holy basil for anxiety

Holy Basil (Tulsi)

David Tomen
David Tomen
12 minute read
Holy Basil is known for relieving anxiety, boosting mood, improving memory and is a powerful neuroprotectant

Holy Basil (Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum Linn, Ocimum tenuiflorum, Sacred Basil) is member of the mint, or Labiatae family of plants.

Tulsi or “The Incomparable One” is the most sacred plant in the Hindu religion. And has been valued for millennia by Ayurveda, Greek, Roman, Siddha and Unani because of its benefits for mind, body and spirit.

Holy Basil has been traditionally used for anxiety, cough, asthma, diarrhea, fever, dysentery, arthritis, eye diseases, indigestion, hiccups, vomiting, stomach problems, heart health, back pain, skin diseases, ringworm, insect, snake and scorpion bites, and malaria.[i]

As a nootropic supplement, Holy Basil is used primarily to support mood, promote relaxation, and reduce stress.

Here we’ll explore how Holy Basil benefits your brain.

Holy Basil helps:

  • Neurotransmitters: Supplementing with Holy Basil increases levels of dopamine, and serotonin, and reduces epinephrine, norepinephrine, and monoamine oxidase,[ii] and inhibits acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which boosts acetylcholine.[iii]
  • Anxiety & stress: Holy Basil reduces spikes in cortisol induced by chronic stress.[iv] And is particularly effective in reducing stress caused by loud noise.[v]
  • Anti-inflammatory: Holy Basil is a potent antioxidant. It’s a natural COX-2 inhibitor.[vi] And the compounds including eugenol, cirsilineol, cirsimaritin, isothymusin, isothymonin, apigenin, rosmarinic acid in Holy Basil have been compared to the pain-relieving activity of ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin.[vii]


Holy Basil (Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum Linn, Ocimum tenuiflorum) is an aromatic shrub in the basil family (Lamiaceae) that likely originates in north central India and now grows native throughout the eastern tropics.[viii]

Is Holy Basil Considered a Nootropic
Holy Basil (Tulsi) © Pharmacognosy Reviews

Within Ayurvedic medicine, Holy Basil (Tulsi) is known as “The Incomparable One”, “Mother Medicine of Nature”, and “The Queen of Herbs”.

Holy Basil leaf includes the compounds eugenol, rosmarinic acid, caryophyllene, ursolic and oleanolic acids (triterpenoic acids), carotenoids, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, zinc and chlorophyll.

Research over the last decade shows Holy Basil’s therapeutic benefits include use as an adaptogen, for metabolism, immune system support, protection from various forms of radiation, is antimicrobial and antidiabetic.[ix]

When taking an overall, broad view of how Holy Basil works to support human health, studies show this adaptogen can be classified according to 3 main clinical domains; metabolic disorders (15 studies), cognition and mood conditions (4 studies), and immunity and infections (5 studies).

And note that inflammation is the underlying cause across all these health issues.

The anti-inflammatory effects of Holy Basil are attributed to multiple metabolites that act alone and synergistically to inhibit inflammatory pathways.

The Ayurvedic tradition of using Holy Basil daily may be a highly effective way to treat many modern chronic diseases.

How does Holy Basil work in the Brain?

Holy Basil boosts brain health and function in several ways. But two in particular stand out.

  1. Holy Basil protects the brain from chronic loud noise. Exposure to loud noise has been identified as a major environmental threat to public health.

Loud noise exposure, apart from damaging your hearing, is bad news for your heart, endocrine and nervous system.

Loud noise from any source damages DNA, suppresses major neurotransmitters, and weakens your immune system.[x] Holy Basil protects your brain from chronic exposure to loud noise.

Researchers at the University of Madras subjected Wistar albino rats to 100 dB broadband white noise 4 hours daily for 15 days.

The team measured epinephrine, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels in the rats’ brain. And found that 15 days of chronic noise exposure had a significant negative impact on neurotransmitter levels.

The researchers gave the rats Holy Basil extract (70%) and found that this nootropic protected and maintained neurotransmitter levels from noise stress.[xi]

  1. Holy Basil protects and boosts memory. Holy Basil has been shown to be a potent acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor. AChE is the enzyme that helps break down acetylcholine once it’s used in your brain.

But too much acetylcholinesterase (AChE) will suppress acetylcholine which in turn degrades learning and memory. And is particularly prevalent in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disease patients.

A study conducted in Japan had researchers induced dementia in rats. Then acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity was estimated in several different parts of the rats’ brain.

The rats were then given either water-based or alcohol-based extracts of Holy Basil. The researchers found that both extracts of Holy Basil significantly decreased AChE activity in rats.

The researchers concluded that Holy Basil “was shown to be useful for the management of experimentally induced cognitive dysfunction”.[xii]

How Things Go Bad

holy basil side effectsWith the exponential development of science and technology, and economic and social competition, the nature of human stress has dramatically changed.

Stress causes changes in brain cell signaling, neurotransmitters, and hormones. When under control, your body is equipped to respond to these stressors in a healthy way.

Your body increases catecholamine neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine to elevate heart rate and blood pressure. Kicking in your “fight or flight” response.

But when this stress is prolonged or exaggerated, chronic stress hijacks your normal healthy homeostasis and balance.

Stress is now recognized as the cause of 75 – 90% of all human disease.[xiii]

Chronic stress results in:

↓ Chronic inflammation

↓ Cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, atherosclerosis)

↓ Metabolic disease (diabetes, non-alcoholic liver disease)

↓ Neurodegenerative disease (anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s)

↓ Cancer

We don’t have many options for opting out of our high-stress, warp speed society. We can go on vacation for a couple of weeks, learn how to meditate, and carefully choose our friends.

But we can also use nootropics to help our brain and body cope with and counter the effects of chronic stress.

This is where Holy Basil comes in. It functions as an adaptogen, enhancing your body’s ability to cope with physical and mental stress.

holy basil for anxiety

Holy Basil Benefits

Of all the herbs used in Ayurveda, Holy Basil is the most revered, and recent research is now confirming how it works.

Holy Basil as an adaptogen can help physical, chemical, metabolic and psychological stress through its unique combination of therapeutic actions.

Tulsi can protect your brain and body against industrial pollution, heavy metals, physical stress from strenuous physical exertion, stroke, exposure to cold, and excessive noise.

The extract from the Holy Basil plant can normalize blood glucose (control blood sugar), blood pressure and high cholesterol. Slow blood clotting. And boost memory and cognition through its anxiolytic properties and antidepressant qualities.

It can protect against human and animal pathogens (antimicrobial), and even be used as a hand sanitizer, mouthwash and water purifier.

Holy Basil protects against toxic chemicals by increasing your body’s levels of glutathione. And increasing the activity of antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase and catalase. Mopping up free radicals and other toxins.[xiv]

Tulsi protects your brain against the toxic effects of many pharmaceuticals including acetaminophen, meloxicam, paracetamol, haloperidol, and anti-tubercular drugs.

And Holy Basil shields your brain from heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium and mercury. And from the toxic effects of radiation.[xv]

Holy Basil as a nootropic can help boost memory by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase which helps increase acetylcholine.

And may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.[xvi]

How does Holy Basil feel?

holy basil for anxietyOne reddit user reported that Holy Basil tea worked great for her anxiety. It was “like a hug in a mug”.

Unlike using a benzo like Xanax® to numb you, Holy Basil helps you handle stress head-on. Allowing you to stay present and work through your problems.

Neurohackers report that Holy Basil helps them sleep through the night, levels out their mood and keeps them ‘sane’.

Holy Basil may help to reduce work-related stress and help you deal with annoying coworkers.

Students may find that Holy Basil helps deal with the stress of exams.

Holy Basil is a potent COX-2 inhibitor and anti-inflammatory which means it should help provide relief from joint, muscle and arthritis pain.

Holy Basil Clinical Research

The therapeutic and nootropic properties of Holy Basil have been known for millennia. And is considered a sacred plant by the Hindus of India.

But clinical studies with Holy Basil in the lab and a few human studies only began late in the 20th century.

So we now have scientific evidence supporting Holy Basil’s antimicrobial, adaptogenic, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, radiation-protecting, immune system boosting, neuroprotective, heart-protecting, and as a mosquito repellent to name a few.

But most Holy Basil clinical studies so far have been done with animals. Human studies are few and we must rely on reports from the biohacking community on how well Holy Basil works as a nootropic supplement.[xvii]

Holy Basil counters radiation DNA damage

Ionizing radiation, the kind emitted by bombs, nuclear reactors, X-rays, and minerals weaken and break up DNA. Exposure to ionizing radiation causes DNA damage like single strand breaks, double strand breaks, and DNA-protein cross linkages.

Either damaging cells enough to kill them or causing them to mutate in ways that eventually lead to cancer.

The compounds orientin and vicenin found in Holy Basil have been proven to protect against radiation injury.[xviii]

Several studies in animals demonstrate Holy Basil acting as a free radical scavenger. Which is the likely mechanism of radiation protection by these flavonoids.[xix]

Holy Basil for anxiety

A study conducted in India recruited 35 patients (21 male and 14 female, average age 38.4 years) to investigate using Holy Basil in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Patients were given 500 mg Holy Basil extract twice daily for 60 days. The patients were assessed at the beginning of the trial, 30 and 60 days.

Researchers found Holy Basil significantly reduced general anxiety and relieved the associated stress and depression.

The team concluded that “O. sanctum may be useful in the treatment of General Anxiety Disorder in humans and may be a promising anxiolytic agent”.[xx]

Holy Basil as good as Valium®

Holy Basil has been studied in various animal experiments that reveal its anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties.

Research shows Holy Basil as effective in treating depression as the tricyclic antidepressant Tofranil[xxi], and Valium.[xxii]

best time of day to take holy basil
Holy Basil Leaf Extract Recommended Dosage

Recommended dosage of Holy Basil extract is 300 – 2,000 mg per day.

For curative therapy, 600 – 1,800 mg Holy Basil extract divided in 2 or 3 doses daily.

For diabetes, 2,500 mg Holy Basil dried leaf powder per day.

You can easily make Holy Basil tea by pouring boiling water over 2 teaspoons of fresh Holy Basil leaves and let it steep for 5 minutes.

Holy Basil Side Effects

Holy Basil is considered non-toxic and safe to use even at higher doses.

But toxicity has been reported in mice for Holy Basil essential oil (70% eugenol) at 42.5 ml/kg body weight.[xxiii] So not sure about humans.

If you are hypoglycemic or have a bleeding disorder, you should use caution about supplementing with Holy Basil.

Holy Basil has been shown to significantly decrease sperm count in males. And we have reports that village women and Ayurvedic physicians have been using Holy Basil leaves for its antifertility effect.

The mechanism of action of sperm reduction seems to be associated with a significant increase in circulating testosterone. Which decreases luteinizing hormone (LH) but not sufficiently in the testes for normal spermatogenesis.

Decreased LH levels seems to reduce production of testosterone in testes by Leydig cells. Resulting in reduced sperm production.

Researchers are now conducting studies to find out if Holy Basil will work as an effective male contraceptive.[xxiv] But this anti-sperm effect is reversible on discontinuation of Holy Basil use.

Best type of Holy Basil to buy

Holy Basil (Tulsi) is easily found in most health food stores and vitamin shops worldwide. It’s available in capsules, dried powder, fresh leaves, liquid extracts and as Tulsi tea including individual tea bags.

But DO NOT confuse Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) for Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) which is commonly used as a condiment in the kitchen.

Three types of Holy Basil are used therapeutically:

  • Krishna – (Ocimum tenuiflorum) has purplish leaves and makes a great tea. It’s the most potent and is highest in concentrations of adaptogenic triterpenoic
  • Vana – (Ocimum gratissimum) is the original wild bush basil which is high in eugenol and a great adaptogen. It’s native to India and parts of Africa.
  • Rama – (Ocimum sanctum) is the Holy Basil that was originally imported into the USA. It’s the most common type which is now grown in the USA.

Always choose Holy Basil that is grown organically and if possible, wild-harvested as well.

NOTE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

If you are in the USA or can purchase nootropic supplements in the USA, I recommend:

Gaia Herbs Holy Basil (Amazon)

Himalaya Holy Basil extract (.4% & 2.5% Ursolic acid, 2 mg & 1.5 mg Oleanolic acid) (Amazon)

Organic India Tulsi tea – various flavors (Amazon)

Mary Ruth’s Holy Basil tincture (Amazon)

Nootropics Expert Recommendation

Nootropics Expert Tested and ApprovedHoly Basil extract 300 – 2,000 mg per day

I recommend using Holy Basil (Tulsi) as a nootropic supplement.

Your body does not make Holy Basil on its own. So to get its benefits you must take it as a supplement.

Holy Basil is especially helpful for those dealing with anxiety and stress. Unlike numbing yourself with a benzodiazepine for relief, Holy Basil helps calm anxiety while leaving you able to face life’s challenges with a clear head.

Research shows Holy Basil as effective in treating depression as popular antidepressants like Tofranil® and Valium®. But without the toxic side effects.

Holy Basil can protect your brain and body against industrial pollution, heavy metals, physical stress from strenuous physical exertion, stroke, exposure to cold, and excessive noise.

It’s especially helpful for musicians exposed to high sound levels, and those working in loud and stressful environments.

Holy Basil is a powerful nootropic supplement. It should help improve memory by boosting acetylcholine in your brain. And may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

You can safely take up to 3,000 mg of Holy Basil daily if needed. But split into smaller doses 2 – 3 times during your day.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may also contain other affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

[i] Mondal S., Mirdha B.R., Mahapatra S.C. “The science behind sacredness of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.).” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2009 Oct-Dec;53(4):291-306. (source)

[ii] Singh N., Misra N., Srivastava A.K., Dixit K.S., Gupta G.P. “Effect of anti-stress plants on biochemical changes during stress reaction” Indian Journal of Pharmacology 1991 | Vo. 23 | Iss. 3 | page 137-142 (source)

[iii] Giridharan V.V., Thandavarayan R.A., Mani V., Ashok Dundapa T., Watanabe K., Konishi T. “Ocimum sanctum Linn. leaf extracts inhibit acetylcholinesterase and improve cognition in rats with experimentally induced dementia.” Journal of Medicinal Food. 2011 Sep;14(9):912-9. (source)

[iv] Sembulingam K., Sembulingam P., Namasivayam A. “Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn on noise induced changes in plasma corticosterone level.” Indian Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology. 1997 Apr;41(2):139-43. (source)

[v] Sembulingam K., Sembulingam P., Namasivayam A. “Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn on the changes in central cholinergic system induced by acute noise stress.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2005 Jan 15;96(3):477-82. (source)

[vi] Prakash P., Gupta N. “Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: a short review.” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2005 Apr;49(2):125-31. (source)

[vii] Kelm M.A., Nair M.G., Strasburg G.M., DeWitt D.L. “Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn.” Phytomedicine. 2000 Mar;7(1):7-13. (source)

[viii] Bast F., Rani P., Meena D. “Chloroplast DNA phylogeography of holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) in Indian subcontinent.” Scientific World Journal 2014 Jan 2;2014:847482 (source)

[ix] Jamshidi N., Cohen M.M. “The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature” Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017; 2017: 9217567. (source)

[x] Frenzilli G., Ryskalin L., Ferrucci M., Cantafora E., Chelazzi S., Giorgi F.S., Lenzi P., Scarcelli V., Frati A., Biagioni F., Gambardella S., Falleni A., Fornai F. “Loud Noise Exposure Produces DNA, Neurotransmitter and Morphological Damage within Specific Brain Areas.” Frontiers Neuroanatomy. 2017 Jun 26;11:49 (source)

[xi] Ravindran R., Rathinasamy S.D., Samson J., Senthilvelan M. “Noise-stress-induced brain neurotransmitter changes and the effect of Ocimum sanctum (Linn) treatment in albino rats.” Journal of Pharmacological Sciences. 2005 Aug;98(4):354-60. (source)

[xii] Giridharan V.V., Thandavarayan R.A., Mani V., Ashok Dundapa T., Watanabe K., Konishi T. “Ocimum sanctum Linn. leaf extracts inhibit acetylcholinesterase and improve cognition in rats with experimentally induced dementia.” Journal of Medicinal Food. 2011 Sep;14(9):912-9. (source)

[xiii] Liu Y.Z., Wang Y.X., Jiang C.L. “Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2017; 11: 316. (source)

[xiv] Manikandan P., Murugan R.S., Abbas H., Abraham S.K,. Nagini S. “Ocimum sanctum Linn. (Holy Basil) ethanolic leaf extract protects against 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced genotoxicity, oxidative stress, and imbalance in xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes.” Journal of Medicinal Food. 2007 Sep; 10(3):495-502. (source)

[xv] Cohen M.M. “Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine 2014 Oct-Dec; 5(4): 251–259. (source)

[xvi] Joshi H., Parle M. “Evaluation of nootropic potential of Ocimum sanctum Linn. in mice.” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology. 2006 Feb;44(2):133-6. (source)

[xvii] Mondal S., Mirdha B.R., Mahapatra S.C. “The science behind sacredness of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.).” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2009 Oct-Dec;53(4):291-306. (source)

[xviii] Baliga M.S., Rao S., Rai M.P., D’souza P. “Radio protective effects of the Ayurvedic medicinal plant Ocimum sanctum Linn. (Holy Basil): A memoir.” Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics. 2016 Jan-Mar;12(1):20-7. (source)

[xix] Uma Devi P., Ganasoundari A., Vrinda B., Srinivasan K.K., Unnikrishnan M.K. “Radiation protection by the ocimum flavonoids orientin and vicenin: mechanisms of action.” Radiation Research. 2000 Oct;154(4):455-60. (source)

[xx] Bhattacharyya D., Sur T.K., Jana U., Debnath P.K. “Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders.” Nepal Medical College Journal. 2008 Sep;10(3):176-9. (source)

[xxi] Moinuddin G., Devi K., Satish H., Khajuria D.K. “Comparative pharmacological evaluation of ocimum sanctum and imipramine for antidepressant activity” Latin American Journal of Pharmacy ol. 30, no. 03 (source)

[xxii] Pemminati S., Gopalakrishna H.N., Venkatesh V., Rai A., Shetty S., Vinod A. “Anxiolytic effect of acute administration of ursolic acid in rats.” Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological, and Chemical Sciences. 2011;2:431–7. (source)

[xxiii] Kumar A., Shukla R., Singh P., Dubey N.K. “Chemical composition, antifungal and antiaflatoxigenic activities of Ocimum sanctum L. essential oil and its safety assessment as plant based antimicrobial.” Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2010 Feb;48(2):539-43 (source)

[xxiv] Sethi J., Yadav M., Sood S., Dahiya K., Singh V. “Effect of tulsi (Ocimum Sanctum Linn.) on sperm count and reproductive hormones in male albino rabbits.” International Journal of Ayurveda Research. 2010 Oct;1(4):208-10 (source)

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Join The Discussion - 91 comments

Chris Drennen
August 31, 2021

Sounds like good stuff, but why would any guy want to take it if it screws up your testosterone levels? That is a very important hormone which affects a lot more than just sperm count. Maybe I am missing something.

    David Tomen
    September 1, 2021

    Chris, read that part again because it appears Holy Basil increases circulating testosterone which decreases luteinizing hormone (LH) but not sufficiently in the testes for normal spermatogenesis.

    Decreased LH levels seems to reduce production of testosterone in testes by Leydig cells. Resulting in reduced sperm production.

    So Holy Basil acts like a natural birth control supplement without reducing testosterone in the rest of your body and brain. Studies are currently underway to find out if Holy Basil will work as an effective male contraceptive.

      September 1, 2021

      Aahhh… Thanks.

        September 3, 2021

        Toxicity has been reported in mice? What kind of toxicity are we talking about here?

        BTW I have to retype my email on every message. It does not save it the way it says. Just saying…

        David Tomen
        September 5, 2021

        Chris, it was Holy Basil essential oil in that mouse study.

        I don’t know what you mean about “retype my email on every message”. You’ll need to walk me through the process before I can look into it.

February 24, 2021

Hi David, thanks as always for all the great information. Do you think it’s possible to get a therapeutic dose for low mood by using just the tea? It’s hard to know how much of the substance you’re actually getting that way. Presumably you’d have to drink multiple cups a day, but even so, is there a way to gauge how many? I drink the Organic India brand that you link to. Thanks!

    David Tomen
    February 25, 2021

    David, great question and it depends. Some will feel the therapeutic effects of just using Holy Basil tea. More so if you drink 3 – 4 cups daily long-term.

    But unless you send a couple of tea bags to a lab for analysis there’s no way to gauge your dose. With a herb like Holy Basil that’s not a big problem. But you still don’t know how much you are using.

    How good are you at “listening to your body”? This is a learned skill that takes time and patience. I’m to the point now where I can feel if something is working or not within 30 mins – a couple of hours depending on the supplement. But that comes from years of meditation and lots of experimenting.

      February 28, 2021

      Thanks, David. All great points. I think I’ll just drink 3-4 cups a day for some time and see what happens. Thanks again!

      July 31, 2021

      David: Since Holy Basil is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), and inhibits acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which boosts acetylcholine – What do you think about this from NIH & do you still think it’s a good idea to take? “What happens if you inhibit acetylcholinesterase?
      The inhibition of the enzyme leads to accumulation of ACh in the synaptic cleft resulting in over-stimulation of nicotinic and muscarinic ACh receptors and impeded neurotransmission. The typical symptoms of acute poisoning are agitation, muscle weakness, muscle fasciculations, miosis, hypersalivation, sweating.”

      Thank you!

        David Tomen
        August 2, 2021

        Se, inhibiting acetylcholinesterase benefits some people esp. if they are low in acetylcholine. That’s how some Alzheimer’s drugs work.

        But acetylcholinesterase inhibiters are also used as biological weapons. So, this is not something to be messed with but treated with respect.

August 22, 2020

I started to take Holy Basil and it works great to calm my anxiety. I have a question though : I have serotonin syndrom extremely easily, can’t take even the lowest dosage of any anti depressant – almost died from trying SSRIs. I also had quiet bad effects using inositol (I got the warning signs that it was impacting serotonin, I didn’t even reached 1 gr and had issues such as sweats, photosensitivity and the warning signs that happened previously with the antidepressant, nothing bad as I was cautious, but enough warnings to stop it).
I was wondering if Holy Basil affects serotonin in any way? I couldn’t find a clear answer about it, yet I must be cautious about the serotonin issue as I seem to be overly sensitive to small changes there.
Thanks 🙂

    David Tomen
    August 24, 2020

    Ava, Holy Basil acts like an MAOI. So while it does not directly affect serotonin, it does influence it because of its MAOI activity.

    Scroll up to the section called, “How does Holy Basil work in the Brain?” And read the first study. That study demonstrates that Holy Basil does affect serotonin. While no raising it directly.

      November 6, 2020

      Thanks for your answer ! In the end I’m able to take just a tiny amount in teas and it does a nice effect, but more than that and I start having visual issues and sweats anyway. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge 🙂

Chere Moyer
August 7, 2020

I read you should take Holy Basil for only up to 8 weeks, then take a break. Is this true, and how long should break be, and can you start back on Holy Basil after break?

    David Tomen
    August 8, 2020

    Chere, WebMD says not to use Holy Basil any longer than 8 weeks. But I don’t trust WebMD and don’t consider it an authority site.

    Truth is no one knows if Holy Basil is safe or not safe for use any longer than 12 weeks. We only have 24 English human clinical studies to reference (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5376420/). And the longest trial was 12 weeks with no real problems.

    If you study the mechanism of action of Holy Basil there is nothing pointing to a problem from continued long-term use. So, I’m can’t say whether it’s safe or not, to use it long-term. But we don’t have any proof that it could be a problem either.

April 30, 2020

Hi David,
You mention that the side effects of Holy Basil on male fertility are reversible, but does that count for the possible infertility it can cause in women too?

    David Tomen
    May 1, 2020

    Rina, all we have are reports from village women and Ayurvedic physicians who have been using Holy Basil leaves for its anti-fertility effect. Which is explained in the Side Effects section above.

    I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be reversible in women just like it is in men when they stop using Holy Basil.

April 3, 2020

Hi David,

What is the difference between holy basil as acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor, and Huperzine?
I see the both do the same function?
please advise about the differences.

    David Tomen
    April 23, 2020

    Both are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. I haven’t seen the data but am sure that Huperzine-A is a much stronger inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase than Holy Basil

Mike Kaminski
March 13, 2020

Hello David, after trying almost all adaptogens (except Astragalus and Tulsi) and having them worsen my anxiety or some had no effect… I tried the Tulsi tea and it really relaxed me, from the article I understood that it also affects Serotonin, I’m on Escitalopram (Cipralex) is it ok to Combine them?
PS- I also take Alcar and PS.
David thank you and again you are amazing.

    David Tomen
    March 14, 2020

    Mike, Holy Basil is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) which primarily increases dopamine and to a much lesser extent serotonin. And it is an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor which boosts acetylcholine. There should not be a problem with it when using that medication especially when consumed as a tea.

      Mike Kaminski
      March 15, 2020

      I was actually about to buy an extract…. Do you think it’s ok?

        David Tomen
        March 15, 2020

        Mike, an extract should be OK too as long as you are careful with the dose. I like extracts because then you know what you’re getting in that capsule (as long as it’s a reputable company).

        But naturally they’ll be more potent. And whenever you’re mixing meds with nootropics there is the potential for serious complications. So please be careful. Start with a low dose and see how it works and go from there.

      June 27, 2022

      Hi David,

      I’ve been using Holy Basil for anxiety, and it’s working well. However, I feel that I need a stronger effect.

      How long should I wait to get the full effect before I increase the dose? And what increment should I increase it by?

      I’ve been taking 300mg a day for the last couple of weeks.



        David Tomen
        June 27, 2022

        Mark, it’s safe to use up to 2,000 mg Holy Basil extract per day. So try doubling your current dose and see how that works.

Rupam Bhaduri
February 9, 2020

If I had to take just one supplement which could turn off the Sympathetic nervous system and turn on Parasympathetic nervous system, then would it be Holy Basil? or is there anything better than this without the side effect of Holy Basil (decreased sperm count)?

Something that’s safe for long term use, like Ashwagandha. Also, doesn’t increase Serotonin too much. I’ve observed that Ginkgo Biloba, if it’s used too much, then it causes SNS dominance.

What’s your opinion on Arctium Lappa as a nootropic? I’ve been using it, it’s very potent to decrease Serotonin and almost acts instantly. There are several research articles on it, from Testosterone boosting to ultimate health promoter. Would love to watch a video on this supplement by you.

    David Tomen
    February 9, 2020

    Rupam, I’ve never simplified the human mood system into Sympathetic vs Parasympathetic Nervous System because it’s far to general. For the Parasympathetic Nervous System do you mean your “rest and digest” or your “feed and breed” response? See what I mean? Your question is difficult to answer because it is not specific enough.

    If it’s anxiety that concerns you then do a search of Nootropics Expert for “anxiety”. I’ve a couple of posts devoted specifically to anxiety and how to deal with it using nootropics.

    I’ve never considered “burdock” as a nootropic and it’s not even on my list of things to research and write about. I’ll look into however.

    And BTW, adaptogens are unlikely to “increase Serotonin too much”. To do that you’d need to take larger than recommended doses of L-Tryptophan or 5-HTP.

      Rupam Bhaduri
      February 10, 2020

      Are “rest and digest” and “feed and breed” different or both happen altogether as soon as you switch to Parasympathetic state?

      Taking L-Dopa or L-Tyrosine helps me to get into the state of “feed and breed”, where taking L-Tryptophan or Valerian root or “Passiflora Incarnata” or green tea helps me to get into “rest and digest” state. As much as I observed.

      I by default get into SNS mode as soon as I take Vitamin D, I’m not sure why this happens, probably my Vitamin D level is already too high and I never did the blood work on Vitamin D. Although, taking high dose of Vitamin C and Magnesium alongside Vitamin D, prevents getting me into SNS state.

      I want to switch between these two, for example, in the evening I want to stay in the state of “feed and breed”, and in the night I want to stay in the state of “rest and digest” so that I can fall asleep peacefully. Is this possible to do so with supplement?

      My goal is this –

      1. In the Morning, I want to stay in SNS state so that I can do my work, do gym, mobilise fat and burn more energy. This state is achieved automatically for me. I just have to take 500mg of L-Tyrosine and I get into flight or fight mode.

      2. In the evening, I would like to get into the state of “feed and breed”. I observed that taking a little bit Serotonin promoting herbs calms me down and helps me achieve this state. Taking too much of these however reduces libdio. So, somehow I have to carefully measure the Serotonin I take to balance the amount of Dopamine I have in my system.

      3. In the night, at sharp 8pm, I want to take something which would help me to achieve “rest and digest” state.

      I want to hear your expert advice on how to achieve these states. I’m by default too excited, so I need to calm more, but not too much that it reduces libdio and slows digestion and gain too much fat. I’ll try to experiment with those herbs that you are going to recommend so that I can understand which dose is right for me. I’ve observed that taking Choline helps me to stay in Parasympathetic state. I don’t know why, but I have to take a lot like 5g of Choline to be in that state. Where, if I take Holy Basil, just 1g of Choline is enough. Probably because Holy Basil inhibits Acetylcholinesterase?

        David Tomen
        February 10, 2020

        Rupam, you are likely correct on your last point. And it sounds like you’re having trouble keeping dopamine and serotonin in balance. Not sure why but everyone is unique and you may be especially sensitive to certain substances.

        As I mentioned earlier, I cannot think nor make good recommendations using such general term like you use. It’s either individual nootropics to do things like boost dopamine or serotonin. Or more general like increase energy, or boost learning and memory, tame anxiety and/or depression, improve sleep, etc.

        For the daytime you may want to consider a stack like Mind Lab Pro: https://nootropicsexpert.com/mind-lab-pro-review/. It’s got a good balance of nootropics that cover every area of brain health.

        And for sleep I suggest what I recommend in this post: https://nootropicsexpert.com/best-sleep-supplements-to-buy/

        And if you have that kind of reaction when taking Vitamin C and magnesium and how Vitamin D3 works in your system it sounds like your entire system is out of balance. And you need some basics like a good multivitamin and B-Complex supplement.

        Rupam Bhaduri
        February 11, 2020

        Thanks David! I’ll look into those supplements that you mentioned above. Some of the components I’m already taking, like Bacopa, because I’m from India, and in my country almost everyone takes it daily because we follow the Ayurveda.

        Yes, multivitamin works great for me without any problem. I take good Vitamin B complex at the first thing in the morning as well. The problem happens when I take isolated high dose of Vitamin D, which I will stop now.

        And yes, the only problem I have now is about the balance between Serotonin and Dopamine. Sometimes my Dopamine gets way too high and I feel overly motivated, anxious and my whole body & mind become way too fast, like I can literally read a long page within 3 seconds and retain 100% of the informations. Being in state for few days, somehow desensitizes the Dopamine receptors, so the Dopamine won’t work anymore. Now the Serotonin gets way too high, and I just lose motivation, feels like to sleep all day, but the anxiety is no more in this state.

        Then all of a sudden both are properly balanced, and I can control everything in my life as I want. Probably because as the Serotonin was high, the Dopamine receptors got time to recover and got time to get the sensitivity back again. The all I have to do now is to calculate the amino acids profile of meat, eggs and other things to carefully monitor Tyrosine:Tryptophan ratio.

        Thanks again! Much appreciated your help.

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