If you find yourself tossing and turning between two and three a.m., holy basil might be the answer to getting you through the night.
Holy basil is not some new trendy supplement made in a lab that’s going to sedate you. It’s been used for thousands of years and it’s supported by plenty of research.
It’s very likely that this ancient Indian herb can get to the root cause of your insomnia, plus it does a lot more than just help with sleep.
The Queen Of Herbs
In India, holy basil is known as “The Queen Of Herbs”. It has been part of traditional Hindu medicine for over 3,000 years.1
It’s also referred to as Tulsi. Holy basil been treasured in India for its many healing and spiritual properties such as creating spiritual awareness, extending one’s lifespan, and healing physical pain.
However, it’s best known for its calming properties and stress reduction. And that makes holy basil an effective sleep aid.
How Daily Stress Impacts Your Sleep
If you keeping waking up in the middle of the night it can be due to a stress hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol is the main stress hormone in the body. When you’re under stress, your body releases cortisol from the adrenal glands which sit on top of your kidneys.2
Cortisol fuels the body under stress, such as when running from a bear, by releasing glucose or sugar into the bloodstream.
Today, the problem is not bears chasing you, it’s constantly defending yourself against deadlines, emails and to-do’s resulting in high cortisol around the clock.
Cortisol is normally highest between 6am and 8am, which is why you wake up in the morning. However, constant stress can disrupt this normal cycle causing you to wake in the middle of the night instead.
The Sleeping Beauty of Basil
So, now that you know a little about stress and sleep, you may be wondering how holy basil can help.
Holy basil actually has the ability to lower elevated cortisol and even regulate blood sugar.3
Also, it is suggested that it increases physical and mental endurance, leaving you more resilient. Thus, it helps reduce stress and anxiety.4
When you reduce stress and anxiety, the root cause of high cortisol, you will eventually normalize cortisol levels – which can go a long way towards normalizing your sleep cycle.
Basil Proves To Be A Great Sleep Aid
Here’s what the evidence says…
In one randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers tested the efficacy of holy basil extract against general stress.
The amazing result of this study was that holy basil reduced forgetfulness, symptoms of sexual problems (stress-related), and it relieved feelings of fatigue and sleep problems.
Another study showed how holy basil significantly improved anxiety, stress, depression and attention span in subjects suffering from general anxiety disorder. The greatest improvements were noted after 60 days of treatment.5
Basil Is Not Just For Bedtime
Holy basil has also shown positive benefits to other systems of the body such as the endocrine system, nervous, immune, cardiovascular, and digestive systems.
But that’s not all…
Because it lowers blood sugar levels — which in turn reduces cravings and stabilizes mood, it can facilitate weight loss!6
So if insomnia is just one of many health concerns you are facing, you may be able to use holy basil to treat your other problems too. Two birds, one stone.
Holy Basil Varieties
There are 5 different types of holy basil.7
1. Amrita – this type has the highest amount of the antianxiety compound rosmarinic acid. It has purple throughout it’s leaves, a dense bush and a lighter aroma.
2. Kapoor – the easiest to grow where the weather is temperate and it’s very aromatic.
3. Krishna – known for it’s medicinal properties and crisp peppery taste.
4. Rama – found to have the highest level of all medicinal compounds. It grows well in warm climates.
5. Vana – known as the “forest type” because it grows much higher than the others.
Most companies don’t list the specific type(s) of holy basil used in their products. The varieties differ based on regions where they grow. And all varieties contain medicinal properties.
The important thing to remember – is that the supplement should be a standardized extract prepared by a reputable company. There is a recommended resource below.
How to take holy basil as a sleep aid
If you’re using Holy Basil for prevention, the dose range supported in literature is 300 mg – 2,000 mg of holy basil extract daily in one dose.
Extracts have the largest concentration of holy basil. The recommended dose is two to five drops, three times a day. While ready-to-brew teabags often have instructions saying to have a single cup before bed.
Always remember, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s directions or the direction of a licensed practitioner.
Side Effects Of Holy Basil
As with all natural sleep aids, there are a few things to be be mindful of when using holy basil to treat insomnia.8
If you are allergic to mint, avoid using holy basil because it’s from the same family and may trigger your allergies.
Eugenol, the active ingredient in holy basil can cause an overdose if you take too much.
Beware of symptoms related to overdose such as shallow breathing, blood in the urine or sputum, mouth and throat burns, nausea, racing heartbeat, seizures, dizziness and coma.
Contact a doctor or poison control center immediately if any of these symptoms occur.
Lastly, proceed with caution if you’re taking any medication, have low blood sugar, and avoid use if you’re pregnant or lactating.
Eat well and sleep well,
Dr. Kevin Dobrzynski, DN