Health benefits of holy basil, the ‘queen of herbs’ or ‘elixir of life’ as it is called, are known-from helping treat digestive illnesses to lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, from fighting lung infections to treating malaria, diarrhea, eczema, ulcers, eye diseases, and even insect bites. But did you know that holy basil or Tulsi is a beautiful gift of nature for your mental health too!
1. Fighting oxidative stress
Holy basil is blessed with polyphenols, flavonoids, terpenes, anthocyanin, and beta carotene high in antioxidant action. You need antioxidants to fight off oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is caused by the imbalance of antioxidants in the body that fight off rogue free radicals which are released as part of processes like exertion, inflammation, pollution, smoking, exposure to radiation, and industrial solvents. Free radicals are rogue molecules that cause cellular damage and speed up aging. High oxidative stress has been linked with premature aging of skin and body tissues that also affect certain brain and nerve cells, and other conditions like heart diseases, arthritis, diabetes and several types of cancers.
But more recently, studies have shown that oxidative stress may have a role to play in developing depression and anxiety symptoms, as anxiety is linked to a lower antioxidant state. Antioxidants can get rid of free radicals and protect cellular damage in the brain and help in remission of depression and anxiety.
2. Loaded with vitamins
Holy basil is a herb that is rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, zinc, and chlorophyll. Studies found that patients with GAD or generalized anxiety disorder was lacking in vitamins A, C, and E. When patients increased their intake of these vitamins for a period of 6 weeks, there was concomitant reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms too and increase in antioxidants in the blood.
3. It is a popular adaptogen
Each part of the plant of holy basil is an effective adaptogen that stabilizes physiological processes in the body and maintains the body’s homeostasis. Adaptogens are the natural world’s answers to the modern day’s stresses and strains. Studies show adaptogens are helpful in dealing with mental fatigue, anxiety, and neural problems. “Adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic and CNS stimulating activity,” the study from Swedish Herbal Institute Research & Development says.
Studies also show that holy basil has healing properties to help you deal with various types of stress including chemical, emotional, mental, physiological and inflammation-related stress.
The concept of an adaptogen is a holistic approach. But scientific research shows that holy basil has pharmacological properties to help your mind cope with many types of stress. Studies showed, subjects that were given doses of holy basil showed better metabolism, more muscle strength, lower stress even in noisy environments, reduces sexual problems lowered forgetfulness and exhaustion.
4. Benefits comparable to diazepam
The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine even goes on to state that leaves of holy basil have anti-depression and anxiolytic properties comparable with modern-day drugs such as diazepam and other commercial antidepressants.
5. Balancing Vata
According to the ancient healing system of Ayurveda, Prana Vata (an important subtype of Vata dosha), Tarpaka Kapha (a subtype of Kapha dosha), and Sadhaka Pitta (a subtype of Pitta dosha) is related to the mind and any imbalance in any one or all of the three dosha subtypes can lead to mental and emotional disturbance. Here, holy basil is an important herb that helps ground excess Vata and balances tarpaka kapha to bring contentment, alertness, interest in knowledge, mental agility, and reduction in grief, worry, depression, restlessness, and anxiety.
These are important reasons why holy basil has been an important ingredient in Shankara’s Aromatherapy collection, a unique collection of Ayurveda inspired aromatherapy oils to balance mind and emotions throughout daily activities.