Many of us turn to a healing mix of exercise, wine, and terrible reality TV when feeling brain-busting levels of stress. But with tax day around the corner, the kettlebell swings and chocolate pretzels just aren’t working their magic.
So we’re bringing in the big guns: herbs.
Certain herbs, called adaptogens, are especially popular because of their ability to help the body adapt to stress. Not only do they support our response to the mental and physical stressors we deal with on the reg, but they also support the body’s ability to fight off damage on the cellular level.
One adaptogen, in particular (with a truly awesome nickname, might we add), is tulsi a.k.a. holy basil. The tulsi plant, Ocimum sanctum, has its roots in Ayurveda, an Eastern system of holistic medicine and health practice, according to a review published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine.
But what makes this herb worthy of being dubbed ‘holy’? “Tulsi contains adaptogenic and antioxidant compounds that can have anti-stress, pro-relaxation benefits,” says Brian Tanzer, M.S., nutritionist and manager of scientific affairs at The Vitamin Shoppe. The power players in holy basil include antioxidants like vitamins A and C, ursolic acid, and a phenol (chemicals that give plants a darker color and protect them from their environment) called eugenol.
In addition to helping the body fight off damage from harmful compounds, toxins, pollution, and more, these compounds promote well-being in a number of other ways. For example, one study published in the Journal of Natural Remedies found that 10 milliliters of tulsi extract daily for three months supported healthy blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure in participants.
Meanwhile, research published in the Nepal Medical College Journal found that 1000 milligrams of tulsi daily promoted feelings of well-being and improved mood in participants over the course of two months.
“While other adaptogens, like ginseng, are well-known for their energizing effects, holy basil has more of a calming, soothing effect,” says Tanzer. (Think chamomile instead of green tea.)
Interestingly enough, tulsi extract can also be used in herbal mouthwash solutions for a natural alternative to alcohol-containing products. And, according to a study published in Contemporary Clinical Trials, a tulsi mouth rinse can reduce Streptococcus mutans (a type of bacteria involved in tooth decay).
Related: Find oral care products you can feel good about.
Adding Holy Basil To Your Daily Routine
If you want to make holy basil a part of your life (this tax day and beyond), it’s available in teas and liquid extract. “Drinking tulsi tea is a popular traditional ritual for promoting relaxation,” says Tanzer.
If you don’t want to drink your tulsi, though, you can go for capsule supplements. Look out for terms like ‘eugenol,’ ‘ursolic acid,’ or ‘holy basil extract’ on the supplement label, as well as a typical dosage of 500 milligrams twice a day or 1000 milligrams once a day, says Tanzer.
Just make sure to talk to your doctor before adding supplements to your regimen, especially if you take any medications.
Related: The Many Benefits of Ashwagandha