Holy basil is a plant. It is originally from India but now grows in Australia, West Africa, and some Middle Eastern countries. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine as an “adaptogen” to counter life’s stresses. It is considered a sacred plant by the Hindus and is often planted around Hindu shrines. The Hindu name for holy basil, Tulsi, means “the incomparable one.” Medicine is made from the leaves, stems, and seeds.
Holy basil is commonly used by mouth to help with anxiety and stress. It is also used for diabetes and high cholesterol. But there is limited scientific research to support these and other uses.
In cooking, holy basil is often added to stir-fry dishes and spicy soups because of its peppery taste. Cookbooks sometimes call it “hot basil.”
How does it work?
Chemicals in holy basil are thought to decrease pain and swelling (inflammation). Other chemicals might lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
There is interest in using holy basil seed oil for cancer. Early research suggests that the oil can slow progression and improve survival rate in animals with certain types of cancer. Researchers think this benefit may be explained by the oil’s ability to act as an antioxidant.