10 Essential Health Benefits of Holy Basil

Known botanically as ocimum tenuiflorum or ocimum sanctum, holy basil (tulsi) is an aromatic plant that is native to India, Central Africa, and parts of Southeast Asia. Holy basil is commonly used in Thai cuisines to enrich the taste of various meals. Because of its innumerable health benefits, this plant is often considered to be the “queen of all herbs.”  Due to its medicinal properties, natives of Southeast Asia highly revered holy basil, and they have also been using it extensively over the past centuries.

Courtesy of Flickr user TreeNetra
“Purify your health with the medicinal properties of Holy Basil”

Holy basil was often used by ancient natives to cure various ailments. Scientists have been performing numerous researches to verify the healing capabilities of holy basil. Results from many of these scientific studies suggest that holy basil can possibly help treat a plethora of health problems such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, acne, etc. The overall consensus of these scientific studies truly shows why this plant has the name “holy” basil.

█ Treats Liver Damage

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs have a tendency to cause liver damage. Hepatotoxicity or drug-induced liver damage is capable of causing various liver diseases such as necrosis, steatosis, and cirrhosis. Hepatoprotective medicine prevents liver damage. The problem is that there aren’t a lot of hepatoprotective drugs to treat liver damage. Fortunately, holy basil may be able to treat liver damage. A study retrieved from the Pharmacognosy Research journal shows that the leaves of holy basil have high hepatoprotective activity. This means that holy basil has strong a potential to treat liver damage. 

█ Treats Threatening Yeast Infections

Candidiasis is an infection that is caused by a fungi or yeast known as candida. This type of yeast infection is capable of infecting various parts of the body such as the mouth, skin, stomach, and urinary tract. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, about 90 percent of patients with HIV/AIDS develop candida infections. However, it appears that holy basil has anticandidal effects.  A study from the Research in Microbiology journal shows that holy basil has significant antifungal activity towards candida. Other studies show similar results. This indicates that holy basil can possibly be used as an antifungal or anticandidal medicine.

█ Antioxidant & Anticancer Properties

Antioxidants are molecules that help prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals—which have been linked to serious chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Scientists have performed numerous studies to determine the efficacy of holy basil’s antioxidant activities. The results from these studies show that holy basil has robust antioxidant activities—which may help prevent cancer. An extensive study retrieved from the Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology scientific journal shows that leaf extracts of holy basil may prevent carcinogenesis (initial development of cancer). What is more, a study from the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal shows that holy basil may help prevent cancer from spreading to other organs (metastasis).  While the results from these studies are encouraging, they do not necessarily mean that holy basil is a cure for cancer.

█ Relieves Stress

In a world rife with trauma, stress is commonplace. Stress increases your risk of heart disease, obesity, and depression. Fortunately, it is possible that holy basil may help you combat stress. In a study from the Evidence-Based Complement and Alternative Medicine journal, researchers discovered that the group with the holy basil plant extracts managed stress 39 percent better than other groups. According to Andrew Weil (M.D.), some people claim that they notice positive results when they combine lifestyle changes with holy basil.

█ Antiulcer Activity

Gastric ulcers are painful sores or ulcers that form inside your stomach.  It appears that holy basil is an effective treatment for gastric ulcers. Results from a study retrieved from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology show that holy basil contains potent anti-ulcerogenic and ulcer healing properties. Other studies show similar results. As a result, it is possible that holy basil can help treat peptic or gastric ulcer.

█ Protects Your Skin and Prevents Skin Cancer

While the sun empowers life on earth, it can also damage your skin. Prolonged sun exposure causes sunburn, skin wrinkles, and even skin cancer. Melanoma, which is commonly caused by excessive sunlight exposure, is considered to be the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Fortunately, holy basil may be a possible treatment for radiation injuries and skin cancer. A study from the Pharmaceutical of Biology journal shows that ocimum or basil plant species have antimelanoma and radioprotective properties. Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that basil plants are a cure for skin cancer. However, the general consensus seems to indicate that it protects your skin from harmful radiation.

█ Treats Acne

Propionibacterium acne is one of the bacteria that are responsible for acne. Acne is an irritating condition that often persists. Since holy basil has anti-microbial properties, it may be able to treat acne. A study retrieved from the International Journal of Cosmetic Science shows that Thai sweet and holy basil exhibits high activity towards Propionibacterium acne. It is therefore possible that holy basil may be a suitable treatment for acne. However, the results from the study show that sweet basil may be a more effective treatment for acne.

█ Treats Asthma

Asthma is a medical disorder that causes your lungs and airways to swell. It is often characterized with symptoms of wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. It is possible that holy basil can alleviate the symptoms of asthma. In past studies where patients were treated with holy basil, researchers noticed that breathing function improved. Thus, holy basil may possibly help relieve certain symptoms of asthma.

█ Anti-diabetic Potential

Diabetes is a chronic disease that is characterized by abnormally high blood sugar levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 18.8 million people were diagnosed with diabetes in the United States in 2011. One of the primary objectives of diabetes treatments is to safely regulate blood sugar levels. Holy basil may be an ideal candidate for diabetes treatment. In a study by the Journal and Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, the results revealed that patients who were treated with holy basil experienced a 20 percent decrease in blood glucose levels. In a study from the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, researchers concluded that holy basil has remarkable anti-diabetic potential.

█ Improves Your Immune Response

Your immune system keeps your health in check by eradicating foreign invaders. Thus, a weak or suppressed immune system makes you more susceptible to diseases. Holy basil may also help strengthen your body’s immune system. A study retrieved from the International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Research (IJPBR) shows that holy basil increases antibody production and has an immunomodulatory effect.

█ Does Holy Basil Really Benefit Your Health?

The overall consensus from scientific evidence shows that holy basil does have many health benefits. Nevertheless, these benefits shouldn’t be exaggerated. You shouldn’t quickly assume that holy basil is a cure for serious diseases such as cancer. Based on scientific evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that holy basil will likely benefit your health if you properly incorporate it into your diet.

Note: Please consult your doctor or medical expert before making any changes to your diet.


James E. Simon. Purdue University. “Basil.” Accessed December 26, 2011.

Dennis Lee (MD). Jay M. Makrs (MD). “Drug Induced liver Disease.” Accessed December 26, 2011.

University of Maryland Medical Center. “Candidiasis.” Accessed December 26, 2011.

Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. “Antioxidant Activities of Hydroalcoholic Extract of Ocimum sanctum Against Cadmium Induced Toxicity in Rats.” Accessed December 26, 2011.

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “Efficacy of an Extract of Ocimum tenuiflorum (OciBest) in the Management of General Stress: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.” Accessed December 26, 2011.

Pharmaceutical Biology. “Evaluation of ethanol leaf extract of Ocimum sanctum in experimental models of anxiety and depression.” Accessed December 26, 2011.

Andrew Weil (M.D.). "Holy Basil to Combat Stress?" Accessed December 26, 2011.

Journal of Ethnopharmacology. “Evaluation of the gastric antiulcer activity of fixed oil of Ocimum sanctum (Holy Basil).” Accessed December 26, 2011.

Journal of Ethnopharmacology. “Evaluation of anti-ulcerogenic and ulcer-healing properties of Ocimum sanctum Linn.” Accessed Decmber 26, 2011.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet.” Accessed December 26, 2011.