What is holy basil?
Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum or Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a shrub in the basil family. Holy basil is also called by its Ayurvedic name, "tulsi." The leaves of holy basil contain compounds call triterpenes, including oleanolic and ursolic acid, that laboratory tests show to have anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar lowering and immune system effects. Holy basil leaves also contain eugenol, which may have analgesic effects. In supplements, holy basil is typically sold as a leaf powder (whole, dry crushed leaves) or as an extract (powder or liquid) (see What It Is).
What does holy basil do?
Preliminary clinical studies suggest holy basil may reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety and may modestly lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. However, the chemical make-up of holy basil extracts and powders used in some of these studies was not well defined, and more research is needed to confirm these findings (see What It Does).
What did CL's tests of holy basil find? Most of the holy basil supplements ConsumerLab tested failed to contain even the minimum amount of total triterpenes expected or claimed on the label. Amounts of triterpenes in holy basil supplements varied widely — from as little as 0.43 mg to 34.8. mg per suggested serving, and only 3 of the 8 products tested contained their expected amounts. In addition, one product was found to be contaminated with lead (see What CL Found).
Which is the best holy basil supplement?
Among the products that passed all tests and were Approved, ConsumerLab selected one that provided the best quality and value as its Top Pick for Holy Basil.
Safety and side effects of holy basil:
Holy basil may cause nausea or diarrhea. Due to its potential blood sugar lowering effect, it should be used with caution in people with hypoglycemia and those taking blood sugar lowering medications. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take holy basil (see Concerns and Cautions).
+— 20 sources
In addition the results of its expert testing, ConsumerLab uses only high-quality, evidence based, information sources. These sources include peer-reviewed studies and information from agencies such as the FDA and USDA, and the National Academy of Medicine. On evolving topics, studies from pre-print journals may be sourced. All of our content is reviewed by medical doctors and doctoral-level experts in pharmacology, toxicology, and chemistry. We continually update and medically review our information to keep our content trustworthy, accurate, and reliable. The following sources are referenced in this article:
- Cohen, J Ayurveda Integr Med 20
- Jamshidi, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 20
- Prakash, Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 20
- Lee, EXCLI J 20
- Singh, Indian J Exp Biol 20
- Sampath, Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 20
- Saxena, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 20
- Bhattacharyya, Nepal Med Coll J 20
- Agrawal, Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 19
- Somasunaram, Int J Life Sci Pharma Res 20
- Mondal, J Ethnopharmacol 20
- Khanna, J Ethnopharmacol 20
- Silva, Molecules 20
- Khanna, Indian J Exp Biol 19
- Panda, Pharmacol Res 19
- Singh, J Ethnopharmacol 20
- Thompson, Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 19
- Hartnoll, Archives of Disease in Childhood 19
- Chattopadhy, Ind J Pharmacol 19
- Barkin, Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol 19
You must be a member to get the full test results along with ConsumerLab.com's recommendations and quality ratings for popular holy basil (or "tulsi") supplements, including leaf powders, and powder and liquid extract. You will get results for eight holy basil supplements selected for testing by ConsumerLab.
In this comprehensive review of holy basil supplements, you'll learn:
- Which holy basil supplements failed our tests and which ones passed
- Amounts of potentially beneficial holy basil compounds (total triterpenes, oleanolic acid and ursolic acid) found in products, which varied widely
- CL's Top Pick among products based on amounts of holy basil compounds found, dose, quality, and price
- The health benefits of holy basil supplements, and evidence for and against holy basil for reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood sugar and for immune system health
- How to take and store holy basil supplements
- Holy basil side effects, safety and other potential concerns
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