Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a plant that grows ubiquitously in India. It is one of the many varieties of basil including sweet basil used in Italian dishes, Thai basil and lemon basil used in Asian cooking.
Holy basil is generally not used in cooking although now some recipes include it. It is most commonly used as a tea in India mainly to alleviate cough and cold symptoms, headaches and digestive problems.
Basil seeds are also used in various sweet drinks and desserts as well as for medicinal properties. Whole basil seeds are an excellent laxative.
Animal studies show that holy basil acts fast in reducing chronic stress and lowering elevated levels of cortisol - the stress hormone. In a study holy basil was compared to Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and was found to be the most potent anti-stress agent of the three. It also had the highest margin of safety.
In 2007, researchers found three new compounds from in holy basil which displayed promising antistress effects by normalizing hyperglycemia, plasma corticosterone, plasma creatine kinase, and adrenal hypertrophy
Holy basil also helps lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. The herb helps to stimulate the secretion of insulin, the blood sugar--regulating hormone produced by the pancreas.
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