stress hormone levels.  While a certain level of stress is healthy, chronic (on-gong) stress is damaging and requires therapeutic intervention.

Balanced levels of stress hormones such as corticosteron promoted by holy basil result in improved cognitive functions such as memory and mental clarity and reduces the risk of age-related degenerative mental disorders.

Aromatic compounds found in holy basil (particularly eugenol) combat stress and enhance mental clarity.  Additionally triterpenoic acid and caryophyllene (a primary terpene) found in holy basil enhance the body’s adaptive stress response. Daily supplementation of holy basil has been shown to significantly reduce corticosterone levels helping the body to handle stress, elevate mood, and improve mental clarity. Holy basil contributes significantly to maintaining levels of stress hormones  such as cortisol within normal (healthy) parameters thereby reducing the damaging effects of chronic stress on many aspects of your health and well-being.

Weight Loss:  The stress-reducing properties of holy basil assist in weight loss. When the body is stressed it sends signals to ingest more food and hold on to all energy sources, storing the food you take in as fat in an ill- fated (unbalanced) attempt to protect the body.

Skin health:  Holy basil purifies the blood.  Elimination of toxins in the bloodstream reduce the appearance of pimples and acne.  Holy basil is an essential ingredient in herbal skin care formulations helping to maintain healthy skin and hair.

Anti-bacterial / Anti- viral:  Bacterial and viral infections are a growing global concern. Allopathic medications are encountering strains that have developed resistance. Research supports the use of holy basil as an effective, natural, and powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent. The anti-microbial essential oils contained in holy basil are efficacious in the prevention and cure of a wide range of infections ranging from malaria, typhoid, flu and acne. A mild eye wash of a small quantity of holy basil mixed in water will help to prevent conjunctivitis, boils and eye problems due to viral, bacterial and fungal infections

Respiratory Disorders:  Camphene, eugenol and cineole found in holy basil’s essential oils are effective in helping to cure respiratory disorders including bronchitis and some of the underlying causes of asthma. Lung infections as well as congestion respond well to holy basil and lung damage from smoking and tuberculosis are helped to heal.

Prevents Diabetes:  Inclusion of Thai basil in your diet can help lower blood sugar levels.  While this helps to prevent diabetes, be careful.  If you already have type 2 diabetes and are on medication to control blood sugar holy basil could result in excessively low blood sugar.

Heals Wounds:  Holy basil leaves boost the strength and speed of healing wounds.  Healing of wounds is a dynamic process of tissue restoration, re-establishment of the integrity of injured skin and underlying tissues.  Topical application of holy basil provide its antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunostimulatory qualities that have been shown to improve the healing process.  Used after surgery it will help to heal wounds more quickly and protect healing areas from infections.

Lowers Bad Cholesterol:  Fresh holy basil appears to significantly lower harmful cholesterol in the blood.  This helps to guard the heart from chronic stress.

Joint Protection:  Holy basil contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that come from eugenol in the oil in the leaves that help to ease chronic joint inflammation and pain  including arthritis as effectively as aspirin.

Detoxifying Agent:  The “Journal of Medicinal Foods” (Sept. 2007 issue) published a study that showed holy basil to exercise substantial detoxifying ability.  Holy basil was found to provide protection to the liver against exposure to toxins, inhibition of oxidation of lipids and proteins and enhanced activity of liver-detoxifying enzymes.

Anti-Aging:   Vitamins A and C, phytonutrients and the essential oils in holy basil provide antioxidant protection.   Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) considers holy basil as a tonic to preserve youth and avoid premature aging.

More Information

From Wikipedia:

Ocimum tenuiflorum (synonym Ocimum sanctum), commonly known as holy basiltulasi (sometimes spelled thulasi) or tulsi, is an aromatic perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and widespread as a cultivated plant throughout the Southeast Asiantropics.

Tulasi is cultivated for religious and supposed traditional medicine purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely used as a herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda, and has a place within the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving holy basil plants or leaves.

The variety of Ocimum tenuiflorum used in Thai cuisine is referred to as Thai holy basil (Thai: กะเพราkaphrao); it is not to be confused with Thai basil, which is a variety of Ocimum basilicum.


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