Holy Basil Cortisol Benefits for Adrenal Fatigue

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

Holy basil cortisol benefits start with a simple plant.Cultivated for thousands of years in Asia, the holy basil plant helps regulate cortisol. People recovering from adrenal fatigue should consider holy basil cortisol affecting properties in regulating stress. In consultation with a health professional, implementing the use of holy basil is part of a greater strategy to help the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response.

The NEM stress response is how your body adapts and reacts to stress. If chronically stressed over time, the stress response may start to become deregulated. In these instances, symptoms start to arise that need to be looked at. One of the earliest symptoms may be adrenal fatigue. Holy basil can be an effective herb to help relieve stress and normalize the adrenals and the NEM stress response.

Numerous studies have found that the plant offers protection against elevated cortisol, as well as glucose control. These abilities positively affect the liver, brain, thyroid, the gastrointestinal system, and other organs. The herb is readily available, in numerous forms, for ease of administration in conjunction with an overall plan to dampen the stress response.

Holy Basil Plant

Holy basil is native to southeast Asia, where it has been cultivated for over 2000 years. Healers from past and present have used the leaf, stem, flower, root, and seeds of holy basil, Latin name Ocimum tenuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum, commonly called tulsi in therapeutic tradition. Therapeutic uses include pain relief, diarrhea, arthritis, bronchitis and other respiratory disorders.

Holy basil is prominent in Ayurveda and Hinduism for its various therapeutic applications. Healers call it Tulsi, the Queen of Herbs, the “Incomparable One.” Its reputation makes it one of most prized healing plants in the Orient.

The plant itself is a small shrub, 1 to 2 feet tall, sometimes up to 4 feet tall. Leaves are green and purple with hairy, smelly stems. The flower is purple. Preparations include the whole leaf, crushed and dried leaves for tea, a crushed powder, or fermented.

In India, the holy basil plant is sacred and holy, often used in religious ceremonies. People who grow the plant often feel that it is protecting them. Another use in the home is as an insect repellent. The smell is noxious to mosquitos and flies. They stay away and as many insects carry pathogens, the plant’s presence in the home may stave off disease.

Holy Basil Cortisol and Health Benefits

The active component of the plant is Eugenol (1-hydroxy-2-methoxy-4-allylbenzene). Researchers have suggested that Eugenol may be effective in alleviating cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and pain, among other conditions. The plant shows potential for a variety of therapies for humans and animals.

Eugenol is one of many components of the plant. Other components include cinnamyl acetate, beta-elemene, cirsilineol, cirsimaritin, isothymusin, isothymonin, apigenin, and rosmarinic acid. Additionally, holy basil contains polysaccharides, flavonoids, zinc, and other minerals.

Holy basil cortisol benefits are good for the bodyOther holy basil benefits include assisting ????l? who ?uff?r fr?m ?mmun?l?g???l d???rd?r?, ?ll?rg???, and asthma. It also ?m?r?v?s bl??d ??r?ul?t??n ?f th? b?d?. Th? ?nt?-?nfl?mm?t?r? ?nd antioxidant ?r???rt??? of the herb h?l? th? body t? f?ght ?ff damaging fr?? r?d???l?, wh??h are believed t? ??u?? aging ?nd illness. Holy basil benefits your immunity as a ??w?rful booster; it h?? th? capacity t? k??? ?ging and debilitating h??lth issues at bay.

Holy basil benefits are often d???u???d b? herbalists for ?t? u?? ?? ?n ?d??t?g?n, m??n?ng that it has a n?rm?l?z?ng ?ff??t on th? body and ?? g?n?r?ll? ??f? f?r long-term u??. Although holy basil has not b??n ?tud??d ?xh?u?t?v?l? fr?m a scientific ??r????t?v?, th?r? is a growing body ?f r????r?h ??nf?rming ??m? of the tr?d?t??n?l u??? of th?? herb, ?nd ??m? of the holy basil benefits ?r? b?g?nn?ng t? b? und?r?t??d.

In vitro (laboratory ?r t??t-tub?) ?x??r?m?nt? h?v? ?ugg??t?d that holy b???l m?? have ?nt?v?r?l properties, which are beneficial in stimulating the ?mmun? system. An?m?l ?tud??? h?v? ?l?? ?ugg??t?d that holy basil benefits can ?r?t??t th? l?v?r ?g??n?t t?x?? ?h?m???l?, l?w?r high bl??d ?ug?r, ??d memory, ?nd inhibit the growth ?nd progression ?f ??n??r.

Holy b???l ?? r??h in ?nt??x?d?nt?, and th?r? ?? some ?v?d?n?? th?t th??? ?nt??x?d?nt? h?l? ?r?v?nt d?m?g? ??u??d b? stress. Holy basil itself also may be beneficial in r?du?ing ?tr???. On? ??ntr?ll?d clinical study ?n hum?n? found th?t the herb was significantly more effective th?n ?l???b? for g?n?r?l?z?d ?nx??t? d???rd?r (? d???rd?r ?h?r??t?r?z?d b? chronic ?nd ?ft?n ??v?r? ?tr???) ?nd d??r?????n (wh??h ?? often ???????t?d with ?tr???).

Stress is something that affects everyone in the world at some point, and it is important to understand in ways in which it can be alleviated. This aspect of holy basil cortisol benefits are especially important for those who suffer from adrenal fatigue, a condition caused by physiological exhaustion due to stress. The exact mechanism for this effect is not known, but there is a possibility some cortisol lowering effect may be at play.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) ?? a condition wh?r? the adrenal gl?nd? are weakened. On?? th? ?dr?n?l glands ?r? weakened, ??ur b?d? will not receive as much help from those glands. When your glands are no longer working properly, then you are not able to produce cortisol, which are hormones that assist the body in coping with stress.

In the early stages of adrenal fatigue, the adrenals increase production of cortisol to handle stress. This excess cortisol contributes to diabetes, mood swings, body fat/belly fat, poor quality sleep, and liver deficits. Holy basil cortisol benefits may support healing stressWhen cortisol is too high, you also act as though you are pumped up on caffeine, but if you are low on cortisol, you’ll have the feeling of being very stressed and exhausted. This is where Holy basil cortisol benefit turn out to be useful.

If the body is forced to fight ?tr??? for too long, the result is fatigued ?dr?n?l glands. This results in less protection fr?m infections ?nd a higher likelihood of catching colds, flu?, ?nd other respiratory d???????. AFS has many symptoms, ranging from vague to severe, and is currently not identified as a medical condition by mainstream Western medicine.

NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response

Looking at the body from a wider perspective, many internal pathways are called into action as the adrenals become fatigued. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response can be thought of as a complex network comprising several systems and organs connected to each other, creating a functional network. Think of it as a safety net that assists the body when stress threatens its survival.

The body’s functional response to stress is based on the neuroendocrine and metabolic response circuits, which operate 24/7 at varying levels. The neuroendocrine circuits include the thyroid, adrenals, heart, autonomic nervous system, brain, and the GI tract. When the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is activated, the neuroendocrine circuit takes action by helping in the body’s anti-stress response. The anti-stress metabolic circuit gets activated at the same time as the neuroendocrine system, and involves the pancreas, liver, extracellular matrix, immune and microbiome.

There are six functional components between the neuroendocrine circuit and the metabolic circuit, with each group containing three. The three that fall into the neuroendocrine circuits include hormonal, cardionomic, and neuro-affect. The three components of the metabolic circuits are inflammation, detoxification, and metabolism. These collectively make up the NEM response to stress from a functional medicine perspective.

Due to this system, metabolism has an important role in stress.

When someone is stressed, there are chemical reactions that take place within cells as food is being converted into energy. When the metabolism is healthy and strong, it will assist in defending the body from oxidative damage cause by stress by decreasing the body’s toxic load. On the other hand, a weak metabolic system may cause imbalance to the gut microbiome, clog the extracellular matrix, delay the detoxification process, decrease nutrient distribution, and impede recovery from physical or emotional trauma.

Unfortunately, when metabolic derangements go unresolved, they worsen over time and can be incapacitating if stress has no resolution. The signs and symptoms of severe metabolic derangement may directly or indirectly lead to undesirable reactions to supplements, onset of paradoxical reactions, recurring crashes, and extreme constipation.

In relation to AFS, the NEM stress response model provides a functional perspective on stress that views the body as a self regulated and integrated system, helping to comprehend this condition and generate ways to heal it.

Detoxification and the Adrenals

By reducing stress, Holy basil cortisol benefits weight loss.The adrenal glands and cortisol play an important role in the detoxification processes of the body. When the adrenals are fatigued, however, the adrenal glands struggle to detoxify the body from chemicals, heavy metals, poisons, and other toxins or waste products. The detoxification pathways are impaired or blocked, leading to enzyme deficiencies and cortisol-induced symptoms.

According to one study, Holy basil cortisol benefits decreased serum concentration of both cortisol and glucose. Studies also found that holy basil has antiperoxidative properties in addition to its hypoglycemic and cortisol lowering activities, which suggests that it resists oxidative degradation and guards against tissue damage.

Cortisol and the Brain

During the NEM stress response, the neuroaffective system is negatively affected by elevated cortisol. If the hippocampus is not receiving an adequate amount of glucose due to excess cortisol, it may recruit glucose from the body, causing a catabolic state wherein the muscle, bones, and connective tissue are tapped for their energetic stores. Since holy basil decreases cortisol, people with symptoms of insomnia, mood swings, depression, and other disorders affected by the brain, may want to consider Holy basil cortisol benefits.

Glycemic Control and Cortisol

For glycemic control, balanced glucose provides steady and balanced energy production but overproduction of cortisol reduces one’s sensitivity to insulin and blood sugar may rise to unhealthy levels. The process may progress undetected by the person until the body’s energy source is compromised beyond low grade fatigue.

The Immune System and NEM Stress Response

Chronically elevated cortisol can plague the adrenal fatigue sufferer and affect people in all stages of the NEM stress response, especially in the immune system. High levels of cortisol can harm the body’s first line of defense, the mucosal barrier. These mucus membranes defend against pathogens seeking entry into the body’s sensitive internal environment.

In the body’s cavities and lining of the body’s walls are immune compounds known as secretory immunoglobulins whose job it is to neutralize undesirables. Therefore, in vulnerable organs like the mouth and eyes, defenders stand ready to repel invaders. To improve the immune system, a supplement such as holy basil may decrease cortisol and increase immune cells.

One study of holy basil extract found that the agent reduced bacterial count while increasing neutrophil and lymphocyte counts. Another study found that holy basil oil increased the red blood cell count in rats and decreased the histamine release.

Holy Basil’s Gastroprotective Effect

Holy basil cortisol benefits have wide-ranging effects and makes a significant impact on the gastrointestinal system. One study found that a dose of 50-200 mg/kg of holy basil, administered orally twice a day for 5 days, showed a protective effect against ethanol and pyloric ligation-induced gastric ulcers.

Recovery and Wound Healing

 The gastrointestinal system can be affected by Holy basil cortisol regulation.People healing from adrenal fatigue and managing their NEM stress response often have a hard time recovering and healing. When a person is healthy, cortisol levels cycle throughout the day, reducing intensity at night so the person can achieve sleep.

High cortisol levels prevent that healthy shutdown and regeneration. Unable to turn off, the body cannot release its full load of hormones to repair bodily tissues, leaving the individual unrested and at a disadvantage in healing wounds. One study of holy basil cortisol benefits in rats found that wounds healed faster.

Thyroid and Cortisol

For thyroid health, holy basil’s effect on cortisol may provide improvement. Since the adrenal glands direct the thyroid gland, high cortisol levels may diminish thyroid output. Adrenal fatigue often masquerades as a malfunctioning thyroid gland, demonstrating the interdependency of the thyroid and adrenals. Using holy basil may improve your thyroid health by balancing the cortisol levels first.

Holy Basil Cortisol Balancing and Protection

Holy basil and its main component, eugenol, has been shown to reduce cortisol and help support the liver, the brain, the gastrointestinal system, glycemic control, the thyroid, recovery and wound healing, and the immune system. People managing adrenal fatigue and navigating the stages of the NEM stress response could take a look at holy basil cortisol lowering properties.

The plant assists the body by protecting it from toxins. The protective ability is thought to be due to the high levels of phenolic compounds and their antioxidant properties. People could try the black/purple variety of holy basil, called Krishna tulsi, as it has a higher phenolic content than the standard plant.

Adrenal Fatigue Recovery

Holy basil is a plant that offers adrenal fatigue sufferers some respite on several differents fronts. Because elevated cortisol is responsible for deficits in several systems and organs, people can consider its effects for a wide range of symptoms. Using holy basil to lessen cortisol should take place as part of the larger adrenal fatigue protocol as indicated. People should remove stresses from their life, eliminate stimulants, sleep well, and exercise. Additionally, adding an herb or any supplement to one’s health care routine should take place after consultation with a qualified healthcare provider due to cautions that everybody is different and might be more sensitive to certain supplements.

Individuals with adrenal fatigue need a personalized plan. A holistic plan, developed in conjunction with a healing professional, will assist in countering AFS as well as the different stages of the NEM stress response. First steps include evaluating the sources of stress and carefully eliminating or modifying the stress sources. A regular exercise program, sound sleep, and the elimination of substances can do wonders in healing from adrenal fatigue.

Heal your body by adding holy basil cortisol benefits to your protocol.Herbs and other supplements need to be used judiciously, the right one at the right time. Holy basil lowers cortisol and has numerous benefits, however, it should be taken as part of an overall individualized adrenal fatigue recovery plan. If you’re in advanced stages of Adrenal Fatigue you may be sensitive to a lot of supplements. Also, be careful when starting because holy basil cortisol benefits may be too new or stimulating for your body without properly providing the body with the right nutrients to start with. Some people have reported being overly stimulated with holy basil. This is a sign that the body is internally weak. Paradoxical reactions , when they surface, need to be looked into.

Bringing It All Together

By knowing how the body responds to stress and identifying what may seem like unrelated symptoms, steps can be taken to aid AFS sufferers and get them on the road to recovery. This holistic approach can assist in determining if cortisol levels are too low or too high, as well as aid in deciding if Holy basil cortisol benefits are a good fit for a person who is experiencing a variety of unrelated symptoms.

The following holy basil benefits can be especially helpful for those who experience adrenal fatigue:

  • Immun?t? enhancer – Holy basil ?? v?r? beneficial ?n increasing th? immunity ?f th? body. It h?l?? ?n promoting th? ?r?du?t??n ?f ?nt?b?d??? and increase the ?r?du?t??n of T helper ??ll? th?t f?ght infections ?nd antigens.
  • Nervine d?b?l?t? – This is a ??w?rful nervine t?n??. It strengthens th? n?rv?u? ???t?m ?nd improves ?ll of the ??t?v?t??? ?f th? b?d? ??ntr?ll?d b? ?ur n?rv?u? system. Nervous system issues like paralysis ?nd P?rk?n??n’s are said to be aided by th? proper u?? of holy basil. It is said to ?m?r?v? the fun?t??n?ng ?f the brain ?nd ?n?r??se ??n??ntr?t??n.
  • F?v?r and ??ld – H?l? basil ?? h?l?ful ?n maintaining normal body t?m??r?tur?. It is ?ff??t?v? ?n preventing and remedying influenza and the common cold. The common cold ?? caused by a viral infection in the b?d?. If the immune system is weakened by stress, it is more difficult for the body to fight the cold. Chewing holy basil l??v?? is said to h?l? relieve common ??ld ?nd flu symptoms.
  • Cough and respiratory disorders – H?l? basil a ??mm?n h?rb u??d ?n ??ugh remedies and for respiratory disorders. It is also v?r? ?ff??t?v? for ??thm?. It h?l?? ?x??ll mucus t? ?l??n up the respiratory tr??t, improving br?n?h?t?? and ?th?r r????r?t?r? d???rd?r?. H?n?? w?th holy basil l??v?? in tea ?? ?n ?x??ll?nt r?m?d? t? ?u???rt r????r?t?r? d??turb?n???.
  • S?r? thr??t – Holy basil ?? said to be good at r?l??v?ng the pain of a ??r? thr??t. It is ???thing ?nd h?l?? fight ?nf??t??n ?n th? thr??t ?nd r????r?t?r? tr??t. Try making an infusion of holy basil l??v?? boiled in water with honey.
  • Kidney ?t?n?? – H?l? b???l is ?ff??t?v? ?n ?t?b?l?z?ng renal d??turb?n???. H?l? b???l ju??? ?? ?u?t? ?ff??t?v? ?n tr??t?ng the r?n?l calculi and ?l?? h?l?? in br??k?ng u? k?dn?? stones. The br?k?n calculi g?ts ?x??ll?d through the ur?n?r? tr??t.

A sore throat can be helped by holy basil cortisol benefits

  • Cardiovascular problems – Holy basil ?? said to tone u? heart muscles. It ?m?r?v?? the bl??d ??r?ul?t??n ?nd reduces ?h?l??t?r?l levels in th? body.
  • T?n???n and ?tr??? – Holy basil is an excellent adaptogenic agent, having a healing and toning effect for the whole body, which h?l?? relieve str??? throughout many bodily systems.
  • Oral ?nf??t??n and tooth problems – Holy basil ?? h?l?ful with ?nf??t??n?, especially of the ?r?l cavity. Holy basil curbs ?nf??t??n and t?nes up the gums, helping to avoid gingivitis and cavities. It also h?l?s relieve m?uth ul??r?.
  • In???t ?t?ng – Holy basil helps ?n relieving the pain ?f th? sting ?nd reduces ?nfl?mm?t??n.
  • Headache – Holy basil is a good pain reliever, which h?l?? ??nd?t??n? l?k? m?gr??n?s ?nd h??daches.
  • Vision problems – Holy basil is said to improve vision and help t?ne the eyes. It ??nt??n? vitamin A, which ?? h?l?ful in n?rm?l fun?t??n?ng ?f the ????. Holy basil juice ?? ?l?? put ?nt? the ???? t? ?v??d ?n? infection ?n them.

While there are many benefits to taking holy basil, it is also important to be careful. In advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, the body is very sensitive to any form of supplementation. While holy basil cortisol benefits typically serve to lower cortisol levels, in advanced states, a paradoxical reaction can often occur, stimulating the adrenal glands instead. This can lead you to feel wired, jittery, anxious, and can affect your sleep as well.

Keep in mind that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), does not oversee nutritional supplements and vitamins. Therefore, it is not possible to guarantee that what one finds on the label of the bottle of herbs is actually what is inside. It’s critical to use reputable brands and the guidance of an experienced practitioner versed in AFS.


Holy basil is a plant native to Southeast Asia although it is grown in other parts of the world, including the U.S. Healers have used the leaf, stem, and flower for over 2000 years to alleviate conditions like diarrhea, arthritis, and bronchitis. People with adrenal fatigue should consider Holy basil cortisol benefits to help them navigate recovery from AFS and the NEM stress response.

The holy basil plant lowers cortisol, which enables multiple systems and organs to operate optimally. Along with a holistic lifestyle and advice from an adrenal fatigue specialist, holy basil cortisol benefits may provide support for the immune system, thyroid, brain, liver, and other key players in a properly functioning physiological ecosystem.
© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

This plant helps promote Holy basil cortisol benefits.

5 -
I consulted with Dr. Lam seven years ago when I was in very bad shape with Adrenal Fatigue. I was bedridden 20 hours/day, couldn't drive and was not able to tolerate any supplements. When I was at my worst seven years ago, stuck in bed at the beach, debilitated with prayer as my sole hope, crawling to the bathroom, Dr. Lam is the ONLY PERSON ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH who had any real understanding of my illness. Thank you very much.
Very sincerely yours,
Kathleen W.


  • Matt says:

    Dr. Lam,

    First of all- great article on Holy Basil. Secondly, I would like to know if you could tell me if there would be any interactions with psychiatric drugs- particular SSRIs or SSRI-like drugs, and in particular, Beta-Blockers, which slow the heartbeat down and open up blood vessels for better circulation. The fact that it says that Holy Basil can improve blood circulation concerns me if I am on a beta-blocker that does open blood vessels for better circulation. Any input or knowledge would be appreciated. Thank you!

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Most people have no issues, but you should always clear it with your doctor first.


  • Elaine H says:

    Dr. Lam, I have been struggling with symptoms of adrenal fatigue for years now. I am unable to find a doctor in my area that really understands it so any treatment I’ve gotten has been sketchy to say the least. I’m working a job that is highly stressful at times; I have sugar cravings and eating sugar leads to an increase in the symptoms. I am having hot flashes again after a few years without them and I can’t sleep without herbal assistance. I’ve gained weight and can’t seem to lose it and feel generally depressed with bouts of crying at times. Can you direct me to a doctor or help me yourself?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Our program is unique in that we deal with the root problem and not symptom patching which is what is done outside. Therefore, we have no refferal to give you. We do have a telephone coaching service if you qualify.
      Click 7 Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Mistakes for more information.

      Dr Lam

  • Jerry C says:

    Hi Dr. Lam,
    I am somewhat confused about my condition. First I would like to add that my AFS was brought on by over exertion. I worked as a carpenter during the day, and then working on my house at night and on weekends, not really giving myself much time to recover. So it finally caught up to me last Sept. and experienced a crash. My diet has always been good and I don’t drink or smoke. But, what confuses me is that as most with AFS that they experience fatigue, and struggle with energy and getting out of bed in the morning. Myself, on the other hand is I wake up feeling energetic and ready to start the day (no fatigue) but if over exert myself (ex. yard work, or long walk), I start to feel anxious, or wired later at night sometimes resulting in a crash which could last all night causing insomnia, hot and cold sweats and nausea, which fortunately subsides in the morning. This then leads to loss of appetite for a couple of days,then I seem to recover again. But fatigue doesn’t really set in. After a few days I feel good enough to go right at it again. It is very frustrating, I am not really sure what is going on. My recovery program has consisted of vegetable juicing every morning, high protein meals, and healthy snacks in between. Could you shed some light as to what is going on in my case? Is it just a matter of I need more time? Thanks Jerry.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      There are 6 circuits to the body’s overall stress response. Fatigue is just one of them. Your dominant weakness is in the cardionomic circuit. You need professional help as it is not simple. This article will help you to understand. Click NeuroEndoMetabolic Symptoms of Stress for more information.

      Dr Lam

  • Fernando says:

    Does regular Basil (Ocimum basilicum) provide similar benefits?

    • Dorine Lam RDN says:

      Regular Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a culinary herb and it doesn’t provide the same medicinal value as Holy Basil.

      Dorine Lam, RDN, MS, MPH
      Registered Dietitian and Senior Holistic Nutritionist

  • Barbara Murphy says:

    Great article, good detail, thank you. But there a lot of Basil varieties out there – could you supply the botanical name of this particular variety please?
    As I don’t get onto your site all that often, a public reply might get missed whereas something in an email to me would get right on target.
    Thanks again for all your excellent information.

  • Trisha Sease says:

    I have extremely high cortisol levels around the clock, as my functional dr says is “severe”. They are recommending a blend called Adrenemin that contains multiple adaptagens as well as phosphatidylserine (I’ve had troubles with supplements that increase acetylcholine levels and this concerns me). I have became extremely sensitive to supplements and prefer to take individually as opposed to a blend. Is holy basil strong enough to help me at this point?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      you need to be very careful. the PS tend to calm things down, while adaptogen in cases like your may not act as it is intended to and have paradoxical effect, espeialy with your sensitiveity history. holy basil may not act well for you. dont try to jump from one compound to another compound, as you can make yourself worse. If you give me more history along with repost in my ask the doctor section I can give you a more personalized reply.

      Click 7 Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Mistakes for more information.

      Dr Lam

  • Celeste says:

    Will Holy Basil be beneficial if your cortisol is too low? If it reduces cortisol, would this be a good supplement to take?

  • Linda Chelius says:

    Is Holy Basil different than the garden variety basil we grow as an herb?

    • Dorine Lam RDN says:

      Yes, it is totally different. Holy Basil is a medicinal herb that should be taken with care. The garden variety of basils are used for cooking purpose, they also have some health benefits.

      Dorine Lam, RDN, MS, MPH
      Registered Dietitian and Senior Holistic Nutritionist