Holy Basil Benefits, Side Effects and Info

This website contains information and research on the herb known as Holy Basil – not to be confused with sweet (culinary) basil.

In some parts of India, the leaves of the holy basil plant are brewed in a tea that is used as an expectorant to treat people with excessive bronchial mucus and bronchitis. The tea also is used for people with upset stomach, biliousness, and vomiting. The powdered/dried leaves have been used as a snuff for nasal congestion, and the juice of the fresh leaf is put in the ear for earaches. A decoction made from the root is used to lower malarial fevers, and a poultice made from the fresh roots and leaves is applied to bites and stings from wasps, bees, mosquitoes, ants, and other insects as well as leeches. The seeds are mucilaginous (slimy) and have been used to soothe the urinary tract when urination is difficult or painful.

In Thailand, holy basil is called bai gkaprow or kaphrao daeng. It is used as a spice in cooking and as a medicine for people with gas, intestinal cramps, ulcers, colds, influenza, headaches, coughs, and sinusitis.

This plant has become naturalized in Suriname in northern South America, where it is used for many of the same conditions that it was used for in India—snakebites, abdominal pain, and to lower fevers.

There has been a significant amount of both animal studies and human clinical research on the benefits of holy basil. Today, we know this versatile plant is an adaptogen with antioxidant, neuroprotective, stress reducing, and radioprotective (protects against the damaging effects of ionizing radiation) effects.

In animal studies, pretreatment with methanol extracts of holy basil reduced brain damage caused by reduced cerebral circulation. Alcohol extracts of this herb showed significant antistress activities in mice exposed to acute and chronic noise stress. Use of holy basil prevented increased corticosterone levels that indicate elevated stress levels. A water extract of holy basil protected mice against radiation damage to the liver and chromosome damage to the cells. It prevented this damage by reducing hepatic lipid perioxidation and increasing the presence of two powerful cellular antioxidants: superoxide dimutase and superoxide catalase.

Other animal studies provided preliminary evidence that holy basil lowers blood sugar levels, helps prevent gastric ulcers, and enhances antibody production while inhibiting the symptoms of allergies.

There have been a few human studies. In one, holy basil was found to help reduce asthma symptoms, and in another, patients with type 2 diabetes had significant reductions in blood sugar levels (17.6 percent) while fasting and smaller decreases in blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels after eating.


Holy basil is found throughout the lowlands of India as well as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, southern China, Thailand, and Malaysia. In India, small patches of it are widely cultivated for daily use. There are at least three types of holy basil. The greenleafed variety sri or rama tulsi is the most common. The second type (Krishna tulsi) bears dark-green to purple leaves; this variety has a stronger taste and smell. The third type (vana tulsi, O. tenuiflorum) is a green-leafed forest variety that often grows wild.


Adaptogen, antibacterial, antidepressant, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue (promotes the flow of mother’s milk), and immunomodulator


Essential oils such as eugenol, carvacol, linalool, caryophylline, and methyleugenol as well as triterpenes such as ursolic acid and flavonoids.

Names Of The Herb

Scientific Name

Ocimum Sanctum

Common Names

Ajaka, Albahaca Santa, Bai Gkaprow, Baranda, Basilic Sacré, Brinda, Green Holy Basil, Hot Basil, Indian Basil, Kala Tulsi, Kemangen, Krishna Tulasi, Krishna Tulsi, Manjari, Ocimum tenuiflorum, Ocimum sanctum, Parnasa, Patrapuspha, Rama Tulsi, Red Holy Basil, Sacred Basil, Sacred Purple Basil, Shyama Tulsi, Sri Tulasi, Suvasa Tulasi, Tulasi, Tulsi, Tulsi Patra.

Holy Basil Benefits

Holy Basil has is great for reducing depression, stress and anxiety. It promotes health and well being and protects the mind and body in a very positive way.

It is an adaptogen, meaning it brings balance to the entire body and protects it from stresses of all kinds. It increases strength, stamina and endurance and allows the body to utilize oxygen more efficiently while it promotes proper protein synthesis in the body. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is a very important herb.

It can improve digestion, boost the immune system and promote cardiovascular health. Holy Basil has stood the test of time, being used in India for thousands of years for it’s medicinal properties.

Holy Basil enhances cerebral circulation and improves memory. It reduces unclear thinking and mental fog. For these reasons, it has been used to treat ADD and ADHD and depression.

It balances the hormones and helps maintain healthy cortisol levels. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well. It is helpful in maintaining normal blood sugar levels too.

Holy Basil is often used to treat coughs, sore throats and the common cold, as it boosts the body’s ability to resist viral and bacterial infections and fevers. It promotes a healthy respiratory system and can be used to treat bronchitis, asthma and allergies.

It’s also good for maintaining a healthy digestive system, relieving cramps and gas. It is good for the eyes and protects against some forms of radiation. It contains compounds that are antioxidant in nature, helping protect the body against dangerous free radicals and oxidation.

Holy Basil is good for the liver and promotes it’s healthy functioning. It can eliminate harmful chemicals in the bloodstream and protects against liver disease. It also has the ability to strengthen the kidneys.

This herb is also useful in maintaining dental health and reduces bad breath as well.

It also has some topical applications like the treatment of bug bites and skin disorders. It is a very versatile plant witch is very beneficial to health.

Because Holy Basil is so beneficial to the entire body, it is considered a longevity enhancing herb and has often been taken for this reason alone.

Holy Basil Uses

  • Reduce stress, depression and anxiety

  • Treat panic attacks

  • Promote mental relaxation

  • As an adaptogen

  • Treat convulsions

  • Treat cancer

  • Increase strength, stamina and endurance

  • Utilize oxygen more efficiently

  • Promote proper protein synthesis

  • Aid digestion

  • Boost the functioning of the immune system

  • Promote cerebral circulation

  • Improve memory

  • Promote clarity of thought and focus

  • Treat diabetes

  • Treat ADHD and ADD

  • For faster wound healing

  • As a pain reducer

  • Treat kidney stones

  • Treat high cholesterol

  • Treat heart disorders

  • Treat mouth infections

  • Treat headaches

  • Treat poisoning

  • Balance hormones

  • Maintain healthy cortisol levels

  • Maintain proper blood sugar levels

  • Treat inflammation

  • Treat colds, sore throat and coughs

  • Treat snakebite and scorpion stings

  • Resist bacterial and viral infections

  • Treat malaria

  • Reduce fevers

  • Maintain respiratory health

  • Treat asthma, allergies and bronchitis

  • Treat arthritis

  • Relieve gas and stomach cramps

  • Protect vision and eye health

  • Protect against radiation

  • As a powerful antioxidant

  • Protect the liver and kidneys

  • Maintain dental health and reduce bad breath

  • Treat insect bites and skin problems

Holy basil has special properties because it belongs to a group of plants known as adaptogens. The more modern name is phytomedicines. These plants have many different benefits for humans. Near the top of the list are reducing stress, having a calming effect, and strengthening the immune system. Beyond these, adaptogens have positive effects in reducing inflammation, preventing cancers, decreasing sickness during chemotherapy (protects against radiation), strengthening the immune system and protecting the heart.

Additionally, holy basil is beneficial in the treatment of stomach problems, epilepsy, snake bites, earaches, ulcers, flu, pain, malaria, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, bronchitis, vomiting, sinusitis, and many other conditions and diseases. Much of this is possible because holy basil contains antioxidants.

You can ingest holy basil as a tea, an oil, and in capsule form. Some say the herb should not be used by children, consider with your doctor in this case.

A Quick Guide to Holy Basil Side Effects

As an herb you should do some research on holy basil side effects before using it for medicinal purposes. Any chemical or substance used internally should be checked out before you ingest it.

While holy basil side effects are considerably less than for many other herbs, you need to research all herbs before using them, just to be on the safe side. Some of the benefits of holy basil have been proven by tests and research studies, while others are remedies that have been passed down from generation to generation.

There are very few holy basil side effects as most Asians have used the herb for many centuries with little harm done. It does seem to have the effect of thinning the blood, so this is something you should talk to your doctor about, particularly if you take anti-clotting agents. Many people have found that holy basil reduces blood sugar levels. This is particularly good news for diabetics, but if you are already on prescription medicines for diabetes control, this side effect could reduce your blood sugar by too much, causing dizziness or fainting. If you are taking holy basil, do some extra monitoring of your glucose levels.

Other holy basil side effects may affect pregnancy, such as decreasing fertility. This is true in animals and until more studies are done, women who are pregnant, want to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding should not use holy basil. It is possible for drug interactions to occur, so if you take prescription medicines and want to start taking holy basil, check with your doctor. It might also be appropriate to talk with an herbalist or an alternative health practitioner. Some say not to take holy basil together with acetaminophen. Alternative health practitioners also are familiar with the appropriate dosages.

Holy basil might be safe when used for short periods of time, up to four weeks. It's not known if long-term use is safe.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of holy basil during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Surgery: Holy basil might slow blood clotting, so there is a concern that it could increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using holy basil at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Holy Basil Interactions

Be cautious with this combination:

  • Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with HOLY BASIL

    Holy basil might slow blood clotting. Taking holy basil along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. But there isn't enough information to know if this is a big concern.

    Some medications that slow blood clotting include include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

  • Pentobarbital interacts with HOLY BASIL

    Pentobarbital causes drowsiness. There is some concern that taking holy basil seed oil with pentobarbital might cause too much drowsiness. But there isn't enough information to know if this is a big concern.

Holy Basil Dosing

The appropriate dose of holy basil depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for holy basil. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Tincture (1:5 or 1:2): 40–60 drops, three times per day.

Tea: Add 1 tsp. dried leaf to 8 oz. hot water, steep, covered, 5–10 minutes. Take 4 oz. up to three times per day.

Capsules: Various forms of capsulated products are available. These include extracts in gelcaps, dried or powdered herb in capsules, and standardized extracts (2 percent ursolic acid) in capsules.

Safety Issues: There have been contradictory animal studies showing that holy basil might be toxic to embryos. Until conclusive information exists, avoid using it during pregnancy.

Herb/Drug Interactions: Preliminary studies indicate that holy basil might enhance CYP-450 activity, thus speeding up the elimination of some medications.

The Science of Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Holy basil oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Several studies have demonstrated that constituents of holy basil can neutralize free radicals and inhibit the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. An animal study found an extract of holy basil to be essentially equivalent to a standard dose of aspirin. These effects may explain one of Tulsi's traditional roles in the treatment of pain and arthritis.

The antioxidant properties of holy basil may also underlie its effectiveness in dampening the effects of stress on the physiology. In addition to its ability to dampen the chemical changes of stress, holy basil also appears to influence the neurochemistry of the brain in a manner similar to antidepressant medications. These interesting pharmacological properties have recently been applied to different clinical situations with potentially important results. A number of studies have looked at the ability of holy basil to protect healthy cells from the toxicity associated with radiation and chemotherapy for cancer. Components of holy basil consistently limit the damage that radiation causes to the bone marrow and digestive tract in animals. When the cells were looked at microscopically, those animals that received holy basil had less chromosomal damage than those that received a placebo.

Holy basil has also been shown to protect the heart from damage caused by a widely used chemotherapy drug, adriamycin. It seems to work by protecting components of heart and liver cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals generated by the chemotherapy. Other studies have shown holy basil to have a protective effect against chemical carcinogens. Adding to its potential value in the prevention and treatment of cancer, holy basil has also been shown to enhance different aspects of the immune response in animals.

Another medical condition that holy basil may benefit is diabetes. Studies have shown holy basil to have substantial blood sugar lowering effects, similar to standard oral diabetes medications. It also appears capable of lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Diabetes is one of the few areas where holy basil has been formally tested in people. In a recent study of forty patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) people taking two and one-half grams of dried Tulsi leaf powder every morning showed significant reductions in their blood glucose levels first thing in the morning as well as after their meals. In addition to lower glucose levels, they also had a mild reduction in their cholesterol levels. This simple intervention could have a substantial impact on this common health problem, particularly in regions where expensive diabetes medications are out of reach for many people.

One of Tulsi's traditional uses has been in the treatment of digestive disorders ranging from heartburn to bloating. Studies in animals have suggested that there is a scientific basis to these longstanding claims. Holy basil has been shown to have significant anti-ulcer activity. It reduces the effect of peptic acid or irritating drugs on the stomach lining and increases the production of protective stomach mucous.

Holy Basil’s Role in the Prevention and Treatment of Stress Disorders

Holy basil calms the mind, improves both cellular and humoral immunity, enhances stamina and reduces fatigue, lowers blood pressure and increased heart rate due to stress, decreases stress-induced intestinal motility, reduces increased coagulation (thrombosis) occurring during stress, and protects against radiation, free radical damage, pollution, and bacterial, viral and fungal infections, cancer and improves oxygen utilization.

Stress Disorder

Holy Basil: Prevention & Treatment

Disturbed central nervous system (CNS) – psychosis, depression, hypertension, schizophrenia

Calms the central nervous system

Reduced immunity – chronic and viral infections

Improves cellular and humoral (fluids) immunity

Muscular fatigue

Anti-fatigue (improves stamina)

Increased adrenaline – increased blood pressure and heart rate

Reduces Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

Increased intestinal motility – emotional diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome

Decreases intestinal mobility

Increased coagulation (thrombosis – blood clots)

Anti-coagulant & Anti-thrombotic

Increased free radicals (cell damage); results in heart attacks (arteriosclerosis – hardening of the arteries), diabetes, cataracts and other diseases

Antioxidant (reduces cell damage)

Bacterial, fungal, viral & parasitic infections (biological stressors) – such as pneumonia, colds, herpes

Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral

Radiation, cancer, leukemia (physical stressors)

Anti-radiation and anti-tumor


These reviews are from WebMD's homepage and from the internet:

Reviewer: 19-24 Male on Treatment for less than 1 month (Consumer)


Extremely effective for generalized and/or social anxiety. This herb is similar to Kava Kava but with more of body effects. I take two gel capsules daily ... The highest amount I've taken in one day is five gel caps, and it left me feeling very relaxed with pain relief effects ...

Reviewer: jenns, 25-34 Female on Treatment for less than 1 month


Feeling the hormone imbalance shift back to normal, better mood, more energy

Reviewer: Seriously_Stressed, 25-34 Female on Treatment for 1 to 6 months (Consumer)


I have been dealing with anger problems for a few years and as a college student with no health insurance for relief, ... I felt it work after the first dose ... will agree that it really calms me down. My fiancee also suffers from PTSD and I gave him a dose to try. I had to hide my bottle so he would stop stealing mine! I will admit due to the lack of information on the counteractions to prescrition antidepressants he does not take it anymore. I however need to take it daily to keep my anger down. Taking the reccomended dose by ... (2 softgels with a meal daily) works perfect. I've only felt one side effect - I feel very warm but it comes and goes shortly after taking it. I lift weights and noticed I'm not as sore as I normally would be afterwards. I caught "that nasty cold going around" that people had for 2 weeks, I had it for 3 days (I had taken it for 3 weeks prior though). I normally bruise easily and havent aquired a cut recently so I cant comment on the blood thinning properties just yet. This is the only supplement I take.

Reviewer: rn2b, 35-44 Female (Consumer)


I use this before taking nursing exams. I prefer it over pharmacy meds..which make me dizzy. Great natural choice. You remain cool, calm & collected. The tension in my shoulders goes away. It also helps with my asthma. A fellow student's(also suffering from axiety)gynocologist spoke highly of holy basil.

Reviewer: 19-24 Male on Treatment for less than 1 month (Consumer)


I started taking Holy Basil supplements (500 mg capsules) recently at the suggestion of a friend to help with stress. I take this after I get home from work, and it REALLY relaxes me. Seriously, this stuff works. I sleep like a ... baby whenever I take it and wake up exceptionally refreshed. If you're on the fence, TRY IT!

Reviewer: 45-54 Female (Consumer)


I have suffered from panic attacks for years and found none of the traditional methods worked for me. holy basil does the trick, I take two every night before bed and all is right with the world. With no side effects.

Reviewer: pmcgall64, 45-54 Female on Treatment for 1 to 6 months (Consumer)


I have used this product for elevated levels of cortisol. This along with lemon balm, helped me after no relief from ashwaganda and other recommended natural products.

Reviewer: 25-34 Female on Treatment for 2 to less than 5 years (Consumer)


I was diagnosed with adrenal cortical carcinoma and have one adrenal gland and was told to take this for calming. Stressful situations and I have had relief from it.

Reviewer: nutrition, 45-54 Female on Treatment for less than 1 month (Consumer)


My 6 months granddaughter had a bad chest cold and her nose was filled with thick yellowish/greenish cold. The doctor said that there is no medication for so young children. We boiled a few leaves of Tulsi in water and put it in a humidifier. We then went into the room turn the humidifier on and she fell asleep and the cold and congestion was 75% gone. The next day we repeat it and she was cured of her cold. She did not get a cold until now she is 2 years old and again we repeat the process and she is okay again. We used the ... tea for cold, no matter what age and it always help.

November 29, 2009, From Massachusetts

This product seems to help me focus and gives me mental clarity.

September 23, 2009, By Dolores Steven Mostert From Arizona

This item appears to have a relaxing effect. Take it in advance of situations which cause stress.

November 01, 2010, From New York

I take this in conjunction with Rhodiola Rosea to stave off mild depression and anxiety. Holy Basil does take the edge of anxiety, no side effects, and I will continue to use this herb. Much better than anti-depressants (for me) that cause unwanted side effects.

September 25, 2010

My new favorite herb. I never knew Basil worked for mood/depression. It works wonderfully. When a stressful event is taking place at work my perspective is way different. I react differently i know it sound hippyish and thats not me but im like hey man whats the problem calm down lets see if we can find a solution instead of just freaking out, dude just take a walk and get some fresh air chill. It also helps lung and sinus conditions too.

October 12, 2009, By Lyndi Chamison From Georgia

Does seem to do a nice job of helping me get a bit calmer. No side effects or issues since taking. Usually take 1 - 2 per day.

August 07, 2009, From Rhode Island

Wonderful as it helps relax and promotes calmness.

November 09, 2011, From Georgia

Holy basil is supposed to be good for alot of things including stress which is the reason I was attracted to it. ... It definitly makes the days go smoother. Will be part of my daily routine for life, one of the few supplements I take that I can actually feel working.

Free DVDs, Articles & Books