Dear Pharmacist: I’m concerned about diabetes, I’m overweight and it runs in my family. My sister has your diabetes book and said you recommend holy basil, among other herbs and nutrients. Is that the same as regular basil? Would you tell me more? — A.L., Rockwall, Texas
A: I think holy basil is a fabulous herb. This herb has been prized for centuries and is considered a sacred plant. It is related to other types of basil, but it’s not the same as the fresh basil you buy in American supermarkets (which is great, too), or the dried spice form. Holy basil acts as an “adaptogen” in the body, meaning it helps you adapt. It protects cells, improves endurance and helps you cope with stress by supporting adrenal and thyroid function.
Holy basil is also called “Tulsi” in Ayurvedic medicine; both terms refer to the herb known in latin as Ocimum sanctum. Whatever you call it, it delivers!
Compounds in holy basil have been shown in clinical trials to nourish the pancreas, and specifically help generate healthy new beta cells. These beta cells are the body’s insulin-production factories, and insulin lowers blood sugar. See the connection? Holy basil helps other cells in your body open up their receptor (their door) which welcomes insulin like a long lost friend. This is a beautiful thing, because it lightens the load on your liver and precious adrenal glands. You may notice fewer craving for sweets. Hey, getting your hand out of the cookie jar could mean faster weight loss!
Listen up if you have high cholesterol or triglycerides. Conventional medicine might call for statin drugs to reduce these markers. Studies suggest that holy basil can help reduce blood fats which, as you know, contribute to heart disease and remain a devastating complication of diabetes. Holy basil happens to be a potent antioxidant, sweeping away damaged cells that could run amok. Tulsi happens to also have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
I hate fungus. I’m all about killing bad germs and growing good ones (probiotics). With that in mind, consider holy basil this fall to reduce the risk of cough and cold.
I drink Holy Basil every day, in the form of tea (it’s called Tulsi Tea), and I keep the tea bags in my purse so at restaurants, I just ask for a cup of hot water and steep it at my table.
Holy basil is stronger when taken as an oral supplement. Organic India, New Chapter and Source Naturals all make commercial brands.
As for safety, it’s been used for eons and has an impressive track record, but because it lowers blood sugar, I don’t want you to combine it with prescribed diabetes medication unless you closely monitor your blood sugar and remain supervised by your doctor so he can reduce medication dosage when necessary.
You’ll find other simple recommendations to manage diabetes and weight in my new book “Diabetes Without Drugs,” available at book stores nationwide and Amazon.com.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For more information about Suzy Cohen, visit her website at www.suzycohen.com.