A few years ago while on a business trip, I had an amazing experience with the herb commonly known as Tulsi or Holy Basil.
I had been feeling great all day and was looking forward to a meeting with a Western medicine colleague to review some of his difficult patient cases and (hopefully) provide some insights on how Traditional Chinese Medicine, nutrition, qigong, and meditation could help. My plane had just landed and I was on my way to his office when I felt a shift in my well being.
In a short period of time, I went from feeling great to not so great. You know that feeling when you know you’re coming down with something?
For me it manifested as a scratchy throat, congestion, a headache, and fatigue…and I didn’t have any of my go-to remedies with me.
Determined not to show up at this long-awaited appointment with a runny nose, I found a natural foods store and began looking through their supplement section for some relief.
Since none of my standby favorites were available, I decided to purchase holy basil. I had used it very successfully for stress reduction and sleep support with patients and myself for years. And I was aware of its antiviral properties, but had never used it for that purpose up until that point.
I took the supplement, and was beyond amazed by what seemed to happen almost instantaneously.
Within minutes my head started to clear, my congestion broke up, my sore throat was gone, and I felt a renewed sense of energy. I was able to go to my meeting and have a wonderful time with my colleague and have a creative collaboration to enhance the treatment plans for his patients. And the symptoms never came back.
I’ll never forget that experience with holy basil as it was so visceral. And so unexpected.
I had hoped it might help a little, but had no idea it could shift that “I’m coming down with something” feeling, to feeling like my vibrant self again so quickly.
I realize my experience is anecdotal, and not everyone who uses holy basil will have the same experience. However, I wanted to share my story as it offers an excellent example of how powerful herbs can be when given to the right person at the right time for the right reason.
Here are five reasons why, in my opinion, Holy Basil is a phenomenal herb that will benefit travelers …and beyond:
1. Holy basil has both antiviral and antibacterial properties.
There is no place like a crowded plane to increase your risk of exposure to colds, flu, and other viruses.
In addition to Echinacea which has been proven to reduce airplane sickness1, Holy basil is ideal for air travel because its essential oils have been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial properties2 as well as the whole herb acting as an overall immune booster3.
2. It acts as a digestive aid.
Digestion is usually one of the first things to suffer when you travel, which can weaken your immune system.
Holy basil tea has been used as a digestive tonic for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine (the traditional medicine of India), and has been shown beneficial for digestive ailments4.
It can work even better when paired with probiotic-rich foods that encourage healthy elimination such as yogurt, kimchi, or kombucha.
3. Holy Basil has been studied for its positive effects on mental and emotional well-being.
Travel of any sort, from business trips to vacations, can often contribute to some level of mental and emotional stress—be it worry over getting to the airport on time or those first sleepless nights away from home.
Holy basil can help take the edge off travel stress, as it has been shown beneficial for anxiety, depression, stress, forgetfulness, cognitive impairments, exhaustion, and sleeplessness.
It is so effective for stress, that Dr. Oz has featured it on his show as a natural solution for stress and mood swings5.
4. It is adaptogenic in nature.
Adaptogenic herbs, like Holy Basil, support overall health by helping your body adapt to a variety of stressors.
In the case of Holy Basil, if you’re low on energy it will give you a boost, if you can’t sleep or are stressed out, it will help calm your nerves, it has also been shown to help with noise-induced stress6, which can make a big different on a noisy flight or in a less-than-peaceful hotel room.
5. Last, but not least, Holy Basil has been shown to have protective effects against a variety of environmental toxins including pesticides, heavy metals, and radiation.
Extra protection from pesticides and heavy metals is always a good thing, but radiation is of particular concern for air travelers, as radiation from airport scanners and cosmic rays in the air can cause increased body burden.
Experts estimate a flight from Los Angeles to New York, for example, exposes you to half the amount of radiation you would receive from a chest x-ray…which is not insignificant7.
As someone who loves to travel, I really appreciate learning about nourishing and supportive herbs such as holy basil. This way, I know I can stay healthy and energetic away from home while meeting new people and exploring other cultures in this beautiful world we live in.