We all know that stress isn’t good for you, but between work schedules and family life managing it is easier said than done. Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol can affect every physiological system in your body, including your thyroid and adrenal glands, making you anxious, tired and irritable, contributing to weight gain and bone loss, and putting you at higher risk of heart disease.
So, what can we do to help balance cortisol levels for optimal health? The answer might be herbal – step forward Holy Basil, one of India’s most sacred and powerful plants that can reportedly help your body adapt to stress. SL put it to the test...
Firstly, what is Holy Basil?
The Tulsi plant – known as Holy Basil in western medicine – has been used for thousands of years for its diverse healing properties. An effective herb for supporting the heart, lungs and liver, which makes it a good supplement for fighting cold, coughs and flu, it is also a powerful adaptogen that can help us adapt to emotional and environmental stress. Holy Basil can help to increase stamina, boost the immune system and is one of the key herbs used in Ayurveda for improving vitality and promoting longevity.
So how can it help stress levels?
Adaptogens – so named because they can ‘adapt’ their function according to the body’s specific needs – are a clever and unique group of herbs used to improve the health of the adrenal system, which is responsible for managing the body’s hormonal response to stress. They help to control cortisol levels and enhance your body’s ability to cope with anxiety and fight fatigue, and Holy Basil is particularly potent, which is why it’s making waves in the wellness world.
And does it work?
Surprisingly, yes. We were pretty sceptical about a herbal supplement but taking just two tablets per day had a marked effect on our stress levels. We tested it for 30 days and after only seven we found the way we dealt with certain situations (tight deadlines, relationship issues…) had changed – we were notably calmer and felt able to look at the bigger picture in a situation. Bizarre? Perhaps. But for a healing herb that fights stress, Holy Basil certainly makes a difference.
How best to take it?
According to nutritional consultant Vidhi Patel, it’s best to take Holy Basil in its pure form via a supplement (she recommends taking two capsules per day of Pukka’s Wholistic Holy Basil, £16.96) but it can also be taken daily in tea. There are plenty of ready-made blends available online and in health food stores.