Holy Basil, also known by its chemical name as Ocimum sanctum, is representative of several important antioxidant properties and other benefits that may have a positive impact on human health (Devi, 2001). This plant is grown in India and is generally believed to have sacred properties, hence its name (Devi, 2001). In addition, this plant has been used in the past to treat different types of conditions, such as skin disorders, infections, colds and coughs, hepatic conditions, malaria, and even as an antidote for stings caused by scorpions and different types of snake bites (Devi, 2001). Therefore, this herb provides a number of unique and important benefits, even though it is not well known in the United States beyond the world of alternative medicine. It is important to identify the possible benefits of this herb and its applications in the United States, including its possible side effects, any possible interactions with existing medications, and other complications that could prevent its use. The following discussion will address some of these concerns in greater detail in order to establish the significance of this herb and its short and long-term impacts through human consumption.
Holy Basil is a sacred and revered type of plant in India, but its applications in the United States are less known, as most individuals are more familiar with basil and its contributions to food preparation (Maheshwari et.al, 2012). However, Holy Basil provides a number of positive health benefits that are largely undiscovered in the United States in traditional medicinal circles (Maheshwari et.al, 2012). This herb is used widely in India to reduce the impact of stress on the body, to improve immunity and antioxidant capabilities, to expand strength and stamina, to boost immunity during cold and flu season, and to increase metabolic effectiveness (Maheshwari et.al, 2012). Under these conditions, Holy Basil is not merely an herb, but it serves as a viable and unique medicinal resource to promote optimal health and healing in many individuals (Maheshwari et.al, 2012). It is also known that Holy Basil may have a positive impact on digestion, a reduced risk of ulcers, reduced fevers, and blood pressure and blood sugar stabilization (Maheshwari et.al, 2012).
While Holy Basil may also be used as a food additive, its use in this form may provide diuretic properties for those who ingest this herb through food (Maheshwari and Bani, 2013). In addition, this herb may have a positive impact on the effects of radiation, particularly for patients undergoing radiation treatments for cancer, as it may promote cell repair in some patients (Maheshwari and Bani, 2013). One of its primary chemical compounds is B-elemene, which has been explored independently in clinical trials to promote the prevention of cancer; however, studies have not yet determined its short and long-term impacts (Maheshwari and Bani, 2013). Therefore, additional studies are required in order to determine its effectiveness in cancer prevention and in other areas (Maheshwari and Bani, 2013). Nonetheless, Holy Basil possesses considerable opportunities for future studies in order to test its impact on other health conditions (Maheshwari and Bani, 2013).
Holy Basil also represents a group of herbs with positive medicinal properties that are not widely accepted by the masses because many people tend to believe in traditional healthcare remedies rather than alternative therapies. Therefore, it is necessary to impart greater knowledge regarding this herb and its beneficial properties to its users. There is perhaps a stigma associated with alternative medicine therapies such as Holy Basil due to limited knowledge; therefore, it is essential to promote this and other similar therapies to individuals seeking different alternatives to support greater health and wellbeing. The efforts made by alternative medicine enthusiasts are essential to the discovery of new treatments for conditions that have existed for many years. Holy Basil has a place in these efforts and should be addressed as a possible alternative for patients seeking relief from a variety of conditions.
Although Holy Basil has the potential to positively impact a variety of health conditions, it may also have a number of unfavorable side effects for some patients. The use of this herb in any form or dose is not recommended for pregnant women and women who are breast feeding because there is no research available to demonstrate that this herb is safe for this group (WebMD, 2013). Furthermore, there is a potential risk to patients who have trouble with blood clotting, as the use of this herb may lead to an increased risk of bleeding for patients, particularly if they have had surgery; therefore, this is not recommended for patients with clotting difficulties and a high risk of bleeding when surgery is imminent (WebMD, 2013). Patients who face these particular risks are not likely to benefit from the use of Holy Basil; therefore, it is important to recognize these risks and to take the appropriate action to prevent possible harm upon consumption of this herb (WebMD, 2013).
From a pharmacological perspective, Holy Basil is applicable in a wide variety of clinical situations, from cancer to immunity (Pandey and Madhuri, 2010). In particular, the use of Holy Basil is represented in the fight against the side effects of radiation, as it contributes to the protection of lymphocytes in patients facing cell damage as a result of radiation therapies (Pandey and Madhuri, 2010). Furthermore, Holy Basil is effective in supporting the acquisition of free radicals to promote antioxidant effects (Pandey and Madhuri, 2010). The herb also contributes in promoting antimicrobial characteristics in patients, particularly those with S. aureus who have not responded to traditional antibiotics (Pandey and Madhuri, 2010). The herb also supports the reduction and stabilization of blood glucose in patients with diabetes or who are at high risk for diabetes (Pandey and Madhuri, 2010). The use of an oil version of Holy Basil also supports the prevention of ulcers in some patients, while others benefit from its antiarthritic properties (Pandey and Madhuri, 2010). Also, some patients benefit from its ability to reduce the impact of stress in patients (Pandey and Madhuri, 2010). It is important to recognize these risks and to explore the widespread uses of Holy Basil in an effort to achieve positive results in patients requiring treatment for these and other conditions that would consider alternative medicine therapies rather than traditional therapies (Pandey and Madhuri, 2010).
Holy Basil is an herb in the basil family that has presented positive medicinal properties in India for many centuries. This herb is consumed in different forms, including as a spice additive for foods, along with liquid and oil versions. Holy Basil has a number of positive benefits for a variety of health conditions, including but not limited to diabetes, inflammation, stress, ulcers, infections, and even cancer. Although Holy Basil has been used in India for a long time, it is not as well known in the United States and questions have been raised regarding its safety and adoption within the American population. Although Holy Basil has a number of benefits, it may also pose some side effects, particularly for pregnant or breastfeeding women, along with those who are at a high risk for bleeding. Therefore, extreme caution must be exercised with these groups in order to prevent any serious complications as a result of its use. At the same time, its benefits for many population groups appear to outweigh its risks and therefore, should be considered as a viable and effective form of alternative therapy for patients who possess a variety of health conditions for which pharmacological derivatives are either not effective or are not preferred. These patients may have the most positive experiences with Holy Basil and its many different properties that have a favorable impact on human health and wellbeing.
Devi, P.U. (2001). Radioprotective, anticarcinogenic, and antioxidant properties of the Indian holy basil, Ocimum sanctum (Tulasi). Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 39, 185-190.
Maheshwari, R., and Bani, B. (2013). Multifaceted usage of Holy Basil. Journal of Drug Discovery and Therapeutics, 1(5), 1-4.
Maheshwari, R., Rani, B., Yadav, R.K., and Prasad, M. (2012). Usage of Holy Basil for various aspects. Bulletin of Environmental, Pharmacology and Life Sciences, 1(10), 67-79.
Pandey, G., and Madhuri, S. (2010). Pharmacological activities of Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi): a review. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research, 5(1), 61-66.
WebMD (2013). Holy Basil. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1101-HOLY%20BASIL.aspx?activeIngredientId=1101&activeIngredientName=HOLY%20BASIL