Whether scattered on top of pasta or blended into pesto, there’s no doubt that basil is one of our most-loved herbs here in the United Kingdom. In fact, it’s thought that basil is amongst our top five favourite herbs, narrowly preceded by rosemary and coriander.1
While we might love the aromatic flavour of leafy green basil, this popular herb has been used for centuries. Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is a variety of basil famed for its reported health benefits and religious sanctity.2 But what is it? And is it worth adding to your health and wellness routine? We’ve got everything you need to know below.
What is holy basil?
While we might be familiar with basil, holy basil isn’t quite the same as the sweet or Thai basil. The herb has a wide range of reported benefits, and its uses include the whole plant rather than just the leaves. In fact, due to its reported nutritional benefits, holy basil is often called ‘the queen of herbs’ or the ‘incomparable one’.3
The official name for holy basil is Ocimum tenuiflorum. It’s native to Southeast Asia, although it grows all over the world too. It has a clove-like scent and flavour, making it a useful ingredient in cooking (although it’s often used medicinally or in supplements).4
Holy basil benefits
While research is still underway, there have been quite a few scientific studies into the reported benefits of holy basil. The herb contains vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, zinc, and iron. It’s also thought that holy basil acts as an adaptogen, contributing to its reported health benefits.5
Some other holy basil benefits may include:
- Reduced stress6
- Anti-oxidant effect7
- Blood sugar maintenance8
- Maintain normal cholesterol levels9
It’s worth considering that some of the studies into holy basil are limited, mainly as many were not conducted on humans. It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor before using holy basil, particularly if you’re concerned about your health.
Who should avoid holy basil?
Holy basil is generally considered safe for most people, and few side effects are reported in clinical studies.10 However, you should always proceed with care when choosing holy basil supplements and be sure to shop from a reputable seller.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
How to include more holy basil in your diet
Holy basil is available in a range of different forms. Fresh, dried, or powdered holy basil are available as flavour-adding seasonings or ingredients, added to recipes, smoothies and teas.11,12,13
You can also find a range of different holy basil supplements available in capsule or pill form. Always follow the recommended dosage on your chosen product to be sure you’re taking the right amount.
Last updated: 8 April 2021