Holy Basil (Ocimum tenulflorum) is an annual herb native to India. Considered a sacred herb by the Hindus, it’s used in Ayurvedic medicine for a variety conditions. Holy Basil contains the natural compound ursolic acid, which has proven useful in dealing with the inflammatory producing enzymes COX-2 and 5-LOX responsible for joint pain and stress conditions.
Scientific research has defined naturally occurring enzymes known as Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and 5-Lipoxygenase (5-LOX) which are implicated in a number of inflammatory conditions. Unlike its more benign and protective sibling COX-1, the harmful COX-2 enzyme is present only during periods of inflammation (stress). COX-2 and 5-LOX form the destructive duo responsible for the production of potent inflammatory chemicals called eicocasonoids; specifically prostaglandins PGE-2 and leukotrienes.
Research conducted by the College of Pharmacy in New Delhi, India found that an extract of Holy Basil (ursolic acid) inhibited arachidonic acid and leukotriene-induced edema (swelling). On the basis of the findings it was clinically proven that standardized Holy Basil extract may be useful as an anti-inflammatory agent, which blocks both inflammatory pathways, i.e. (COX-2) and (5-LOX), as well as arachidonic acid metabolism.
Skyrocketing stress is one of our nation’s most pervasive public health problems. Daily stress can cause imbalances in inflammatory COX-2 inflammatory production and cortisol levels, the same processes that can cause joint pain but also influence blood sugar changes and, ultimately, result in challenges to our health.
Holy Basil helps with stress because of its ability to normalize neurotransmitter levels in the brain with the reduction of COX-2. Researchers found in animal studies that Holy Basil counteracted stress-induced changes in neurotransmitters and enzymes.
Daily stress leads to fluctuations in brain serotonin levels, increases in dopamine levels and increases in SDH (succinate dehydrogenase) levels and holy basil may help people maintain normal levels of these brain chemicals in times of stress.
Another study found that animals that received the extract showed significant normalization of epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, MAO, and SDH. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are used in coping with stress. The researchers suggest that when dopamine levels rise, these two neurotransmitters may be replenished since dopamine is a precursor for their synthesis. This may be the mechanism by which holy basil assists with stress adaptation.
Holy Basil itself is classified as a premier “adaptogen,” an herb that can normalize body processes and restore overall health by maintaining body systems. Adaptogens support our systemic response to stress and give us stamina. Most users that take Holy Basil report a feeling of well-being after taking it.