Can Holy Basil Help With Weight Loss?

If you've ever browsed the herb section of your favorite nursery, chances are you've come across a plant called holy basil, aka holy basil or finely chopped basil. Despite its name, it is not culinary basil (such as the more common Genoese basil or sweet basil), but an ancient herb that has been used in India for centuries for various health treatments situation.

Also known as Tulsi, holy basil is considered a sacred herb. It has long, quadrangular hairy stems and small leaves that look a bit like Thai basil. It reaches a height of two feet and bears edible petite purple flowers. Crush the leaves to release a light minty flavor.

For thousands of years, therapists have used it in a variety of ways, from managing stress and emotions to creating balance in the body. In its native India, it is known as the “Queen of Herbs”.

Some research suggests that it can also help with your mental and metabolic health, which can aid in weight loss. It's worth noting, however, that research on these claims is few and far between.

Here's everything you need to know about the uses of holy basil and whether it can help you lose weight.

Holy Basil is used to relieve many physical and mental problems. Some research suggests that holy basil and one of its constituents, eugenol, have antioxidant properties that may one day help cancer treatment.

Holy basil is a sacred plant that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. According to the Indian government, every part of the plant has spiritual significance for Hindus. The roots represent religious pilgrimage, the branches represent divinity, and the top represents understanding of Hindu scriptures. The Indians used the leaves as a remedy for coughs and congestion.

Some other uses of tulsi are:

  • reduce stress
  • Reduces stress on the immune system
  • regulate blood sugar
  • control blood lipid levels
  • reduce inflammation
  • Aids memory and cognitive function
  • Use as an antiseptic in mouthwashes, hand sanitizers and wound healing

Researchers have yet to conduct many large-scale, long-term clinical trials of tulsi's weight loss effects in humans. However, some research shows that when taken as a supplement, it can help you manage your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Controlling blood sugar can help prevent diabetes. It also prevents the blood sugar crashes that cause you to overeat.

The healthier your heart is, the easier it is to maintain a healthy weight-promoting lifestyle that includes regular exercise. Controlling your cholesterol levels can protect your heart health, as too much bad cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, in turn, can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

A 2017 review of 24 studies found holy basil to be safe as a supplement. It may also help you manage your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, the researchers concluded. According to reviews, holy basil may also have other overall benefits when added to your diet or used with medications you already take.

Another small pilot study of 30 overweight and obese young adults found that the herb helped them reduce insulin resistance (a problem that leads to type 2 diabetes) and cholesterol levels.

In a 2012 study of 100 people, those who took 5 milliliters of holy basil extract for three months showed significant improvements in markers of metabolic syndrome, including their blood sugar, blood pressure and lipid profile. Researchers believe this is due to a compound in holy basil called eugenol.

However, more research is needed to determine whether holy basil helps with weight loss, and what the recommended dosage is for most people.

Holy basil is an adaptogen—the plant that helps your body cope with stress, anxiety, and fatigue—so it can also help you on your weight loss journey by helping you balance your emotions and your body.

Adaptogens are used to boost your immune system, increase your energy and enhance your body's ability to cope with physical and emotional stress. Research on adaptogens is limited and has mostly focused on the specific properties of certain herbs.

However, natural medicine practitioners use them to help restore your sense of balance.

An herb must do the following to be considered an adaptogen:

  • Supports your whole body's ability to resist stress
  • Helps your body return to normal after it changes from stress
  • It must be nontoxic in average doses

When it comes to holy basil, you have two options: grow your own or buy over-the-counter (OTC) supplements. It is available in vitamin, health food and supplement stores and online.

The plant is biennial, which means it will grow for two years before dying, although you can make it live longer by growing it indoors. People who use holy basil as a supplement use all the above-ground parts: leaves, stems, and seeds. If you grow this plant, you can use its delicate lilac flowers as a garnish or in salads, as they are edible.

Holy Basil is available as:

  • capsule or tablet
  • Prepared Tea Mixes
  • in the excerpt

Holy basil can be taken in food, as a tea or as a supplement.

While there is no evidence that drinking tea made from the leaves can help with weight loss, many websites (especially Indian ones) will give you directions on brewing tea for this purpose.

Many retailers offer a variety of holy basil teas. Manufacturers often mix holy basil tea with rose, chamomile, or another Ayurvedic herb called ashwagandha for extra benefits. (Caution: Ashwagandha can interfere with many medications.)

There is no agreed dosage for holy basil.

You can make tea from fresh leaves and flowers or from packaged tea bags. If fresh, pour boiling water over the leaves and steep for 10 minutes. (If you're making tea with herbs in addition to tulsi, it's also important to know their drug interactions.)

OTC supplement dosages vary by brand and type. Be sure to read the label.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only loosely regulates supplements and does not monitor dosage or effectiveness. Make sure to get your supplements from a reputable source that has been third-party tested. It is also important to speak with your healthcare professional before taking Tulsi to rule out drug interactions or possible negative health consequences.

Holy basil appears to be safe. However, some people shouldn't use it because there isn't enough research to prove it's safe for them:

  • babies and children
  • pregnant or breastfeeding person
  • people who already have diabetes
  • People take some medicines. (Note: If you are taking any medications or have any medical condition, please consult a healthcare professional before taking Tulsi.)

Holy basil contains eugenol. Eugenol has many anti-congestant and other beneficial properties. However, consuming too much eugenol can cause:

  • tissue damage
  • liver damage
  • epileptic seizure
  • coma

While the eugenol in holy basil may help prevent type 2 diabetes, it can also lower blood sugar to dangerously low levels in people who already have diabetes. Always consult a healthcare professional before taking.

It is possible to take too much of any supplement. Taking much more than recommended on the label can cause side effects or stronger side effects. Try to stick to the recommended amounts.

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