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Welcome to another installment in my multi-part series, where I am discussing adaptogens and how I am using them to help me on my healing journey. You can read about my journey to health here. If you’re just tuning in to this series, you can read the following articles on the subject of adaptogens:
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – An Overview
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – American Ginseng
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – Schisandra Berries
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – Eleuthero Root
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – Shatavari Root
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Vitality – Astragalus Root
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief: A Book Review
DISCLAIMER: Due to the FDA and FTC laws on health claims, I need to make this very clear. None of the information in this post is to be construed as medical advice. I am not a doctor or certified medical practitioner of any sort. I am simply sharing my own personal experiences, as I travel the long road to optimal health. Statements/products discussed have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. Every person is different and you should always consult your own certified health care practitioner before making changes to your current diet or before beginning any herbal or vitamin supplement regimen or exercise program.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Holy Basil is also called Tulsi, and of all the adaptogens, I think this one was the one that I heard about the most. I had a friend recommend Tulsi to me a long time ago, well before I actually knew anything about adaptogens and their benefits on human health. Tulsi is a member of the mint family and is related to the sweet basil that we use in cooking. The plant is native to the lowlands of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Southern China, Malaysia, and Thailand.(2) It has been grown and used medicinally in India for over 3,000 years, but its popularity in the U.S. is relatively recent.(3)
Tulsi is one of the most sacred plants in India. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries and is considered vital support for the mind, body, and spirit.(3) The leaves are the parts of the plant that are used and they have a smell of peppermint, licorice, cloves, and/or citrus. Its taste/energy is pungent, sweet, and warm. It is an amazing plant with antioxidant, stress response, radioprotective, and neuroprotective qualities.(2) There are three common types of Holy Basil:
- Rama (Ocimum teniflorum): This is the most common variety and is known for it’s cooling, mellow flavor. It is widely cultivated through India, not just ion their plains, but in home gardens as well.(1)
- Krishna (Ocimum teniflorum): This variety is known for it’s medicinal properties and it has a peppery taste. It is also widely cultivated through India, including home gardends.(1)
- Vana (Ocimum gratissimum): This is known as the “forest type” and is well known for its fragrance. It grows wild in Africa and Asia and is used medicinally in those areas.(1)
In Ayurvedic medicine, Holy Basil has been used to treat a wide variety of health conditions, from the simple to the complex. Over the last decade, there have been a number of scientific studies done on this plant. Studies have shown that there does seem to be great promise when using the herb as it has been used traditionally, but they are even looking beyond that and into use for specific treatments for cancer and diabetes. As an adaptogen, there is much compelling data that show that Holy Basil can significantly aid in the areas of stress response and anxiety, hence why it is quickly gaining popularity as an adaptogen.(3) In addition, health benefits may include:
- Improves stress response to both acute and chronic stress
- Prevents an increase in corticosterone levels attributed to stress response
- Protect against radiation damage
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Helps prevent gastric ulcers
- Improves antibody production
- Improve digestion
- Enhance cerebral circulation and memory (brain fog)
- Helping with ADD and ADHD
- Speed up recovery from a head trauma
- Antidepressant for those suffering from specific types of situational depression
- Treatment of allergies
Preliminary animal studies are showing that Holy Basil is very helpful on lowing blood sugar levels, as well as preventing gastric ulcers. Animal studies have also shown promise in holy basil’s ability to help those with brain damage due to reduced circulation. In one human study, holy basil helped patients with Type 2 diabetes obtain a significant lowering of their blood sugar levels while fasting, and then a smaller decrease in blood sugar levels after eating.(2)
How is Holy Basil Used?
Overall, Holy Basil is generally regarded as safe. There has been some preliminary data that shows it may be toxic to embryos, so it is advised to avoid use during pregnancy until there is more conclusive evidence. Along the same lines, some have reported that it can have an anti-fertility effect on the body, so if you’re trying to conceive, it may be best to avoid this herb until more substantial data is released. It can also speed up the elimination of certain medications from the body, so keep this in mind if you are on any prescriptions. The most common ways to use Holy Basil are:
The primary reason I wanted to start using Holy Basil is due to the strong reports that it is quite beneficial for balancing blood sugar levels. This is what drew me to this herb in the first place. From there, it does have other traditional adaptogenic benefits.
I find that Holy Basil makes a great addition to my herbal tea blends and that is the way I have been using it. You can even use it on it’s own and it makes a delicious cup of tea. For a quick infusion, take 1 tablespoon of dried Tulsi and pour 8-12 ounces of hot water over the leaves. Let steep for 10-20 minutes. Add lemon juice and a little sweetener if desired.
I have also used it in capsule and tincture form and I love it. I feel that it supports my body in such a gentle, intuitive way. Gives me the support I need where I need it. Herbs and the human body are amazing! 🙂
Oh, and this recipe for Holy Chai from Divine Health from the Inside Out sounds heavenly!
Supporting a Your Stress Response, Adrenals, Thyroid, and Whole Body Through Herbs
When it comes to supporting overall wellness, herbs are a great tool to have in your toolkit, especially those who may be dealing with chronic illness of some type. Since 2009, when I started this site, I have met thousands upon thousands of people through my work and by far, the #1 health complaints are:
- adrenal fatigue (or adrenal dysfunction of some sort) (click here to read all of my adrenal health articles)
- thyroid disorders (hypo-, hyper-, or autoimmune) (click here to read all of my thyroid health articles)
Because of this, I wanted to add in a section into this post about the benefit of using herbs with chronic illness. Adaptogens are by far one of the most used herbs when it comes to working with people who have low energy, fatigue, and overall imbalance in the endocrine system (thyroid, adrenals, and blood sugar).
While the benefits of adaptogenic herbs extend far beyond just supporting that one system, this tends to be one of the main reasons people turn to adaptogenic herbs in the first place. That said there are a lot of other herbs out there that offer amazing support for the body, especially those dealing with chronic illness which is why I wanted to share this section today.
If you are dealing with any type of chronic illness, I’m sorry to break it to you, but caffeine may not be your best friend. 🙁 While you can find lots of info online in both the pro- and the anti-coffee camps, the fact of the matter comes down to the fact that are a lot of people dealing with chronic illness, especially thyroid and adrenal problems, that simply cannot tolerate coffee and caffeine.
While those with sluggish adrenal glands tend to feel run down and in need of a regular pick-me-up (like coffee and other caffeinated beverages), in the long run, caffeine can do more harm than good while you are healing. I go into the “whys” around caffeine and your adrenals in this detailed post here. In addition to the caffeine, there are other constituents, molds, and mycotoxins that can show up in coffee that some people find they react to and can further exacerbate the toxic load on the body.
When I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue, one of the first things that had to go was coffee. In addition to dealing with these issues, we suspected that I was having some detox pathway sluggishness so we wanted to also focus on supporting the liver and lymph systems. Most people who are dealing with chronic illness are also going to have issues with detoxification of the body, which is why herbs can play such an important role.
To be honest, I never drank coffee because of the caffeine. I drank coffee for the taste and aroma, as well as the emotional experience I felt to my morning cup of joe. For me, it was a ritual that I looked forward to every day (and sometimes multiple times a day). Whether I was brewing it at home or going to my local coffee shops, the experience was one that I clung to tightly.
But, when I was faced with new health struggles, I knew I had to do whatever I could to support my body and give it the tools it needed to heal. Giving up coffee and caffeine was one step in this direction.
And it sucked.
I turned to the coffee substitutes on the market in a desperate attempt to recreate the ritual I had grown so fond of, but nothing ever tasted the way I wanted it to. Nothing ever gave me that same experience that my cup of “real” coffee did. I knew there had to be something better, but I simply could not find it on my health food store’s shelves.
Necessity is the mother of invention so that is why I created my own coffee substitutes. They were made with organic, sustainably harvested herbs with zero grains, zero gluten, and zero caffeine. Just herbs.
Herbs that not only tasted delicious but supported my body’s function, like liver detox, bile production, digestion, etc. All of the herbs used in my “coffee” blends have been used for thousands of years to support the body’s normal functions and help everything work a little better — something we all need in today’s toxic world! (psst, dandelion is one of the herbs!)
When it came to creating these blends, if I could get something to not only tasted amazing (and helped me recreate my dearly loved ritual), but also did amazingly supportive things for my body, then it’s a no brainer!
I sold these pre-made blends on Etsy for awhile and the demand was more than I could keep up with. People literally LOVED these blends and were stunned at how much like coffee they actually tasted. Customers who had been dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses had given up coffee to heal their bodies, but like me were deeply missing their morning cup of joe ritual.
After careful consideration and work with some highly experienced advisors, I decided to stop selling the pre-made blends and instead share my proprietary recipes in the form of an eBook. That way I could arm people with the knowledge and recipes they needed to make their own caffeine-free, gluten-free, grain-free blends in the comfort of their own home.
That is why I created the best-selling DIY Herbal Coffees eBook: A Complete Guide To Making Delicious Herbal Coffees to Support Healing & Stress Relief.
Now in its second edition, this ebook features:
- All of my proprietary herbal blend recipes to you can craft a homemade herbal cup of “coffee” at home.
- A ton of researched information about coffee’s impact on the health of those dealing with issues like adrenal fatigue, blood sugar dysregulation, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, and any other chronic illness.
- Information about all of the herbs used, why I selected them, how to source them, how to prepare and store you “coffees”, and much more.
- Access to your own personal coffee shop where I show you how to recreate your favorite coffee shop drinks and pastries with wholesome, nourishing real food ingredients. No junk here. Only real food.
This book truly is a comprehensive guide to supporting your health, reducing your stress, and bringing a little something special back into your healing journey. You can learn more and download your own copy of this revolutionary wellness guide here, or simply click on the image below.
If you are looking for more info on adaptogenic herbs, I HIGHLY recommend this book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. It is one of my all-time favorite herb books and probably the one I reference the most. Find it on Amazon here.
Basic Herbal Preparations
If you’re new to herbs and are feeling confused about all the different preparations for them, don’t be! Let me help you out with this Basic Herbal Preparations post. You can also watch the videos below to learn more about a couple herbal preparations and about my favorite source for organic, sustainably harvested herbs.
Ready to Learn More?
Stay tuned for more herbal profiles! I will continue writing about the specific adaptogens that I am using in my healing journey. There are a lot of adaptogens out there, but the key is finding ones that work well for your needs. If you like what you’ve read here, please keep in touch! You can subscribe to my semi-monthly newsletter or subscribe to email updates so you never miss a new post. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. Have a question? Contact me here.
If you’re interested in learning more about herbs and would like to know who I recommend, check out my Resources page.
1. “Holy Basil (Tulsi) Herb Profile“. Mountain Rose Herbs.
2. “Adaptogens Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief”. David Winston and Steven Maimes. Healing Arts Press, 2007.
3. “Holy Basil: Relieve Anxiety and Stress Naturally“. Medicine Hunter.