Holy basil, Ocimum sanctum, is an herb that originates from India where it is used in ayurvedic medicine. In the West it is touted as a weight lost supplement. But is it really effective for weight loss? You should consult your physician before taking a holy basil supplement.
Holy basil is an annual herb that grows up to four feet tall. The plant has multi-branched stems with smooth, green leaves which have a camphor-like aroma. In ayurvedic medicine, holy basil is considered to be a sacred herb with spiritual as well as medicinal properties. Known as tulsi in Hindi, this herb is used to treat fevers, reduce inflammation, cure coughs, improve the digestive system, improve the memory and concentration and boost the immune system.
Holy basil has possibly been linked to weight loss because of its ability to lower elevated cortisol levels. Known as the "Stress hormone," cortisol is produced in the adrenal cortex; its function is to help regulate blood sugar, the production of energy, the immune system and healing. If cortisol levels are too high, you may notice some weight gain, particularly around the lower abdomen. High cortisol level can make it difficult to lose weight and to maintain a healthy weight.
Holy basil is an adaptogen; this means it can help the body to cope more easily with stress. It does so by boosting the adrenal glands; the glands that produce stress hormones epinephrine, dopamine and norepinephrine. In doing so, adaptogens can help to reduce cortisol levels. Holy basil may help with weight loss, as part of a balanced diet with exercise by reducing elevated cortisol; however, there is no scientific evidence to support this notion.
There are some indications that holy basil may be dangerous. The herb may affect fertility and has not been assessed for use during pregnancy or breast feeding. It is recommended that you avoid the herb if you are about to have surgery of if you are taking anticoagulant medications. You should also avoid tulsi if you are taking medications to lower your blood sugar levels as the herb can also lower blood sugar.