Can Holy Basil Boost Testosterone?

by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert

Ben Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert Sports and Exercise Nutrition Level 2 Strength and Conditioning CoachWritten by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.

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There are many different herbs, nutrients and other ingredients available in the testosterone-boosting supplement world. This article will discuss the traditional Ayurvedic herbal holy basil and explain why it might not work for you. 

It's vital to make the best choice when it comes time to reach your goal. Some will help you achieve a leaner, stronger physique with chiseled abdominals, while others are just not as effective. They leave you feeling tired, unmotivated, and regretful. 

What we will cover:

  • Holy basil is a type of herb.
  • Does it have the ability to improve your health?
  • How does science explain its testosterone-boosting role?
  • What are the side effects?

Holy Basil 

Holy basil, also known as tulasi and tulsi in South Asia or by its scientific name Ocimum taniflorum is an exotic tropical South Asian plant. 

As a fragrant shrub, it is distinguished by the multi-branched leaves in green or purple. It is also available as a supplement in the form of pills, powders and extracts. However, tulsi is most commonly consumed. 

It is not the pesto basil that you may be used to. Locals revere tulsi as the "Queen Of Herbs" and an elixir for life. 

The ancient Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita mentions it in its ancient Ayurvedic text. For this reason, you'll find it often around Hindu temples. 

The compound is composed of several bioactive substances. This includes a variety of bioflavonols, and ursolic acids - which are also present in apple peels. Eugenol is the most common compound in this herb.

It's a medicinal molecule that has anti-inflammatory properties [2]. The herb also contains b-Elemene, which is being studied to see if it can fight cancer. However, there are no confirmed clinical trials. 

The product is claimed to be anti-stress and anti-lipid, as well as glycemic-lowering. 

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Is Tulsi Plant Good for Health?

The adaptogen qualities of the tulsi plant are well known. It can adapt the body to both physical and mental stress. The herb has also been used to treat stomach problems, headaches, and colds. 

In a study, it was found that consuming 1000mg of plant extract per day by a group consisting of 35 people reduced the symptoms of anxiety disorders [3]. 

Tulsi also increases a variety of immune markers. When 24 healthy volunteers took 300mg of Tulsi, they saw an increase in their natural killer cells (NKCs), IL-4 and the number of T-cells. The herb has the potential to have 'immunomodulatory properties'. 

The bioactive component found in this herb, ursolic acid, has weak anti-aromatase properties. It may prevent testosterone from being converted to estrogen in females [5]. 

This has not been tested yet. Only ursolic acids in other herbs or isolated from holy basil have. 

Theoretically, the herb may have an effect that is beneficial on testosterone levels. Unfortunately, with such little data to go on it's hard to say until there is more. 

Take a look now at the research available. 

The key point: holy basil can improve your health through its adaptogenic properties, including better immune function and stress-relieving effects. 

Does Holy Basil Increase Testosterone?

There are many studies that examine the health benefits of Tulsi. However, there are surprisingly few which directly assess its effect on testosterone. The only notable study is a 2010 animal study [6]. 

The study found that 2g of tulsi reduced the sperm counts and reproductive capacity in a group of rabbits. The herb has been used by village women as a form of contraception for many years. Even though the sperm counts dropped, T levels rose in the rabbits and FSH and LH fell. 

While testosterone may have some benefits, it is likely that they will also cause sperm to be ineffective and make conception more difficult. 

There are no studies on humans or other animals that have shown potential. You should use caution with holy basil until you have more solid evidence. We would at best say that one of the studies conducted about holy basil and testosterone is intriguing, but not much more.

This study, published in Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, did not measure T levels but it measured reproductive behaviour. The study involved giving a group male Wistar rats various doses, ranging between 100mg/kg and 400 mg/kg. The sexual function scores were reported to decrease at higher doses - 200-400 mg per kilogram. 

It would be interesting to compare the sexual behavior of a group that received a small dose with a control group who did not receive any supplement. It is doubtful that the herb had any benefit as sexual behavior decreased when doses increased. 

The Holy Basil is an under-studied source. In a rabbit study, it was found to increase T levels but also reduce sperm motility. 

What are the side effects?

Even though it is GRAS-certified (generally acknowledged as safe) and sold in health food shops, there may be side effects. 

The most common reactions are the decrease in fertility and reductions of sperm mobility. It can cause low blood glucose and blood pressure, as with other adaptogens. 

While this can be beneficial for people with diabetes or hypertension, it may also cause dizziness, lightheadedness and even fainting in healthy individuals. It can cause shock, unconsciousness or even coma in severe cases. 

Warfarin, a blood thinner medication that thins the blood, can cause prolonged bleeding. Anyone with a bleeding condition or on anticoagulant medication can experience this serious side-effect. 

This supplement should be avoided by women who are expecting as it may stimulate contractions of the uterus. It can cause short or long term complications.

Conclusion

Supplements that promise stronger, leaner bodies and increased sexual drive don't always live up to their claims, however.

Unfortunately, many are too weak or don't deliver on what was promised, while some can actually damage hormones.

Luckily, there are some safe and effective supplements such as holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), more commonly known by its Ayurvedic name of "tulsi", with its rich antioxidant content.

Histamine intolerance While histamine can often cause allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes and runny nose, when its levels build up within your body without cause and lead to unwanted reactions it's called histamine intolerance.

Tulsi is an excellent natural histamine blocker which has been proven to keep histamine away from reaching tissues altogether.

Study Results on Stress Reduction

A recent research paper published in Psychotherapy and Behavior Analysis demonstrated that Tulsi is an effective supplement to lower cortisol, the stress hormone.

Chronically elevated levels can have detrimental effects on memory/cognitive function, sleep quality, libido and cardiovascular risk - as well as increase your risk.

Tulsi has been shown to help balance hormones and support thyroid/adrenal glands so they can better cope with stress.

Furthermore, Tulsi can shield organs from harmful toxins like heavy metals, pesticides and chemicals which could interfere with hormones or health in general.

There have been studies suggesting tulsi can help increase testosterone, though evidence for such claims remains limited.

There have also been numerous studies which show tulsi's effectiveness at improving mental and physical wellbeing by supporting hormone balance, decreasing histamine production, and alleviating stress. You can find Tulsi in capsules, dried powder, tinctures, liquid extracts or Tulsi tea forms.

However, there is very little, if any reliable evidence to demonstrate it does increase testosterone, with the only positive results being the result of a test on rabbits. 

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References

  1. Pattanayak, P et al.¬†Ocimum sanctum Linn. A reservoir plant for therapeutic applications: An overview.¬†Pharmacogn Rev. 2010; 4(7): 95‚Äď105
  2. Kelm, MA et al. Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine. 2000; 7(1): 7-13
  3. Bhattacharyya, D et al. Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Nepal Med Coll J. 2008; 10(3): 176-9
  4. Mondal, S et al. Double-blinded randomized controlled trial for immunomodulatory effects of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) leaf extract on healthy volunteers. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011. 14; 136(3): 452-6
  5. Nascimento, PG et al. Antibacterial and Antioxidant Activities of Ursolic Acid and Derivatives. Molecules 2014, 19, 1317-1327
  6. Sethi, J et al. Effect of tulsi (Ocimum Sanctum Linn.) on sperm count and reproductive hormones in male albino rabbits. Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010; 1(4): 208-10
  7. Kantak, NM et al. Effect of short term administration of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) on reproductive behaviour of adult male rats. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1992; 36(2): 109-11