- Becky Striepe
- July 14, 2015
Holy basil—also known as tulsi—is an ancient medicinal herb. I recently picked up a packet of holy basil tea from one of my favorite farmers and dove into some of the research about it.
My friend Duane is a small farmer here in the Atlanta area. He specializes in medicinal herbs, which he sells as teas, tinctures and shrubs. The holy basil tea that I bought is one of his custom blends and includes other herbs like chamomile and lemon balm.
While we were chatting, Duane mentioned that holy basil is a natural stress reliever. It doesn’t taste very much like other basils at all. It’s a little bit bitter and a little bit earthy, which went well with the flowery chamomile in this blend. I brewed up a cold pitcher that evening, and it was a nice, refreshing summer drink, no sugar needed.
Here are some healthy reasons to give holy basil a try.
1. It may be a natural stress reliever. So far there have only been animal studies on how holy basil impacts stress levels, but the results are promising. A 2002 rat study found that a blend of herbal extracts, including holy basil, helped increase MAO-inhibitor activity in their brains, similar to the way some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications work.
2. It’s an anti-inflammatory. Guinea pigs given a holy basil oil in a 1991 study had milder reactions to allergens than untreated guinea pigs. Holy basil oil and holy basil extract both helped ease swelling in their hind legs.
3. It may help regulate blood sugar. Another animal study looked at how holy basil leaves changed blood sugar levels in fasting rats. The rats who ate holy basil had lower blood glucose levels. They also had slightly lower cholesterol levels.
How to Take Holy Basil
The amount of holy basil the animals in these clinical trials received is a lot more than you’d get in a holy basil tea, even if the tea were all basil. Still, there’s no harm in drinking a mugful of tulsi. The worst case scenario is that you enjoy a nice cup of tea.
To make holy basil tea, you can brew it hot just like you would any herbal tea. Use 1 tablespoon per cup of hot water in a tea ball, and steep for about 5 minutes before removing the tea ball from the cup.
If you want to do a cold brew iced tea, choose a pitcher that holds 4 cups of water, then spoon 4 tablespoons of dried holy basil into a tea ball or make a cheesecloth bundle. Toss that into the pitcher, fill with water and set it in a sunny windowsill for two hours. Remove the tea bundle, and chill the tea until you’re ready to serve.
If you do want to try taking holy basil medicinally, you have a few options available. You can find holy basil supplements online and at natural food stores. Just purchase with caution. Not all herbal supplements contain what they say they do, so stick to brands that you know and trust.
Dried holy basil leaves are available online, and you can use those to make your own holy basil oil or extracts at home. Mountain Rose Herbs has a good tutorial for making herbal extracts. They caution that you should use whole dried leaves, not a powder, to make your extract.