Holy Basil

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on September 05, 2023
2 min read

Holy basil is related to the familiar sweet basil that's used in cooking. Its leaves are pale green and have a somewhat hairy appearance.

Holy basil has long been used as a traditional medicine in China and India. Some cultures regard the plant as sacred.

Holy basil has a history of use for treating many diseases and conditions however, quality scientific research is needed to show how holy basil may benefit people is needed:

It's also been used to try to treat a range of other health concerns, including:

In addition, holy basil may be useful:

  • As an antioxidant
  • For protecting the liver
  • For treating lowering blood sugar; in one study, people with diabetes had lower blood sugar while they were taking holy basil.

Holy basil leaves, which have a spicy, lemony flavor, are used widely in food in Southeast Asia, such as in Thai stir-fried dishes.

Side effects. May cause low blood sugar. Research on animals shows that holy basil may:

Risks. Avoid using holy basil if you're allergic or sensitive to it or members of the Lamiaceae (mint) plant family. Side effects of holy basil also include upset stomach.

You should be cautious about using holy basil if you:

Women who are pregnant should avoid holy basil, since it might cause the uterus to contract.

Interactions. Research on animals suggests that holy basil might change the effect of many medications, including these drugs:

Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with any medications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.