Holy Basil: My Number One, Ace-in-The-Hand Herb : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Friday May 20 | BY |
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We found this tree with the word “Peru” carved into it last fall in Colorado. Think it’s a sign we should be here now?

I gave you some great recipes on Wednesday that showcased one of my favorite herbs – holy basil or tulsi.

I guess the altitude here in Peru has gotten to me, because now that I look back, I think it would have been better to explain holy basil and the adrenals first – then give you the recipes.

But I didn’t and today, I have a chance to redeem myself.

This is the amazing thing about a blog – you can always write more and clarify what you said without it being printed in 10,000 books.

So here we go, Holy Basil and Adrenals 201 (201, not 101, because you guys are an advanced bunch)…

What is Holy Basil?

Just like Ashwagandha, holy basil is an Ayurvedic herb. It’s also an adaptogen.

Adaptogens, as you may know, are tonic herbs that work with the body and the endocrine / hormone system to bring you to balance.

Holy basil is in the mint family and it’s latin name is Ocimum sanctum.

I’ve heard that nearly every household who practices Ayervedic healing has holy basil growing in their gardens – just like an Italian would grow basil and oregano.

(If you have seen this to be true in your travels, please let me know this is true and confirm it in the comments!)

Holy basil has a strong tea taste, which is why I like to use it in my teas and drinks.

Just like any herb, if you want the stuff that works and is most potent you have to search for it. You can buy holy basil tea or capsules at the health food store, but some just don’t make the cut.

We’re found some very high quality holy basil that is cold extracted, just like the ashwagandha, that seems to be the most potent and therapeutic.

I urge you to do your own research, but if you want a shortcut trust us on this one.

You can check this out here: buy high quality holy basil.

Holy Basil Can Cool You Like a Cucumber

Well, kind of.

I think the holy basil is more effective. LOL!

Holy basil, because of its adaptogenic properties, works to bring the body back to a proper balance – but what I’ve found is that it works extremely well with people who are experiencing stress and poor adrenal function.

Anyone who takes stimulants, stresses out, or is a high anxiety type, runs the risk of burning out the adrenals to the point where they don’t produce enough pre-hormones to help regulate the body.

For those of you who don’t know, the adrenals sit on top of your kidneys and are small glands that secrete hormones like cortisol (fight or flight) and pregnenolone (a pre-hormone that assists in the formation of others). The adrenals of course produce other hormones as well, but I want to focus on these two.

Most of you probably know that when you stress out, your body releases excess cortisol into your system. This is remnant from the times when we were chased by hippos and lions (or other people).

These days the computer we’re sitting at or the people we encounter – for the most part – aren’t trying to eat us nor are they threatening enough to cause us to run for cover.

But even though we’ve not running from anything, we still register stress from external happenings like a deadline, a relationship, traffic or simply watching TV.

We also produce excess cortisol when we eat or drink stimulants like coffee, caffeinated tea, sugar, or chocolate.

This excess cortisol in the system interferes with the production and efficacy of other hormones in the body.

So, to bring this back to home, if you’re stressing out you’re creating a cortisol stew in your body that causes hormone imbalance.

If you’re body is producing too much cortisol on a regular basis, it’s also putting a stress on the adrenal glands to produce the other hormones it needs to manufacture. Cortisol production also uses raw materials that are needed to produce other hormones, so you have more production of only one “product” and less raw materials to produce everything. It’s a losing battle.

You wouldn’t want your heart to overwork on a regular basis. Science has shown that people with a lower resting heart rate (not too low!) live longer.

Your adrenals are similar. The less cortisol your adrenals have to pump out, the more likely you are to be slim, healthy and well balanced – nutritionally and emotionally.

Like I said before, the adrenals also produce pregnenolone which is a precursor to hormones like progesterone, estrogen, DHEA and testosterone.

If you adrenals are busy pumping out cortisol, the production of pregnenolone takes a back seat.


Because your “survival” is more important than your sex drive or if you feel good or not.

This is why people who have poor adrenal function tend to be irritable, have low sex drive, can’t get out bed and suffer from mild to severe depression.

So to wrap up this hack physiology lesson, if you’re stressing out, it’s serious and you need to eliminate the source or at least learn how to manage it.

One way you can do this is with herbs that calm you down – like holy basil, Siberian ginseng, rhodiola and more.

In fact, Dr. Williams likes some of these other herbs for the adrenals more than holy basil, but none of those herbs were as effective for me (I tried them all!)

Holy basil, in my experience was what cooled my body down the best when I was experiencing some very intense adrenal burnout.

With adaptogens, I’ve learned, you have to try a few and see which ones work best with your body.

(It’s important to note here that holy basil – or any other herb – is only part of the solution that includes minerals, B vitamins, rest and possibly hormone supplementation – if things are really bad.)

I Burned Out My Adrenals on a Healthy Diet, So Can You…

My adrenal story, while seemingly complicated when I was in the thick of it, is actually pretty straightforward.

Some of my experiments, namely with a stimulant called cacao, caused my adrenals to overwork and burn out.

I ended up urinating frequently.

I was unable to get out of bed.

I became slightly depressed.

I lost sex drive.

I was ridiculously irritable.

My hands and feet would be excessively cold during the day.

My muscles would cramp when I even thought about exercise.

I didn’t know it at the time, but all these symptoms are classic adrenal stress or burnout symptoms.

It got pretty bad for a while, until I talked to Dr. Williams. He looked at all the symptoms and suggested I test my hormone levels – namely my pregnenolone.

When I got the tests back, he showed me that my symptoms matched the results.

My pregeneolone levels were around 6. That’s the level of an 85 year old, he told me.

The normal ranges are over 150.

I was shocked at the results, but it motivated me to take even more action than I already was doing.

Dr. Williams suggested pregeneolone as a supplement for a short period of time, plus some minerals, herbs and most of all rest. (Which of course was the hardest thing for me!)

After about 4-5 months, I tested my pregnenolone again and it was around 76.

The last time I went to test, which was about 6 months ago (and 18 months from the test before), the lab tested me for pregesterone by accident, not pregeneolone, so I have no idea what my levels are now until I test again! LOL!

I’m sure the levels are back close to normal if not perfect, because all the symptoms that I had are now gone.

It was not an easy recovery, but it was a recovery, which I’m happy to share with you now. Feeling the way I felt before is no way to go through life – and to think it was all due to the fact that I was trying to be even more healthy than I already was.

Important Adrenal Health Lessons Learned:

– Don’t take stimulants.
– Relax more.
– Find some good herbs that can relax you (legal ones!)
– Restore mineral balance.
– Make sure your nutrient levels are correct.
– Go to a health practitioner that can help you identify your issue easily.

So to wrap this up, I want you to think a little bit about those little guys resting on top your kidneys and honestly assess if your lifestyle may be wearing them down.

It was for me!

I’m going to guess that what you’re doing is causing more stress than your body wants – and if I’m right, now is the time to give them a little love. (Maybe even a little holy basil love!)


I know you probably want to know more, just like I do, so I’ve dug up some facts from my archive to share with you about holy basil (Source: Health Book Summaries):

1. Holy basil also protects against radiation-induced damage in animals that are receiving radiation therapy. A formula of holy basil and vasa leaves (Adbatoda vasica) is used for animals with coughs and colds.

– David Winston, RH (AHG), and Steven Maimes, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

2. Preliminary studies indicate that holy basil might enhance CYP-450 activity, thus speeding up the elimination of some medications. There have been many animal studies indicating that holy basil has anti-stress and immunomodulating activity. However, there have not been any human studies confirming this.

– David Winston, RH (AHG), and Steven Maimes, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

3. The whole holy basil plant is used by farmers for animals with inflammation of the tongue, ulcers, pneumonia, constipation, liver flukes, opacity of the cornea and sore eyes (the fresh juice is squeezed into the animal’s eye), rapid heartbeat, and sprains. The leaves are used for cows and sheep with coughs, colds, udder infections, and for wound healing.

– David Winston, RH (AHG), and Steven Maimes, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

4. A decoction made from the [holy basil] root is used to lower malarial fevers, and a poultice made from the fresh roots and leaves is applied to bites and stings from wasps, bees, mosquitoes, ants, and other insects as well as leeches.

– David Winston, RH (AHG), and Steven Maimes, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

5. Holy basil affects the body’s “energy field” according to ayurvedic physician and author Dr. Vasant Lad. Ayurvedic tradition says that holy basil performs the indispensable spiritual function of balancing and toning the energetic chakra system. It is considered the maha guna (great quality) that balances sattva (pure quality), and it delivers nutrients to the mind necessary for the experience of enlightenment. Its quality is pure sattva. Holy basil opens the heart and the mind, bestowing the energy of love and devotion (bhakti). Sacred to Vishnu and Krishna, it strengthens faith, compassion and clarity.

– David Winston, RH (AHG), and Steven Maimes, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

6. Holy basil [is] widely cultivated for daily use. There are at least three types of holy basil. The green-leafed variety sri or rama tulsi is the most common. The second type, Krishna tulsi, bears dark-green to purple leaves; this variety has a stronger taste and smell. The third type, vana tulsi, is a green-leafed forest variety that often grows wild.

– David Winston, RH(AHG), and Steven Maimes, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

7. Tulsi is the name for Sacred or Holy basil in India and translates to “incomparable one.” Native to India, Tulsi has been revered for over 5,000 years, and as Yash Rai in his book Tulsi says, “The Hindu scriptures enjoin us to look upon Tulsi not as a mere plant, but as the divine representative of the God Vishnu or of Lord Krishna.” In other texts Tulsi is described as a consort of Krishna, leading to the name “Mother of the Universe.” Because of the divine nature of Sacred basil, the plant itself is worshipped both in the morning and at night by leaving a lamp burning at its base.

– Pam Montgomery, Plant Spirit Healing: A Guide to Working with Plant Consciousness

8. Though related to common basil, holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a different species. Animal experiments have found that its leaves can reduce fasting and post meal glucose levels. An Indian study of 17 diabetics found that 1 gram of holy basil leaf reduced fasting glucose levels by 20.8 percent. In addition, cholesterol levels went down by 11 percent and triglyceride by 16 percent. If you have needed an excuse to use less salt and pepper and to increase your use of more flavorful culinary herbs and spices, consider their glucose-lowering properties.

– Jack Challem, Burton Berkson, Melissa Diane Smith, Syndrome X: The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Insulin Resistance

9. Ocimum sanctum, otherwise known as holy basil, contains phytonutrients that have “significant COX-2 inhibitory effect.” The phytonutrient “ursolic acid” is specifically recognized for its COX-2 inhibitory effects. In research conducted at the Dartmouth Medical School, a study confirmed that derivatives of oleanolic acid and ursolic acid possessed potential anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing activity related to their inhibition of COX-2.

– Thomas M. Newmark and Paul Schulick, BEYOND ASPIRIN Nature’s Answer To Arthritis, Cancer & Alzheimer’s Disease

10. Zyflamend’s pharmacopoeia of herbs includes the following: Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory effects in animal studies. It inhibits the formation of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids made from arachidonic acid by the action of COX and LO enzymes. It contains ursolic acid, a known inhibitor of COX-2, and many other antioxidant, anti-inflammatory substances, including eugenol, rosmarinic acid and apigenin.

– Freedom Press, Natural Cancer Cures: The Definitive Guide to Using Dietary Supplements to Fight and Prevent Cancer.

11. There have been contradictory animal studies showing that holy basil might be toxic to embryos. Until conclusive information exists, avoid using it during pregnancy. Holy basil also is reported to have an anti-fertility effect and should be avoided if a woman is trying to get pregnant.

– David Winston, RH (AHG), and Steven Maimes, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

I want to know your thoughts: Do you stress out more than you’d like? What are you going to do about it?

Need Come Calm in Your Life?

Maybe you’re burning out your adrenals and you don’t even know it….

To find out if you are, read this:


Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Nutritionizt says:

    Great article!

    Like you mentioned in point #10, eugenol is one of the main compounds that gives Holy Basil its effective medicinal properties. Eugenol is also found in cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

    One fascinating property of eugenol, and likewise of Holy Basil, is its anthelmintic action, or its ability to expel parasitic worms. And we all know what little parasites in the body can do to our stress levels! All hail Holy Basil!

  2. Christine says:

    Is it possible to grow holy basil in your backyard garden? I’ve never heard of it before.

  3. lori says:

    Where do you get your tulsi powder? Online or a store? And, for that matter, the vanilla bean powder. I just came from my health food store (The Bulk Bin in Los Feliz, [L.A. CA]), and they don’t carry either one.

  4. Katherine says:

    Thank you for the articles… you pretty much listed my current set of irritating symptoms… Holy Basil seeds are on their way!

  5. lu weiss says:

    i have been diagnosed with lyme disease. fibro,excess lead and cadium, food allergies.mainly i would like to know if you are familiar with lyme. (cause i know you cannot answer all above)

  6. Awesome article on holy basil. I recently bought the dried herb so now I will make a ticture from it. Thanks!

  7. Kristi says:

    I was told I had adrenal fatigue a few months back. I’m still on my road to recovery. I definitely feel it when I take some food stimulant (even a small amount). I have more good days than bad days now. I have tried all the other herbs but will look into trying this one. Rhodiola hasn’t helped me much but B-vitamins were crucial, as was higher protein in my diet.

  8. Kuru says:

    Interestingly, I find Holy Basil tea energizes me like a stimulant, which is great during the day, but I have been kept awake after drinking the tea 6 hours earlier! Any comments? I think it might be #5, as it delivers nutrients to the mind necessary for enlightenment. I do feel extremely uplifted and might not want to miss that feeling by sleeping! Btw, Christine #2, it is a hardy plant and grows like a weed.

    Kevin, I think it’s important to have full disclosure on your cacao reaction by saying you actually took an overdose. I think I remember your saying you were taking 4 tablespoons at a time. My mouth would have been turned inside out with that. I enjoy cacao occasionally, but really watch the portion, thanks to you!

  9. Barbara says:

    I found Tulsi Tea in a local Natural Food market.
    It was actually on sale and I liked what I read about it.
    so I bought it and was really happy with the obvious results.
    After that I started finding articles on Tulsi (holy Basil)…and how good it is…
    but now I can’t find the tea! LOL

  10. Hubert says:

    @Kuru nr 8.
    I also find that Tulsi works for me like a stimulant. I sure don’t want to take the powder (I take half a gram of the dried stuff in meals) in the evening unless I like to stay awake a few hours extra.

  11. Sharon says:

    I like Holy Basil now and again but mainly I use essential oils when I am stressed. They work instantly.

    With herbs you really have to try and see what works. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of combining a few to get the right synergy for yourself. One may not work but together with another it could be a powerhouse. Everyone should learn to muscle test!

  12. Lorien says:

    I have a Tulsi tea that I drink daily. I have a few teas I’m drinking to replace coffee mid-day. Still have my am & pm cups but the Tulsi tea and my longetivity tea are standards now as well. Yummie……

  13. Les says:

    where does one find Tulsi/Holy basil to buy in the New York city area? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

  14. Tom Garrett says:

    Have you done any research on the effect of the alkaloids solanine and tomtine in tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant?

  15. Mary says:

    What is a good mineral balance? Is there a good supplement for this?

  16. i am goin to try holy basil, ive also read on a bodybuilding site that its boosts testosterone really too and thats a bonus for my workouts at the gym. i have enough stress managing roofing and remodeling crews all day and covering a large local area. i try to stay natural and eat good whole food, very rarely drink but sometimes get burnt out mentally and physically when i go at it too hard for too long without a break. godbless

  17. maca says:

    There is plenty of fresh holy basil available in Thailand. But I’ve no idea if it’s the same herb that you’re talking about.

  18. bob says:

    Holy Basil is easy to grow here in North Carolina. I grow Rama, Krishna and Hanuman. Have not gotten Vana to germinate yet. This year… Love Tulsi!! All hail “Queen of the Herbs!”

  19. Elsie Milla says:

    I have purchased my Tulsi Tea from Organic India. Some with caffene and some without plus different flavors. Elsie Milla

  20. Anna Whang says:

    Thank you for providing the information. Every day, I get stressed out from work, daily chores, and family life. I will definitely look into the holy basil for adrenal health. It will benefit me since I am healing myself from cancer and had chemo and radiation therapy.

    I am very inspired by your youtube raw food diet video and interview with Charlotte Gerson.

  21. Casey says:

    Where can I order seeds for holy basil?

  22. Susan says:

    Great article! I’ve been doing a lot of reading on adrenal health recently. I just finished up Marcelle Pick’s latest book, “Are You Tired and Wired?” which is excellent! I’m adding the holy basil tip to my list of “must dos” to help restore balance.

  23. lisa says:

    I went to the health food store and they recommended holy basil for stress. I took it once and I couldn’t believe how well it works! I felt so at peace with everything and nothing could bother me. Sadly, I read alot about this herb and infertility, and I would like more children so Not sure if I will be taking it anymore but for those who don’t care about fertility, it is amazing and will take all stress away almost instantly.

    • Kevin Gianni Kevin Gianni says:

      Lisa, be careful about what you read… many people in India use this herb regularly. They’re also the second most populated country in the world… 😉


  24. salda vinchi says:

    Holy basil can help but look at the side effects it can produce…be careful of drug interactions!

  25. Mario says:

    Holly basil appears to help me manage stress from a very stressful job. Recently, started using the product and like the results.

  26. Mark says:

    I think my interest in teas started when I began watching
    British TV, and tea was mentioned so I started making tea and watch
    the show. I drink tea everyday and enjoy it so much that I have it
    during my workouts with added branch chain amino acids and have
    some favorites and after reading this article I will be going out
    to buy this one. What made me read this blog not even knowing how
    popular the site is but am glad I did. I was reading about
    tulsi-holy basil, the Queen of Herbs, from a health magazine when
    inquiring about healthy alternatives to handling stress. I would
    order it online from this website but first I would like to get
    familiar with it before doing so. Great article, informative
    without the blah, blah and I did feel a sincerity from the writer.
    Thank you.

  27. Yeah,
    I was actually looking for the MINERALS present in the tulsi. But anyways it helped a lot with all those extra information. And if u do not mind I would like to know how to grow tulsi and prepare tea with it!! LOL I never knew tulsi was also called holy basil coz…… Everywhere I went, it was TULSI,TULSI, HERE AND THERE.
    Tulsi is indeed refreshing and except for tulsi is there any other refreshing mint leaves. Oh and one last thanks to Kevin Gianni because just by taking tulsi( holy basil), I can stay awake in S.S.T class, because I’m of grade seven and I really have to pass S.S.T this time!!!!!!!! And also in chemistry!!! My first time doing chemistry!! And this is the first term no kidding!!! We are starting with formula writing!!! Yeah……yeah….. Kinda boring!!! No offense to peeps who like chemistry 🙂 that is why I needed the minerals for my homework!!!!!!! I LOVE TULSI……ok…k…k, I do not like it that much, so I gotta taste it SOMEDAY!!! …….one way or another I’m gonna taste it… I’m gonna taste it! Taste it!!!( new version of 1Ds song(tulsi) LOL!!!!!! Thanx anyways (PhD): Dr. Kevin Gianni without…… Sir Kevin Gianni……… Wait a minute!!! I know a girl in grade five name Gianni… But that’s her first name!!!! Such a coincidence!!!!! LOL

  28. Rose says:

    Hi guys just wanted to ask you a question regarding sweet basil for cooking. Do sweet basil causes infertility? Is there a list of herbs that do cause infertility in women? please let me know, it’s a concern. And also, do you know which is the best position for a women to delivered her baby, i have heard that laying down delays the process because of less gravity. Thank you in advance for your knowledgeable information.

  29. Rose says:

    Does fresh sweet basil great for stress? Does it have the same health benefits as Holy Basil. Please let me know.
    Thank you guys, keep doing what you doing.
    Be Bless

  30. Mia says:

    Thanks so much Kevin, for not only taking a proactive and preventative approach to your health, but for sharing your research and knowledge with others. Your information is really appreciated. I have gained a lot by reading just a few articles so far! Thanks again!

  31. Michelle Falvo says:

    My daughter suffers from adrenal hyperplasia, she is currently taking 2.5 milligrams of dexamethisone, prescribed by
    Her endocrinologist. She has gained 15 lbs. since starting. Would holy basil help with this diagnosis? She doesn’t want to stay on this for long,but her doctor says til menopause. She is only 24 years old, but has a lot of stressing physicians assistant school. She will be done in December and hopefully her stress level will go down. We are uproar any aurevuedic suggestions. Thank you!

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