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Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum L.)

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Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Ajaka, bai gka-prow, bai gkaprow, baranda, basilici herba, brinda, common basil, garden basil, green holy basil, hot basil, Indian basil, kala tulasi, kala tulsi, kemangen manjari, Krishna tulsi, krishnamul, Manjari tulsi, Ocimum sanctum, Ocimum sanctum seed oil, Ocimum tenuiflorum, orientin, parnasa, patra-puspha, Rama tulsi, red holy basil, sacred basil, sacred purple basil, shayama tulsi, St. Joseph's wort, suvasa tulasi, Thai basil, thulasi, thulsi, Trittavu, tulasi, tulshi, tulsi, tulsi chajadha, vicenin, Vishnu priya.
  • Not included in this review: Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum).

Background
  • The two primary types of basil are closely related: Ocimum basilicum (sweet basil), which is a staple of Italian and Asian cooking, and Ocimum sanctum (holy basil), which has a religious use or origin in different cultures. Both forms are native to India and Southeast Asia, although they are grown around the world.
  • Holy basil has been used extensively for its medicinal values by a number of cultures. Chinese medicine uses holy basil for stomach spasms, kidney conditions, to promote blood circulation, and to treat snake and insect bites.
  • In India, holy basil is known as tulsi, which translates as "incomparable one." The plant, which is considered sacred, is used extensively in religious ceremonies and is believed to protect any home where it is grown. According to Ayurvedic tradition, tulsi is one of the best herbs to prepare the heart and mind for spiritual practices, resolve colds and flu, treat various skin conditions, and reduce fever.
  • Modern research on holy basil suggests that holy basil contains powerful antioxidants and it may be hepatoprotective (liver protecting). Also, preliminary clinical studies are investigating holy basil's effect on ulcers and blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. Holy basil has generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status in the United States.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


Holy basil may have blood sugar lowering effects and may be useful as an adjunct to dietary therapy and drug treatment in mild to moderate diabetes mellitus. It is unknown whether common culinary basil (Ocimum basilicum) would have similar effects. More research is warranted.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Adaptogen, allergies, analgesic (pain reliever), anthelmintic (expels worms), antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic, anti-fertility, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antipyretic (fever reducer), antispasmodic, anti-tumor, appetite stimulant, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), bad breath, bronchitis, cancer, canker sores, cardiopathy, carminative (digestive aid), cataracts, catarrh (inflammation of the mucous membranes), cerebral reperfusion injury, cholera, common cold, conjunctival xerosis (dry eye), conjunctivitis (pink eye), constipation, cough, dacryocystitis (inflammation of the tear sac), demulcent (soothes inflamed tissue), diarrhea, dysentery (severe diarrhea), earache, eczema, enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine), exercise performance, expectorant (relieves cough/congestion), eye disorders, fever (chronic), galactagogue (promotes lacation), genitourinary disorders, gonorrhea (STD), gum disease, hemopathy, headaches, heart disease, hepatic disorders, hiccups, high cholesterol, immune system stimulant, improving circulation, indigestion, influenza, insect bites, kidney disorders, kidney stones, leucoderma (skin disorder), longevity, lumbar pain, malaria, mercury toxicity, metabolic disorders, mouth sores, ophthalmia (inflamed eye), phlegm removal, pinguecula (thickening of the white part of the eye), psoriasis (skin disease), pterygium (eye condition), quality of life, radioprotection, ringworm, skin diseases, snakebite, sore throat, stomach problems, stress, tonic, tuberculosis, ulcers, verminosis (parasitic worm disease), vomiting, whooping cough, wound healing.

Dosing

Adults (over 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose of holy basil. Traditionally, 300-2,000 milligrams as a single dose of dried leaves has been used daily for preventive therapy, and 600-1,800 milligrams in divided doses has been used daily for curative therapy. As a tea, 2 grams holy basil has been infused in one cup of water. Also, 10-20 milliliters of fresh leaf juice or 1 ounce of dried herb in 16 ounces of water, three times daily in 5 ounce doses has been used. For diabetes, 2.5 grams of dried leaf powder by mouth every morning, or 1 teaspoon dried herb brewed in one cup of water three times a day have been used.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for holy basil in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to holy basil (Ocimum sanctum).

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Holy basil seems to be well tolerated in most people, and it has generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status in the United States.
  • Holy basil may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Although not well studied in humans, holy basil may have antispermatogenic (sperm blocking) and anti-fertility effects.
  • Holy basil may prolong bleeding time. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

  • Holy basil is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Based on traditional use, holy basil may stimulate uterine contractions.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Ursolic acid isolated from holy basil may somewhat protect against adriamycin-induced lipid peroxidation of liver and heart microsomes.
  • Holy basil may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Holy basil may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood, and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients using any medications should check the package insert, and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
  • Holy basil may reduce the amnesic (memory loss) effect of diazepam or scopolamine. Holy basil may increase the sedative effects of pentobarbital. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Holy basil may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Caution is advised in patients taking statins or other cholesterol lowering agents, as holy basil may reduce serum lipid levels.

Interactions with Herbs & Dietary Supplements

  • Holy basil may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Holy basil may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.
  • Caution is advised in patients taking cholesterol-lowering agents, such as red yeast rice, as holy basil may reduce serum lipid levels.
  • Holy basil may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Agrawal P, Rai V, Singh RB. Randomized placebo-controlled, single blind trial of holy basil leaves in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Int J Clin Pharmacol.Ther. 1996;34(9):406-409.
  2. Aqil F, Khan MS, Owais M, et al. Effect of certain bioactive plant extracts on clinical isolates of beta-lactamase producing methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. J Basic Microbiol. 2005;45(2):106-114.
  3. Goel RK, Sairam K, Dorababu M, et al. Effect of standardized extract of Ocimum sanctum Linn. on gastric mucosal offensive and defensive factors. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2005;43(8):715-721.
  4. Grover JK, Vats V, Yadav SS. Pterocarpus marsupium extract (Vijayasar) prevented the alteration in metabolic patterns induced in the normal rat by feeding an adequate diet containing fructose as sole carbohydrate. Diabetes Obes.Metab 2005;7(4):414-420.
  5. Joshi H, Parle M. Evaluation of nootropic potential of Ocimum sanctum Linn. in mice. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2006;44(2):133-136.
  6. Mukherjee R, Dash PK, Ram GC. Immunotherapeutic potential of Ocimum sanctum (L) in bovine subclinical mastitis. Res Vet.Sci 2005;79(1):37-43.
  7. Narendhirakannan RT, Subramanian S, Kandaswamy M. Mineral content of some medicinal plants used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Biol.Trace Elem.Res 2005;103(2):109-115.
  8. Ravindran R, Rathinasamy SD, Samson J, et al. Noise-stress-induced brain neurotransmitter changes and the effect of Ocimum sanctum (Linn) treatment in albino rats. J Pharmacol.Sci 2005;98(4):354-360.
  9. Samson J, Sheela Devi R, Ravindran R, et al. Biogenic amine changes in brain regions and attenuating action of Ocimum sanctumin noise exposure. Pharmacol.Biochem.Behav. 2006;83(1):67-75.
  10. Sembulingam K, Sembulingam P, Namasivayam A. Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn on the changes in central cholinergic system induced by acute noise stress. J Ethnopharmacol. 1-15-2005;96(3):477-482.
  11. Shokeen P, Ray K, Bala M, et al. Preliminary studies on activity of Ocimum sanctum, Drynaria quercifolia, and Annona squamosa against Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Sex Transm.Dis. 2005;32(2):106-111.
  12. Singh S, Malhotra M, Majumdar DK. Antibacterial activity of Ocimum sanctum L. fixed oil. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2005;43(9):835-837.
  13. Subramanian M, Chintalwar GJ, Chattopadhyay S. Antioxidant and radioprotective properties of an Ocimum sanctum polysaccharide. Redox.Rep. 2005;10(5):257-264.
  14. Udupa SL, Shetty S, Udupa AL, et al. Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn. on normal and dexamethasone suppressed wound healing. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2006;44(1):49-54.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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