My Experience on the Benefits of Tulsi (Holy Basil)
In this article I share my experiences using Tulsi herb (Holy basil). I have been using tulsi since 2012 and this is my summary from the benefits I have gotten.
What is Tulsi?
Tulsi (also known with names Tulasi, Holy basil and Ocimum tenuiflorum) has been used in several ancient systems of medicine including Ayurveda, Greek, Roman, Siddha and Unani medicine. Generally tulsi is touted to be powerful adaptogen which help the body adapt to challenging conditions.
Tulsi has a very strong position and uses in Hinduism.
“The Hindu scriptures instruct us to look upon tulsi not as a mere plant, but as the divine representative of the God Vishnu or of Lord Krishna” Yash Rai
In modern world tulsi has been touted mainly as an anti-stress and adaptogenic herb which can reduce the effects of stress on the body. Is there any basis for these claims?
Tulsi for stress and depression – One of the most popular claim made about tulsi is it’s abilty to reduce stress and anxiety. However there are not yet robust studies that confirms tulsi’s ability to reduce stress and anxiety directly there might be some truth in these claims. In one human study tulsi leaves (500mg 2 times day) reduced anxiety and depression on people who had generalised anxiety disorder (study). There are also numerous animal studies which have shown stress reducing effects of tulsi (1, 2).
Boosting immune system with tulsi – Another popular claim about tulsi was put in a test in a double blinded randomized trial. And for everyone’s surprise this claim seems to be tolerably true. The group which was given 300mg ethanol extracted tulsi experienced increase in interferon gamma, interleukin 4, T helper cells and in NK-cells (Natural killer cells) which all are connected to the immune system (study).
Tulsi and aromatase inhibition: Tulsi contains compound called Ursolic Acid which is a weak aromatase inhibitor (IC50 = 32 μM). This is very beneficial for a man as it blocks the conversion of testosterone into estradiol (source).
Tulsi and testosterone: This tulsi study found over 395% increase in testosterone levels, from 303.6 ng/l to >1500 ng/dl (levels were actually off the scale they could even measure so the increase might be even higher!). Have to remember that this is only an animal study done with rabbits but it’s still interesting effect nevertheless.
Real tulsi benefits that I have experienced
It’s normal to have a dip in your afternoon performance especially after heavy meals. After all we are all affected by the circadian rhythms. Sleepiness and overall sluggishness of the brain can make you consume mindless amounts of coffee, which after a while will just make you more stressed. Small amounts of good quality coffee is fine but I prefer to consume it on the mornings where it doesn’t disturb sleep and can support the normal cortisol secretion times of the body. For late afternoon or night consumption there are better options and one of those is Tulsi.
Tulsi increases relaxation and so is one of the best drinks to use in the afternoon stress or to unwind in the evening with good movie or reading a book. Tulsi also has revitalizing effect which doesn’t bother sleep in any way. I use tulsi frequently in the evening to wind down, calm the body and get ready to go sleeping. There is also tulsi teas that contain caffeine making them great aids to perk you up while at the same time boosting also relaxation.
Tulsi and Testosterone – Have I noticed any effects? I don’t have any clinical data to confirm but in my experience I must say a very firm yes. I have noticed harder erections and way higher sex drive after drinking tulsi teas. I’ve drank tulsi tea with girlfriends on some occasions and the evening has always turned out to be an fuck festival – both getting horny again and again (might be because of Tulsi’s testosterone boost, as for both genders testosterone dictates sex drive). And when using it to lower cortisol during stressful nights, I’m feeling better and more relaxed. These effects might come from the decline in cortisol but nevertheless it seems to be working. For more testosterone and sex drive boosting foods and herbs see: How To Get More Testosterone Naturally
Possible dangers of tulsi
Even this effect might be beneficial for the most of us. But if you are after fertility, you need to consider this. Tulsi contains compound called Ursolic Acid which may have harmful effects for fertility (otherwise Ursolic acid is very healthy thing to consume). In this study even though tulsi raised testosterone significantly it did also lower sperm count. Therefore tulsi has been used traditionally as an anti-fertility agent.
Mice supplemented with Ursolic Acid have shown infertility due to damage to, and fusion of sperm precursor cells. Reduced sperm motility has also been observed (source 1, 2).
Antifertility effect – One of the major constituents of the leaves, ursolic acid has been reported to possess antifertility activity in rats and mice. This effect has been attributed to it’s antiestrogenic effect which may be responsible for arrest of spermatogenesis in males and inhibitory effect on implantation of ovum in females. This constituent may prove to be a promising antifertility agent devoid of side effects (source).
Also I recommend to watch Dr. Rhonda Patrick explaining benefits of ursolic acid, the benefits are of interest mainly for people whom are interested in building muscle.
Remember that tulsi is not recommended for use if pregnant or nursing. Tulsi may also have a tendency to lower blood sugar in children and has mild blood thinning properties.
Otherwise tulsi is a safe herb to consume. According to animal studies made on Tulsi its LD50 is ~5 grams / per kg for tulsi oils and extracts (1, 2). Which equals in humans to about 50 litres of tulsi tea or 400-500 grams of tulsi extracts (for a person who weights 150-180 lbs).
How to consume Tulsi?
There are many forms of tulsi available: pills, extracts and powders, but for most people choosing tea is the easiest way. Traditionally tulsi has been used as tea from fresh or dried tulsi leaves. And like with maca you should follow traditional ways to consume it until modern science finds a better ways. Also drinking tulsi is a safest way to consume tulsi.
While there are many Tulsi tea’s available I have found that Organic India teas are superior when compared to others. They always use certified organic tulsi leaves and they make it from all three main types of tulsi leaves (Rama, Vana, Krishna). Here are some of my favorite tulsi teas: