Holy basil originates from India and grows in abundance in Suriname where the Hindu also consider it to be a sacred plant, hence the name ‘Holy Basil’. Besides its religious significance it is also highly regarded in Ayurvedic medicine. Also, in traditional Suriname medicine, it is also used as a common treatment for scorpion and snakebites, as a fever remedy, for relief from abdominal pain and in lowering blood glucose levels.
Ocimum sanctum or Ocimum tenuiflorum
Other commonly used names for holy basil include:
- Thai basil
Holy basil belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which is the mint family of herbs. It tends to grow much larger than sweet basil does, its flavor is slightly less intense and its leaves are faintly serrated on the edges. Holy basil is a tropical herb that grows annually. It grows into a bush that reaches up to a foot and a half in height. The bush consists of small leaves with purple flowers that produce a strong, distinctive scent and grow on hairy stems.
There are actually two distinct types of holy basil with one being a red variety and the other, green. The red variety tends to have a much stronger scent than the green one.
Typical Preparations of Holy Basil
The entire holy basil plant, which includes the seeds, root, stem, leaves and flowers are known to be effective for medicinal use. Medical practitioners use different parts of the holy basil plant for different natural cures and home remedies, which can be prepared as a tea, a juice, an extract, and fresh or dried leaves can be consumed raw as a seasoning or in salad.
Holy Basil Common Uses
Holy basil contains eugenol oil within its leaves, which makes it a very effective anti-inflammatory herb that also has very strong anti-microbial properties. The herb is also a strong anti-oxidant. It is used to treat a variety of ailments including:
- Common cold
- Sore throat
- Respiratory tract infections
- Wound healing
- Kidney stones
- High cholesterol
- Heart disorders
- Mouth infections
- Skin disorders
- Eye disorders
- Dental disorders
While holy basil is generally safe to use and has a synergistic effect when combined with other herbs, a few precautions are recommended. Preliminary research reveals that holy basil lowers the fertility rates in animals and, while it is not yet known the effect that it has on humans, those who are trying to conceive should not take holy basil.
Women who are pregnant or nursing should not therapeutically use holy basil, nor should it be used to treat infants or young children without the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.
Because holy basil lowers blood glucose levels, it should not be used by those who suffer from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Those with diabetes should use holy basil. However, a qualified medical practitioner should supervise its use and dosage amounts as it may interrupt the effectiveness of other insulin or oral anti-diabetic drugs.
Holy basil is known to have mild abilities to thin blood and, therefore, should not be used by those who are currently taking other blood-thinning medications.