Holy basil is an herb commonly used in alternative medicine. Not to be confused with the sweet basil that is used in cooking, holy basil is also known as Tulsi and is considered a holy herb in India. The numerous health benefits of holy basil make it popular as an alternative medicine. While the extract or supplement may not be commonly found in grocery stores, it can be found in most health food or vitamin stores within the U.S.
The holy basil, or Tulsi, plant is part of the mint family. The herb is grown in at least three different varieties and has leaves that vary between bright green to dark green and purple. The scent and taste of each variety is different, ranging from peppermint to liquorice to lemon scents and flavours. Holy basil's Latin name is ocimum sanctum. There are more than 60 varieties in the genus of ocimum. This herb can be eaten fresh, dried, made into tea or used as a supplement.
The holy basil plant grows wild in India, Malaysia, South and Central America, South Asia and even Puerto Rico. It is not as widely used or known in the U.S. as it is in Eastern countries. It is sold as a concentrated extract in capsule form within the U.S. Alternative health stores, health food stores, vitamin shops and some pharmacies may carry this supplement. Fresh holy basil may be available in Asian markets.
Holy basil is high in antioxidants and boosts immunity as a result. Holy basil can also be used to hydrate the skin, treat some dry skin conditions and has anti-ageing qualities as well. Anti inflammatory and expectorant qualities of this plant are also useful in treating respiratory infections, colds and coughs. Treatments for stress and emotional imbalances have are also popular in alternative medicine. There are numerous other uses for holy basil including treatments for diabetes, cancer and high cholesterol.
There are few side effects of holy basil. The plant has been used for thousands of years with no safety concerns. It does have a slight blood thinning effect which should be taken into consideration if other medications are being taken. It also has a tendency to lower blood sugar. This could be a concern for those who have hypoglycaemia, low blood sugar. There are also some studies that are showing a decrease in fertility in animals that are taking holy basil extracts. It is suggested that holy basil not be taken by women trying to conceive, pregnant women or breastfeeding women.
When taking any herbal supplement, it is always best to speak with a professional regarding any drug interactions or side effects that may occur. Speaking to both a medical professional and an herbal or alternative health specialist will give you the best information and allow you to make an informed decision regarding your health care. It is also a good idea to become familiar with the manufacturer of any herbal supplement as the purity of the product is very important.