Holy basil, or Ocimum sanctum, is an herb native to India and is regarded asone of the most important plants used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Holy basil is also known as “tulsi.” It has a pleasant aroma and isavailable in both red and green varieties. It grows abundantly around Hindutemples, and although it is native to India, it is now widely grown throughoutthe world. The plant is hairy with multiple branches and small, tender leaves.The leaves and stems are used medicinally.
May Improve Beta Cell Function
The leaves of the holy basil plant contain essential oils that yield eugenol,methyl eugenol and caryophyllene, and they also yield other substances such asursolic acid and apigenin. Researchers have theorized that holy basil leaves mayimprove pancreatic beta cell function and thus enhance insulin secretion.
Research Supports Herb’s Diabetes Benefits
There has been one small controlled trial of 40 people with type 2 diabetes.Patients were asked to stop their diabetes medications seven days before thestart of the trial. Then all patients were given holy basil leaves for a run-inperiod of five days. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to take 2.5grams of powdered holy basil leaf, and 20 were given placebo for four weeks andthen were crossed over to the other treatment group without a washout period foranother four weeks.
In the first group, average fasting glucose declined from 134.5 mg/dl to 99.7mg/dl after four weeks of treatment with holy basil. After being crossed over toplacebo for four weeks, it increased to 115.6 mg/dl. In the placebo-first group,average fasting glucose declined from 132.4 mg/dl to 123.2 mg/dl after fourweeks and then declined even further to 97.2 mg/dl after being crossed over forfour weeks to holy basil.
Overall, mean fasting blood glucose was 21 mg/dl lower in the holy basilgroup. There were no adverse effects reported by those taking the holy basil orthe placebo.
Holy basil has not yet been studied in people with type 1 diabetes.
There is no typical dose for holy basil, but in the one human study, 2.5grams of a dried leaf powder was used once per day on an empty stomach.
Although holy basil has been used to treat diabetes, it hasprimarily been used to treat other ailments such as asthma, heart problems,arthritis and respiratory infections. Another popular use is for stressmanagement.
There are no reported cases of drug interactions involvingholy basil. Theoretical interactions would be possible hypoglycemia when takenby diabetics treated with insulin or insulin secretagogues such as sulfonylureas(glyburide, glipizide, Amaryl), Prandin or Starlix.