Basil's Impact On Stress Reduction And Mental Well-Being

  • Dr. Maria WeissenbruchDoctor (Ph.D.), Cell and Developmental Biology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany
  • Regina LopesSenior Nursing Assistant, Health and Social Care, The Open University

Overview of basil

Basil (ˈbazl) (Ocimum basilicum L.), originating from India and now globally cultivated, is renowned for its culinary use, notably in Italy's "Pesto Genovese." Rich in essential oils and phenolic compounds, including antioxidant rosmarinic acid, basil aids cardiovascular health and prevents oxidative stress. Extracted basil essential oil, utilising eco-friendly methods like supercritical CO2, contains antimicrobial linalool, demonstrating antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Green extraction techniques enhance efficiency and sustainability. This study explores basil's potential, emphasising phenolic and volatile compounds, and showcasing its antioxidant properties.1

Basil, particularly Holy Basil, is an effective stress reliever and mental health supplement. 

It is high in essential oils and phenolic compounds, which support cardiovascular health and protect against oxidative stress. 

Scientific studies confirm Basil’s adaptogenic characteristics, which aid in stress reduction and immunological modulation, while simple basil dishes provide straightforward ways to improve daily mental health. 

Read more to learn about “Basil's Impact on Stress Reduction” and its uses to reduce stress and improve cognitive well-being with confidence.

Key takeaways

Holy Basil, globally cultivated, is rich in essential oils and phenolic compounds, promoting cardiovascular health and preventing oxidative stress. Eco-friendly methods extract antimicrobial linalool from basil essential oil.
Traditional Ayurvedic uses include treating respiratory disorders, impotence, and arthritis. Basil's adaptogenic properties contribute to stress reduction and immune modulation, offering varied health benefits.
Basil exhibits chemical diversity with over 60 compounds. Studies on sweet basil highlight distinct chemical clusters, emphasising its therapeutic potential in pharmacology and medicine.
Basil's significance extends to stress reduction and mental well-being, supported by studies demonstrating its adaptogenic properties and potential cognitive enhancement.
Simple recipes incorporating basil, such as teas, honey lemonade, and pesto, offer easy ways to elevate daily mental well-being. Precautions are advised for specific populations due to potential reproductive toxicity.

Origins of Basil

Ocimum sanctum Linn., commonly known as Holy Basil or Tulsi, originates from Southeast Asia. The Ayurvedic herb is deeply ingrained in the cultural, culinary, and medicinal practices of the region. Belonging to the Ocimum genus of the Lamiaceae family, Holy Basil is part of a diverse group of approximately 68 species native to tropical regions.2

"The queen of herbs", basil, has a rich and varied history that is deeply rooted in culture. Its history spans across different regions, where it holds diverse symbolic meanings. In India, basil is revered as sacred, while in Italy, it symbolises love.

Ancient Greece saw it as a symbol of hatred, and in Judaism, it's used in religious ceremonies. This global significance reflects the herb's widespread cultivation and its integration into various culinary and medicinal practices worldwide. As a leading spice, basil's essential oils and antioxidant compounds contribute to its value, making it a staple in home gardens and a profitable industry globally.3 

Traditional uses and potential health benefits

Holy Basil has a profound historical presence in traditional medicine, particularly in Ayurveda. Revered as a Rasayana drug, it has been utilised for treating respiratory disorders, impotence, poisoning, and arthritis. The herb holds sacred status in India and is considered a nervine tonic and adaptogen. Ancient Ayurvedic texts recommend Holy Basil for improving health during cancer and aiding stress release.2

Holy Basil, revered as "The Queen of Herbs" in Indian traditional medicine, is hailed for its extensive health benefits. Known as an "elixir of life," it offers anti-fertility, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, and cardioprotective effects. Rich in eugenol and other compounds, it exhibits adaptogenic properties, contributing to respiratory, intestinal, and kidney health.5

Chemical diversity

Holy Basil exhibits rich chemical diversity with over 60 compounds, including phenolics, flavonoids, terpenoids, and essential oils. Leaves contain volatile oil, phenolics, and fatty acid derivatives, while seeds boast fixed oil, mucilage, polysaccharides, and β-sitosterol. A study on sweet basil revealed distinct chemical clusters in 31 accessions, emphasising its therapeutic potential in various fields.4

ClusterPredominant Constituents
1Linalool and 1,8-cineole
2Linalool, geraniol, and α-trans-bergamotene
3Linalool, methyl chavicol, methyl cinnamate, and β-bourbonene
4Linalool, methyl chavicol, epi-α-cadinol, and α-trans-bergamotene
5Linalool, methyl eugenol, α-trans-bergamotene, and epi-α-cadinol
6Linalool, geraniol, and epi-α-cadinol
7Linalool and methyl chavicol
8Geranial and neral

This table succinctly captures the chemical diversity within the studied basil genotypes, shedding light on its potential applications.

Significance of stress reduction and mental well-being

The surge in global disasters, exacerbated by COVID-19, poses significant health threats. Disaster epidemiologists stress the lasting impact, urging a focus on stress reduction and mental health. Climate-related disasters tripled for those born in 2020, escalating danger for vulnerable populations. Pandemic disruptions in disease control, particularly childhood vaccinations, lead to increased mortality and emergency visits. Prioritising stress reduction and mental health support is vital to mitigate long-term health effects and uphold the World Health Organization's vision of holistic well-being amid escalating challenges.6

Chemical and nutritional value of basil

  • Basil chemical constituents examined in leaves, stems, inflorescence, and in vitro callus cultures
  • Rosmarinic acid (RA) was identified as the predominant phenolic acid in callus extracts
  • Reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography used for phenolic compound analysis
  • Callus extracts exhibit higher antioxidant activity than field-grown plant parts, highlighting the potential for RA isolation
  • Basil, rich in essential oils, monoterpenoids, and phenolic compounds, plays a global culinary and industrial role
  • Limited human intake data suggests an average of 2.2 g/month, with detected metabolites like estragole7,8

Studies and research on basil's positive effects on neurocognition and mental health

A systematic review encompassing four clinical trials investigated the impact of basil on neurocognition, with two trials utilising randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled designs. Basil, provided in various forms and doses, consistently demonstrated positive effects, including stress and anxiety reduction, improved working memory, and cognitive attention enhancement. Additionally, no adverse events were reported.

In a separate trial, inhalation of basil essential oil was associated with increased mental work, elevated fingertip skin temperature, and heightened β brain wave magnitude, suggesting its potential to stimulate neurophysiological responses and enhance alertness. These findings align with prior research, highlighting basil's contribution to stress reduction and mental health. This evidence underscores the potential therapeutic value of Tulsi and basil essential oil in promoting cognitive well-being.8

Basil's effects on stress reduction and cognitive enhancement

Chronic stress can lead to health issues, but scientific studies highlight the potential of holy basil, an adaptogen, in alleviating conditions like bronchitis, fever, and stress-related disorders. Consumption of holy basil, with key compounds like eugenol and caryophyllene, has shown promise in combating stress, enhancing mood, and improving mental clarity. Classified as an adaptogen, holy basil helps the body cope with stress without affecting mood, lowering corticosterone levels and offering a natural remedy for cognitive enhancement and stress reduction.9

Simple recipes to elevate daily mental well-being

  • Powders: Sprinkle in smoothies, bowls, plant-based milks, snack bars, or nut butters for a zesty twist
  • Extracts: Add to juices, smoothies, or plant-based milks for versatile mental well-being benefits
  • Whole: Brew as tea, offering a calming and soothing beverage
  • Basili tea: Steep dried Holy Basil leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes, enjoy daily for therapeutic benefits
  • Basil honey lemonade: Mix lemon juice, water, honey, and Holy Basil leaves, chill for a revitalising summer drink
  • Basil-infused water: Detox with water infused with fresh Holy Basil leaves overnight
  • Basil smoothie: Blend fruits, Holy Basil leaves, yoghurt, and honey for a nutritious pick-me-up
  • Basil pesto: Process leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, and olive oil for a versatile condiment. Incorporate these recipes for daily mental well-being10,11

How to grow basil at home

  • Choose a sunny location with good drainage for Holy Basil
  • Prepare the soil with organic matter and maintain a pH level between 6 and 7.5
  • Start from seeds or cuttings, planting in early spring after the last frost
  • Water regularly to keep the soil slightly damp, especially during dry spells
  • Harvest leaves when the plant is 6 to 8 inches tall in the morning, and store by refrigerating fresh leaves or drying/freezing for long-term use11

Potential risks and precautions

  • Holy basil intake may lead to reproductive toxicity, causing embryo implantation loss and impaired male reproduction
  • Recommended daily doses vary (0.6-2.0 g in tea bags, 60-360 mg in supplements, 800-1800 mg in different products)
  • Adverse effects, linked to substances like methyl eugenol and estragole, may occur with one or more cups of tea or supplements
  • Eugenol poses a risk at high basil levels (three cups of tea), while β-caryophyllene and ursolic acid appear safe
  • Basil's diverse content and cultivation variations create assessment uncertainties and precautions urged for pregnant, planning, and lactating individuals12

FAQs

Does Basil improve mental health?

Holy Basil, an adaptogen, may combat stress and enhance mood, containing eugenol and caryophyllene for natural cognitive enhancement and stress reduction.

Do mindfulness-based interventions improve mental health?

Holy Basil promotes cognitive well-being: stress reduction, improved memory, and attention enhancement.

Can Basil help with fatigue and exhaustion?

Basil's adaptogens combat fatigue, promoting well-being through stress reduction.

Why is Basil a good oil?

Basil essential oil, extracted through eco-friendly methods like supercritical CO2, features antimicrobial linalool, offering antioxidant benefits, promoting cardiovascular health, and versatility in culinary and medicinal applications.

Summary

Holy Basil, or Tulsi (Ocimum basilicum L.), holds global significance and rich chemical diversity, with essential oils and phenolic compounds like rosmarinic acid providing antioxidant benefits for cardiovascular health. Esteemed in Ayurvedic medicine, it treats respiratory disorders, impotence, and stress-related issues due to its adaptogenic qualities. Scientific studies highlight its potential in stress reduction, cognitive enhancement, and immune modulation, supported by compounds like eugenol and caryophyllene.

Basil's cultural, culinary, and medicinal importance is widespread, aiding stress reduction amid global challenges. Its chemical constituents contribute to culinary and industrial value, with limited intake data suggesting an average consumption of 2.2g/month. Clinical trials and reviews demonstrate basil's positive impact on neurocognition and mental health. Simple recipes like basil-infused water and teas promote mental well-being, but precautions are necessary due to potential reproductive toxicity, particularly for pregnant, planning, and lactating individuals. Basil's versatility and health benefits make it a valuable addition to holistic well-being practices.

References

  1. Romano R, De Luca L, Aiello A, Pagano R, Di Pierro P, Pizzolongo F, et al. Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) leaves as a source of bioactive compounds. Foods [Internet]. 2022 Jan [cited 2024 Feb 6];11(20):3212. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/11/20/3212
  2. Singh D, Chaudhuri PK. A review on phytochemical and pharmacological properties of Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum L.). Industrial Crops and Products [Internet]. 2018 Aug 1 [cited 2024 Feb 7];118:367–82. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0926669018302711
  3. Dudai N, Nitzan N, Gonda I. Ocimum basilicum L. (Basil). In: Novak J, Blüthner WD, editors. Medicinal, Aromatic and Stimulant Plants [Internet]. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2020 [cited 2024 Feb 7]. p. 377–405. (Handbook of Plant Breeding). Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-38792-1_10
  4. da Costa AS, Arrigoni-Blank M de F, Carvalho Filho JLS de, de Santana ADD, Santos D de A, Alves PB, et al. Chemical diversity in basil (ocimum sp.) germplasm. The Scientific World Journal [Internet]. 2015 Jan 1 [cited 2024 Feb 7];2015:e352638. Available from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2015/352638/
  5. Rastogi S, Kalra A, Gupta V, Khan F, Lal RK, Tripathi AK, et al. Unravelling the genome of Holy basil: an “incomparable” “elixir of life” of traditional Indian medicine. BMC Genomics [Internet]. 2015 May 28 [cited 2024 Feb 7];16(1):413. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-015-1640-z
  6. www.elsevier.com [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 7]. Intersectionality and the health impacts of disasters: Why we must meet the SDGs. Available from: https://www.elsevier.com/connect/intersectionality-and-the-health-impacts-of-disasters
  7. Hakkim FL, Shankar CG, Girija S. Chemical composition and antioxidant property of holy basil (Ocimum sanctum L.) leaves, stems, and inflorescence and their in vitro callus cultures. J Agric Food Chem [Internet]. 2007 Oct 1 [cited 2024 Feb 8];55(22):9109–17. Available from: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf071509h
  8. Singletary KW. Basil: a brief summary of potential health benefits. Nutrition Today [Internet]. 2018 Apr [cited 2024 Feb 8];53(2):92. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/fulltext/2018/03000/basil__a_brief_summary_of_potential_health.9.aspx
  9. How can i relieve stress and anxiety naturally? | feminine empowerment coach [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Available from: https://pennypettman.com/how-can-i-relieve-stress-and-anxiety-naturally
  10. Goodnature [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Holy basil: benefits, uses, and recipes. Available from: https://www.goodnature.com/blog/holy-basil-uses-benefits-recipes-side-effects
  11. Dsouza M. TrueSides. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 8]. The magic of holy basil(Tulsi): 12 health benefits and 5 easy recipes. Available from: https://truesides.com/the-magic-of-holy-basiltulsi-12-health-benefits-and-5-easy-recipes/
  12. Steffensen IL. Risk assessment of holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum l. And ocimum sanctum l.) and some of the component substances used in herbal teas and food supplements [Internet]. Folkehelseinstituttet. Område for klima og miljø; 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Available from: https://fhi.brage.unit.no/fhi-xmlui/handle/11250/3112874
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Susmita Bhandary

Master's of pharmacy - M.Pharm, Pharmacology, Roland Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (RIPS), Berhampur

I am a certified medical writer with a background in M.Pharm. (pharmacology) and extensive hands-on experience in medical and scientific writing. My prior experience includes pharmacovigilance, clinical analysis, and medical transcription. Besides that, I worked at different organizations as a medical content writer and medical journalist, which included the creation of clear, concise, and elaborated medical content with in-depth information for various target audiences.

I am dedicated to crafting quality health content. My academic achievements, combined with my practical experience, have improved my skills in medical writing. I have several month experience in medical content writing.

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