We are always looking for magic pills, right? Something you can just take to alleviate all symptoms. However, usually things are not that easy. Health must be cultivated and nurtured. The recipe must be right to grow the right soil in the body so that the weeds are kept low, and the beneficial plants can flourish (so to speak).
Luckily, there are herbs that can help you along the way -either to boost your energy, balance your stress levels, aid digestion, calm the nerves, or promote sleep. We often forget the usefulness of herbs, and the fact that many medications were derived from herbs – taking their mechanisms of action and putting them in a different form.
One herb I absolutely love is Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, or Ocimum sanctum.
What is Tulsi?
Tulsi (Holy Basil) is indigenous to India and has been highly revered for thousands of years as both a culinary and medicinal aromatic herb. It is considered a sacred plant and is nicknamed the “Elixir of Life.” In Hindu, Tulsi means “the incomparable one.” That is high reverence indeed. But why?
Tulsi is known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities, which helps boost overall health and the immune system. Researchers believe the chemical compounds in Holy Basil decrease pain and swelling (inflammation), and may also help lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and lipid levels. Furthermore, Tulsi has been used in many ways to treat or ameliorate many common health conditions such as bronchitis, rheumatism, fever, headaches, wounds, hiccups, earaches, colds, stomach upset, malaria, and asthma. Lastly, Holy Basil has been also studied for its well-known action of being an adaptogen.
What is an adaptogen?
Adaptogens are herbs that help you “adapt” to life and all the stress that comes along with it. Adaptogens work by controlling key mediators of the stress response (Salve, Pate, Debnath & Langade, 2019) to help promote homeostasis (your body’s balance).
Several double-blind placebo-controlled studies have indicated that Holy Basil is an effective adaptogen in helping to address the psychological, physiological, immunological, and metabolic stresses of modern living (Jamshidi& Cohen, 2017). Research also suggests that Holy Basil can help protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals (Cohen, 2014).
Using adaptogens daily for stress management can be useful in mitigating the detrimental effects of oxidative stress, which is often the root cause of imbalance, fatigue, and eventual disease.
Because Tulsi promotes wellbeing and resilience, it is a useful addition to the diet when experiencing fatigue and low energy. Fatigue can come from physical, mental, psychological, or chemical stress. Holy Basil defends you from it all.
How is it taken?
Holy Basil is used as a culinary or medical herb. It can be added to stir-fry dishes or soups, lending a spicy, peppery flavor. Alternatively, Holy Basil can be taken in capsule, tea, or tincture form.
Traditionally, holy basil is used as a tea. It is slightly bitter. In herbal medicine, bitter is considered a beneficial tonic to the liver and tissues. It combines nicely with a touch of local honey. You can find tea bags at your local store or online. Make sure to get organic to ensure optimal growing methods. Since Tulsi helps absorb pollutants and chemicals in the body, it does so in nature too and should be grown sustainably and away from high pollution areas (Cohen, 2014).
There are many varieties of Holy Basil tea, including different mixtures/flavors like rose, mint, and lemon ginger. However, to promote stable energy and assist in dealing with the stresses of daily life, I like to drink Holy Basil straight up. It is nice iced too!
Personally, I like to consume Holy Basil tea for several weeks, twice a day, at the change of seasons or during a particularly stressful time.
What are the contraindications or cautions?
Holy Basil is well-tolerated and safe for most people. However, there are moderate interactions with medications that slow blood clotting because Holy Basil may have the same effect. To be safe, avoid before surgery, and check with your prescribing doctor if you take anticoagulant / antiplatelet drugs. There is also not enough research on the use during pregnancy or breast-feeding, so to be safe, confer with an herbalist or avoid use.
Addressing stress, fatigue, and low energy through diet
Stress, fatigue, and low energy run rampant in our society because we face so many (too many) demands throughout the day. Often, we are just looking to get by. Nevertheless, it is important to note that it is often the combination of strategies that produce the best outcome. Regular exercise, sleep, sunshine, meditation, and consistent eating patterns help support overall wellness and steady energy levels.
Additionally, supporting your body nutritionally with a whole foods-based diet, avoiding processed foods, and limiting caffeine, sugar and alcohol can prevent blood sugar swings and promote stress resilience. The more you support your body with whole foods, sleep, and movement – the more the body can support you. But when you feel you need a little help – give the “incomparable one” a try!
Cohen M. (2014). Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 5(4), 251–259. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-9476.146554
Jamshidi, N., & Cohen, M. M. (2017). The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2017, 9217567. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/9217567
Salve, J., Pate, S., Debnath, K., & Langade, D. (2019). Adaptogenic and anxiolytic effects of ashwagandha root extract in healthy adults: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study. Cureus, 11(12), e6466. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.6466