When I was helping out at a health food store in the supplements section, customers kept asking where they’d find the adaptogenic herbs. “Oh yeah, those!” I’d say. (Ermmm, adapto-what?) “Let me just look it up!” Out came the smartphone. How did I ever manage before 1999?
I found out that adaptogens are plants that help resist many kinds of stressors. These stressors can be chemical, biological, or physical.
Luckily, many adaptogenic herbs could be found in the stress-relief section, or the cold-prevention section, or wait, they’re also in the anti-inflammatory section too. Thankfully, adaptogenic herbs are here, there, and everywhere.
I noticed that many people sought out holy basil to soothe coughs and colds. Others looked to it, along with rhodiola to relieve anxiety.
The name “holy basil” or “tulsi” was both charming and powerful, and the happiness on peoples’ faces when I told them we had it in stock drew me in. So I decided to do some research on it myself. I sorted through a wealth of information, and the following are the highlights of what I found.
Also known as tulsi, Ocimum sanctum has been used for centuries for its potent and diverse healing powers. It’s a centuries-old staple in Ayurvedic medicine. Its broad range of uses and long-standing presence has earned its nickname Incomparable One and Queen of Herbs.
Tulsi is a perennial shrub and a member of the basil family. Unlike the culinary herb sweet basil, it has a strong, peppery taste and a plethora of nutrients.
Most of its health benefits are found in its spiky, light green leaves. They can be ground up to make teas, tinctures, and supplemental capsules.
As an adaptogenic herb, it nurtures the nervous system and helps people bounce back faster from the effects of mental and physical stress. That’s why people use it to counter the effects of anxiety.
“Early research suggests that taking 500 milligrams of Ocimum sanctum twice daily after meals for two months reduces anxiety and depression.”
Holy basil hasn’t been thoroughly studied yet, but it is packed with these and other health-giving plant chemical compounds, known as phytonutrients:
Ursolic acid Researchers have found that ursolic acid has anticancer activity and anti-inflammatory effects. One way it helps the body avoid cancer is by initiating the self-destruction (apoptosis) of certain cancer cells, including breast cancer cells! Ursolic acid also absorbs and destroys free radicals that harm human cells.
Eugenol: Along with rosmarinic acid, this compound helps protect against skin, liver, oral, and lung cancers caused by toxins. One way they do this is by helping the body get rid of the harmful chemicals. Another way they do this is by stopping cancerous cells from spreading to other areas of the body (metastasis).
Oleanolic acid: Several studies have found that it prevents the growth of malignant tumors and other cancerous cells. Also, if you’re worried about high blood sugar, oleanolic acid that’s extracted from tulsi has been shown to reduce blood glucose levels.
Rosmarinic acid: Scientists have discovered that when this phytonutrient is broken down and made absorbable to us humans, it suppresses amyloid accumulation. Amyloid is a waxy plaque that builds up in organs that occurs in diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
* Studies also indicate that holy basil reduces fertility, so it isn’t recommended if you are trying to conceive.
After reading about its almost magical healing abilities, I decided to take a chance and buy some from my local health food store. I found 45o mg capsules as a combination of organic holy basil leaf and holy basil leaf extract.
I opened the bottle, I was greeted by a clean, sweet, tomatoey scent. I split a capsule to try the powder–wow, it is truly a peppery plant!
After a week of taking them twice a day, I do notice an uptick in my mood and in my ability to take deep breaths. This happened alongside the days getting warmer, longer, and sunnier here in the northeast. Coincidence? If I’m to believe the studies, it seems only fair to give more than a little credit to the Queen of Herbs.