Ocimum sanctum Linn., commonly known as ‘Tulsi’ or ‘Holy Basil’ is considered to be the most sacred herb of India. Scientific studies focused on the herb’s disease fighting properties have gained momentum in recent years – especially in areas of neuroprotection and anticancer effects.
A powerful anit-inflammatory agent and a natural healer, holy basil is often touted as ”the Mother medicine of nature” in Ayurveda. This herb is revered in ancient Sanskrit scripts and is offered in Hindu Temples to visitors as part of a ritual. The most compelling evidence of Holy basil is based on its anti-stress and anticancer effects which modern herbalist call – the ”adaptogen” effect.
How does Holy Basil trigger cancer cell death?
The outstanding benefits of this herb came to the limelight when studies revealed that holy basil can act as a COX-2 inhibitor – which keeps inflammation at bay and decreases pain. Until about a decade ago, the herb was unknown to the Western world.
Various laboratory and animal studies also indicate that holy basil can repair cells damaged by oxidation and radiation – demonstrating the potential to destroy pre-cancerous lesions and tumors.
A 2012 study findings revealed that the whole plant extract of holy basil was found to be 1.6 times or 39% more effective in the management of stress symptoms in comparison to placebo group and the herbal supplementation was well tolerated by all the patients over the six weeks of study period. Researchers found that holy basil prevented reduction in the levels of brain neurotransmitters – catecholamine and monoamine oxidase. In addition, Holy basil supplementation also increased the levels of dopamine and 5-hydroxytryptamine in rats exposed to swimming and gravitational stress.
Science discovers phytonutrients kill cancer cells
The active constituent in holy basil leaf, eugenol is responsible for its anticancer potential. It turns out that eugenol inhibits the multiplication, migration and invasion of cancer cells and will also induce apoptosis (programmed cell death of tumors). Furthermore, holy basil has a host of cancer-fighting phytochemicals like, apigenin, luteolin, rosmarinic acid, myretenal, beta-sitosterol and carnosic acid.
According to a recent 2013 research published in Nutrition and Cancer, these compounds increased the antioxidant activity and destroyed cancer cells. It was shown that flavonoid compounds in water extracts of holy basil, orintin and vicenin protected mice against radiation-induced tumor.
What do I need to know about holy basil supplements?
Holy basil is a rejuvenating agent but it is not a stimulant like ginseng. In other words, it can be consumed on a daily basis. It improves energy levels, decreases stress and also acts as an immune-booster. Remember, holy basil is not the same basil found in the grocery store and herb gardens. Usually, it can be found in local health food stores or online – in the form of capsules and as Tulsi tea.
Holy basil leaves are hot and somewhat spicy to taste. If you are keen on trying the fresh leaves versus the pill form – start off by tearing a small piece of the leaf to taste. This also helps in cooking to gauge the amount of leaves to be added in a recipe.
Holy basil leaves can be used in tea preparations, soups, or salads. It is always best to add the leaves towards the end of the cooking to keep the unique flavor and the sharp taste. This plant tends to grow well in tropical weather, but it can thrive as an indoor plant receiving ample sunlight.
There is no doubt that in today’s stressful world, a ‘daily adaptogen’ like holy basil is a wise choice. So, the next time you come across this herb, enjoy a few leaves as a tea or in soups. You’ll find this to be a safe and an effective way to prevent cancer plus many other immune-related disorders.