Holy basil, in the lamiaceae basil family, has a slightly warmer flavor than the traditional sweet basil we’re used to in most recipes. Like traditional basil, holy basil is high in antioxidants.
It’s also one of my favorite adaptogenic herbs, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress. It’s one of the top ingredients in my preferred adrenal support product, HPA Axis (see below).
But, like so many other medicinal herbs, holy basil is helpful for a wide variety of conditions.
Holy Basil for Gingivitis
Some of holy basil’s essential oils are antimicrobial, including eugenol and gamma-caryophyllene. Both of these are also found in clove oil, which is the most commonly considered essential oil for dental ailments. Probably for this reason, holy basil has been studied for gingivitis.
This study compared a mouthwash made from holy basil to chlorhexidine twice daily for a month, and found that the effects were similar between the two for reduction in plaque and gingivitis.
Holy Basil for Mood Support
As mentioned above, holy basil helps with stress tolerance. In part this appears to be due to compounds that can help balance cortisol, the hormone that rises in response to stress.
These same compounds can also help balance neurotransmitters as well. This may be why holy basil has been compared to the anti-anxiety medication diazepam and to antidepressants in its effects.
Holy Basil for Asthma
Perhaps because of holy basil’s effect on cortisol, dried leaves have been shown to improve asthma symptoms within three days. This makes sense: cortisol is not just a stress tolerance hormone, but also the body’s natural anti-inflammatory. Supporting cortisol balance often tends to improve other inflammatory conditions as well.
Holy Basil for Metabolic Control
The polyphenols in holy basil have been shown to lower glucose levels.
I wonder if these effects, too, might have to do with cortisol balancing. Since one of the jobs of cortisol is to mobilize glucose from the liver between meals, and high cortisol can thus translate to high glucose, cortisol balancing can help lower glucose. This, in turn, can lower cholesterol levels at least to some degree, since excess glucose gets packaged into triglycerides, which in turn get packaged into LDL.
Holy basil’s antioxidant properties seem to be supportive for the cardiovascular system too, decreasing lipid peroxidation.
Holy Basil to Counter Radiation
Holy basil has interestingly been studied to offset the damage from radiation, and shown to be effective.
This too is likely secondary to its antioxidant properties.
The Upshot and Cautions
I did come across this animal study suggestive that holy basil may lower sperm count, though the same study showed an increase in testosterone levels. If male fertility is a concern, it may be best not to overdo this herb until more research has been done.
But for stress management especially, and all of the potential downstream effects of cortisol dysregulation, holy basil is a winner.