Friday, May 28, 2010

Dangers and side effects of Holy Basil

Known as the magical herb or the queen of Ayurvedic medicine, the Holy basil comes packed with various good properties. A rich history of usage of thousands of years is also indicative that the herb poses very few dangers and is generally safe to use. However beneficial the herb may be, practitioners warn that it must be taken with care and under the supervision of a good herbal practitioner. Here are a few side effects that the herb could have and a few dangers that it may pose.

Can cause cancer

Few herbalists are of the opinion that excess intake of the juice of holy basil can cause cancer. Chewing a few leaves every day is however beneficial. Also basil juice must be taken with honey or ginger rather than in its purest form.

Reaction with other drugs

In some patients, holy basil is also seen to have reacted with other drugs being taken on the same day. Few herbalists thus opine that people taking paracetamol or acetaminophen should not take holy basil on the same day. These reactions may have occurred due to the blood thinning properties of holy basil.

May decrease fertility

Experiments in animals have indicated that prolonged usage of the herb can decrease fertility. Those who are trying to get pregnant can thus keep the usage of holy basil to a minimum.

Decreases blood sugar

While this is beneficial for many patients, it may not be wise for people with low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. This is because holy basil taken on a regular basis works to decrease blood sugar levels. Too much reduction of blood sugar can further lead to symptoms of dizziness and fainting.

May interrupt with breast feeding

Breast feeding mothers must also be careful about the regular intake of holy basil as it may not suit the child. Nursing mothers may thus benefit by taking the advice of herbalists before using holy basil.

Holy basil has many beneficial properties that have been both historically and scientifically proven. Also the herb poses no real dangers. However as we all know, ‘excess of anything’ is unhealthy. To make the most of its medicinal properties, holy bail must be used under the supervision of a good certified practitioner. It is additionally important to take the herb in its purest form, without any adulterations. Purchasing from a good manufacturer (if you consume basil as pills or powders) is also important.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Home remedies with holy basil

Ocimum tenuiflorum holds the promise of many home remedies. Used for coughs, colds, fevers, this herb is known as the queen of Ayurvedic medicine for its rich properties. Breathing the air around a tulasi plant is considered to have health benefits too, this being the prime reason why most Hindu homes have Tulasi plants in the courtyard. While this is supposed to improve general health, we list the ten popular home remedies with this leaf.

Remedy 1: Cure for Cough and Cold

Many herbal cough syrups and expectorants often use Tulsi as a component because of its excellent expectorant properties. A decoction of the leaves is prepared by boiling few leaves in water. This is taken with ginger and honey for relief from cough and cold. Five to ten leaves of Tulasi are soaked and left in hot water for a few minutes. Drinking this water eight to ten times a day can help improve the patient’s condition.

Remedy 2: Soothing Sore throats

Because of its excellent anti-bacterial and expectorant properties, sore throats are often cured easily with Tulsi. A decoction of holy basil is prepared by boiling basil leaves in some water. This decoction can be taken as a drink to soothe the throat. A gargle of the decoction of these leaves is often recommended.

Remedy 3: Fighting Fever

In the rainy seasons, when fevers are prevalent, tender leaves of Tulsi are used in tea as a preventive against malaria and dengue fevers. The leaves are also beneficial in treating fevers in children. Juice from a few basil leaves is extracted and taken with ginger or honey. This juice can be taken twice a day.

Remedy 4: Ingenious against Insect bites

Yes, basil is known to be a prophylactic and is thus both preventive and curative for insect bites or stings. Fresh juice from basil leaves is applied to affected parts. A teaspoon of the juice is also taken every few hours. Few herbalists also recommend applying a paste of its fresh roots in case of bites from leeches.

Remedy 5: Treasure for Teeth

Holy basil is useful in protecting teeth and curing various cases of teeth disorders also. The leaves of basil are dried in the sun and powdered. This powder is then used for brushing teeth. This works in an excellent manner for maintenance of dental health, controlling bad breath, and giving a good gum massage.

Remedy 6: Highly useful for headaches

Due to its pain reducing ability, basil is useful for curing headaches too. Decoction of the leaves can be used for the purpose. Local application of a paste of basil leaves along with sandalwood powder can also give relief from headaches caused due to heat.

Remedy 7: Sweet on the Skin

Basil can also cure various skin disorders and give relief from rashes or other skin diseases. Some naturopaths have also reported success in treating cases of leucoderma with the help of this plant. Ringworm is another condition where patients are known to benefit from this plant.

Remedy 8: Herb for the Heart

The herb has various benefits and is proven to be good for the heart too. It is noted to help during cardiac disease and reduce the weakness. It is also seen to reduce levels of blood cholesterol. It is also a good blood purifier.

Remedy 9: Something for stress

Basil is known to be an excellent adaptogen, that provides the components required for patients to combat stress. Healthy persons are recommended to chew approximately ten basil leaves a day to reduce stress.

Remedy 10: Kind on Kidneys

Finally, basil is known to strengthen kidneys. It is also useful in curing renal stones. In such cases patients need to take the juice of basil leaves along with honey. This has to be taken over a regular period of time to have effect.

Basil has been in use since many centuries, and continues to occupy a prime position in the world of herbal medicines. It has many curative properties, some known while many others still under experimentation. The herb offers a natural holistic cure and many can benefit from its properties. However the advice from an expert naturopath or herbalist is vital.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Famous legends about Basil

Many famous legends are associated with holy basil making it an ‘as-mystic’ herb as it is beneficial. the extent of these stories on this particular herb simply goes on to further prove that it enjoyed a position of prestige and importance in the medicinal world. While we still do not know, why so much folklore came to be associated with this specific herb, we bring you a few of the best spun tales.

Various legends abound regarding the beheading of John the Baptist. As per one popular story, Salom is known to have hid the head of John the Baptist in a pot of basil leaves to prevent the smell of decomposition.

In a tale similar as the above, Elizabeth the heroine of Bocace is also known to have buried her lover’s head in a pot of basil, and have watered it with her tears every day.

Many stories are popular in India where Tulasi or holy basil is considered to represent Lord Vishnu and his wife Lakshmi. The plant is considered to be the deity of women, who worship it everyday.

As per one Indian tale, Tulsi was actually the incarnation of a beautiful princess who fell in love with Lord Krishna. However she was cursed by Krishna’s consort Radha, and thus took the form of this plant.

In another Indian legend, Krishna was once weighed in gold. Even though plenty of gold was placed in the scale, it could not match the weight of Krishna. It was only when a leaf of Tulsi was placed along with the gold that the weight of Krishna could be matched.

As opposed to India which considers basil to be holy, many places also consider this to be evil or a symbol of Satan. This was prominent in Old Europe. Many Greeks and Romans of ancient times believed that basil would grow well if you scream wild curses and shouted loudly while sowing the seeds. This is where the French term semer le baslic (sowing basil) evolved from and it means to rave and rant about something.

Another folklore of Old Europe goes that if a leaf of basil is left under a pot it would convert into a scorpion overnight. Some believed that smelling basil leaves could cause scorpions to grow in the brain.

In ancient Rome, the term Basil is noted to have evolved from Basilescus, or the Basilisk, which referred to a fire-breathing dragon.

Even for Greeks the word Basil meant royal or kingly. In fact in Greece, it was believed that only the king should plant this herb and use only a golden sickle to harvest it.

In other cultures, placing a pot of basil on the balcony was a sure sign that the lady was ready to receive a suitor.

Much more folklore, legends and myths surround this herb than given here. All in all, it is interesting to note that different cultures have responded to it differently. Either they have loved it, hated it or feared it. This can only be possible, if a herb has medical potential, and needless to say, Holy Basil has that power.

Is basil scientifically proven?

Traditional forms of medicine, do have scientific basis and holy basil is one important herb where this is noted to hold true. For all those who seek scientific fact and reason over grandmother’s wisdom, we bring more insight on this magical herb. Known by many names and cultivated in many parts of the world, this herb’s healing properties and medicinal strengths make it a must have in many Hindu homes. Here is more information on its constituents and how they help in the healing process.


Holy basil comprises of various essential oils of carvacol, eugenol, linalool, caryophilline and methyleugenol. Other triterpenes like ursolic acid and flavonoids are also noted to be present.


Tulasi has high levels of adaptogen, an agent that helps the human body to combat stress more effectively. As per herbalists, adaptogens are those herbs that work to increase the ability of human body to combat stress and adapt to changing conditions.

Rich anti-oxidant

An anti-oxidant slows down excess oxidation in the body and helps to protect body cells from harm caused by free radicals. This is done by binding together harmful free radicals and thus reducing their destructive powers. In this manner, antioxidants help to reduce disease and protect body and health from general degradation. Basil is rich in anti-oxidants and helps to strengthen the immune system while slowing down the ageing process.

Amino-modulator and immuno-modulator

This property of Tulasi helps to balance and improve the immune responses of the body. This helps the body to effectively fight antigens (disease causing agents) and maintain health.

Natural COX-2 inhibitor

COX-2 is an enzyme responsible for pain and inflammation. COX-2 inhibitors are thus a form of Non Steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that work directly against the COX-2 enzyme. Basil works as a natural pain killer without any side effects and inhibits the activity of COX-2.

Oleanolic acid

The presence of oleanolic acid in Tulasi also lends strong anti-HIV properties.

Ursolic acid

The presence of ursolic acid, gives it strong anti-cancer properties. Often also used in cosmetics, Ursolic acid inhibits cancer cells by inhibiting the STAT-3 activation pathway. Various bio-active derivatives such as anti-tumor agents can be derived from this component too.


Carvacrol is noted to be a strong anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral. As it can inhibit the growth of various bacterial strains, has low toxicity, pleasant taste and smell, it is a good food additive. Its other property is also noted to numb pain receptors. The presence of carvacrol in essential oils is also noted to lend in biostatic/biocidal properties against many bacteria, yeast and fungi.

Extensive research on Basil has proven that its many constituents are useful for the human body and play a role in the healing process. Besides helping to cure coughs, colds and fevers, Basil is also good as an antidepressant, antiviral, antibacterial, carminative, diuretic, expectorant and galactogogue (promoting the flow of mother’s milk). Also it is noted to be helpful in improving general health. Much more research is constantly being undertaken to utilize its beneficial properties.