Sip from the holy grail of stress-reducing herbs


“Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it,” jokes actress Lily Tomlin. You can’t get rid of every stressful situation in your life. But you can give your body the extra boost it needs to face hard times head-on — like a cup of holy basil tea. This relaxing herb has a long history of nipping stress symptoms in the bud.

But before you head to your spice cabinet, hold on. Holy basil is not the sweet basil found in your favorite pesto recipes. These fragrant, bitter leaves are more commonly found in teas or capsules.

No matter what form you try, you can expect the same stress-relieving benefits people have experienced for thousands of years. Studies agree — holy basil helps your body adapt to stress. That’s why it’s known as an adaptogen.

  • Scientists put ancient wisdom to the test in a recent clinical study. Difficulty adjusting to stressful situations is a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Thirty-five people who suffered with GAD took 500 milligrams (mg) of holy basil leaf extract twice daily after meals. Follow-up questionnaires showed that symptoms related to stress, depression, and anxiety began to fade after two months.
  • In a different study, 71 participants who took 1,200 mg of holy basil daily reported improvements for stress-related symptoms in just six weeks. That means less forgetfulness, exhaustion, and sleep difficulties. And as a bonus, no negative side effects. That’s more than you can say for most anxiety medications.

Holy basil is still new to modern science, so researchers haven’t recommended a dosage yet. But if you want to give it a try, you can buy tea online or in stores.

Many happy Amazon customers say holy basil helps them relax and even sleep better. And prices for this soothing tea are on par with other healthful teas.


3 types of holy basil you’ll want to try
What’s the easiest way to score holy basil benefits? Buy from health food stores or online in the form of dried leaves or supplements. But with a little creativity, you can use other types to help your health.

  • Powder. Find this fine form in health stores or online. Use it to make tea, or sprinkle on vegetables
  • Essential oil. Sellers say diffusing the warm aroma will help calm your mind and encourage sleep.
  • Fresh leaves. It’s hard to find fresh holy basil since it grows best in the climate of its native India. Try growing it indoors in a pot on a sunny windowsill.


Tulsi for tumors — an herb with incomparable benefits
Holy moley! Shop for holy basil, and you’ll come across something strange — packages also labeled tulsi. That’s because tulsi is another word for this heavenly herb. It translates to “incomparable one.” A good name, considering its powerful effects against cancer.

So how is tulsi such a fierce cancer foe? Eugenol, apigenin, luteolin, and a few other words that seem impossible to pronounce. These seemingly nonsensical terms have one thing in common — they’re all phytochemicals, natural compounds found in plants. Their superpower is tackling cancer and warding off damage from radiation therapy.

Antioxidants fight cancer footholds. Your body is made up of millions of cells. Cancer gains ground when damaged cells grow and spread. Phytochemicals in holy basil protect your body by acting like antioxidants. They squash dangerous cells, blocking the development of cancer.

As a result, this “saintly” herb may prevent an impressive lineup of cancers from hijacking your body. Basil bodyguards may help halt skin, liver, oral, prostate, and lung cancers.

Fight off treatment effects with ancient herb. Killing cancer cells with radiation is a common treatment. While high-dose radiation destroys cancer cells and shrinks tumors, it can also harm healthy cells in the process. This is why many people experience side effects such as nausea, skin irritation, fatigue, diarrhea, and more.

Studies show tulsi and its phytochemicals protect against the effects of radiation therapy. They scavenge free radicals to prevent radiation from damaging your healthy cells.

Although supplements are available, tulsi is still considered an alternative medicine. Scientists haven’t performed enough studies to make a recommendation for cancer prevention. So talk to your doctor before adding tulsi supplements to your cancer-fighting arsenal.

WARNING: Holy basil sounds like an angelic herb. But if you’re taking medications that thin blood, like heparin or warfarin — even aspirin — it can be downright devilish. Like those drugs, the herb slows clotting, so it may increase your chances of bruising and bleeding.


Balance blood sugar with an ancient healer

Holy basil is a powerful herb in Indian medicine. For thousands of years, Ayurvedic medicine, as it’s known, has prescribed it for a hodgepodge of complaints — pain, inflammation, skin conditions, colds, fevers, and more.

You won’t find many Western studies on these alternative uses. But you can dig up an occasional diamond in the rough. Who would have thought holy basil could help fight a serious condition like diabetes? Yet research shows it may play a role in balancing blood sugar.

Researchers first studied this herb back in the 1960s. They found holy basil improved fasting blood sugar in nine out of 10 people with type 2 diabetes. Fast forward three decades. Researchers asked type 2 diabetes patients to take 2.5 grams — a little more than a tablespoon — of tulsi leaves every day for a month.

Again, blood sugar levels improved. After an eight-hour fast, volunteers’ blood glucose dropped about 18 percent. Post-meal glucose levels improved by more than 7 percent. Recent studies have continued to support holy basil as a safe treatment that may help normalize blood sugar.

In India, holy basil is still more commonly used in folk medicine rather than culinary dishes. But countries such as Thailand take advantage of its spicy taste in their cooking. Follow their lead and toss it into stir-fries and soups.



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  • FC&A Staff Writer