Holy basil has long been used as a traditional medicine in China and India. Some cultures regard the plant as sacred.
Holy basil has a history of use to try to treat:
- The common cold
- Improvement of energy and general health
It's also been used to try to treat a range of other health concerns, including:
- Increased blood circulation
- Insect bites
- Kidney problems
- Skin problems
- Snake bites
- Stomach problems
In addition, holy basil may be useful:
- As an antioxidant
- For protecting the liver
- For treating diabetes. In one study, people with diabetes had lower blood sugar while they were taking holy basil.
Can you get holy basil naturally from foods?
Holy basil leaves, which have a spicy, lemony flavor, are used widely in food in Southeast Asia, such as in Thai stir-fried dishes.
What are the risks of taking holy basil?
Side effects. Research on animals shows that holy basil may:
- Cause low blood sugar
- Promote bleeding
- Decrease fertility
Risks. Avoid using holy basil if you're allergic or sensitive to it or members of the Lamiaceae (mint) plant family.
You should be cautious about using holy basil if you:
- Have low blood sugar
- Are trying to get pregnant
- Take anticoagulant (blood-thinning) drugs
Women who are pregnant should avoid holy basil, since it might cause the uterus to contract.
Interactions. Research on animals suggests that holy basil might change the effect of these drugs:
- Valium (diazepam)
- Nembutal (pentobarbital)
- Scopolamine (sold as generic only)
Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with any medications.
Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
WebMD Medical Reference
Natural Standard Professional Monograph: "Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum L.)."
Hakkim, F. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Oct. 31, 2007.
Mondal, S. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, October-December, 2009.