Renowned for its important role in the traditional Ayurvedic and Unani systems of holistic health and herbal medicine, the holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is called the ‘queen of herbs’ due to its multiple health benefits. Being an adaptogen, it helps in balancing the different processes in the body and increases its resistance to disease and stress.[1,2,3,4]

Also known as tulsi, its leaves and stems contain a variety of active constituents such as flavonoids, saponins, triterpenoids and tannins.[5] The leaf contains the essential oil eugenol and other volatile compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.[6]

Preliminary trials with holy basil suggest that the herb may help control blood sugar levels of people with type 2 diabetes.[7,8,9] Another study found that taking 1,ooomg of holy basil a day lowered blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides.[10] A controlled trial tested 2,500mg  of holy basil per day and found similar changes in blood sugar levels.[11] Animal studies also confirm the blood sugar lowering effects of basil leaf extract.[12,13]

How To Take It
Holy basil leaves can be added to stir-fry dishes and soups. You can also brew a cup of holy basil tea by adding four to five leaves in boiling water. Have it twice daily to improve your blood sugar levels. The tea is also available online, with a fusion of flavors such as lemon, cinnamon, sweet rose and ginger.

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1. Warrier PK. In: Indian Medicinal Plants. Longman O, editor. New Delhi: CBS publication; 1995. p. 168.

2. Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Chakrabarti A. Adaptogenic activity of Siotone, a polyherbal formulation of Ayurvedic rasayanas. Indian J Exp Biol 2000;38:119-28.

3. Wagner H, Norr H, Winterhoff H. Drugs with adaptogenic effects for strengthening the powers of resistance. Z Phytotherapie 1992;13:42-54.

4. Singh N, Hoette Y. Tulsi: the mother medicine of nature. Lucknow, India: International Institute of Herbal Medicine, 2002.

5. Jaggi RK, Madaan R, Singh B. Anticonvulsant potential of holy basil, Ocimum sanctum Linn. and its cultures. Indian J Exp Biol 2003;41:1329-33.

6. Kelm MA, Nair MG, Strasburg GM, DeWitt DL. Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine 2000;7:7-13.

7. Viseshakul D, Premvatana P, Chularojmontri V, et al. Improved glucose tolerance induced by long term dietary supplementation with hairy basal seeds (Ocimum canum Sim) in diabetics. J Med Assoc Thailand 1985;68:408-11.

8. 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;34:406-9.

9. Rai V, Mani UV, Iyer UM. Effect of Ocimum sanctum leaf powder on blood lipoproteins, glycated protein and total amino acids in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Nutr Environ Med 1997;7:113-8.

10. Rai V, Mani UV. Effect of ocimum sanctum leaf powder on blood lipoproteins. J Nutr Environ Med 1997;7:113-18.

11. 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;34:406-9.

12. Vats V, Grover JK, Rathi SS. Evaluation of anti-hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum Linn, Ocimum sanctum Linn and Pterocarpus marsupium Linn in normal and alloxanized diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2002;79:95-100.

13. Kar A, Choudhary BK, Bandyopadhyay NG. Comparative evaluation of hypoglycaemic activity of some Indian medicinal plants in alloxan diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2003;84:105-8.

Armed with a PhD in Alternative Medicine, a graduate degree in Biotechnology, an MSc, and an MBA in Clinical Research and Clinical Pharmacology, Dr Jonathan is a certified practitioner of Alternative Medicine and is actively involved in patient education initiatives. He is also the author of the bestselling book, Outsmart Diabetes. Dr Jonathan loves to share his passion for herbs and other alternative medicinal practices with others through his writing.