East Meets West: The Role of Functional Botanicals – Holy Basil
As we weave our way into the world of functional botanical ingredients, there are a few that have resonated more than others in their history and capabilities. Ocimum tenuiflorum, commonly known as holy basil or tulsi, is a delicate but sturdy plant in the mint family. The genus, ‘Ocimum, means “fragrant lipped,” and the species, tenuiflorum, means “slender” or “small flowers.”’ It is native to India but has gained popularity in the United States for a variety of uses and can be found in dietary supplements and cosmetic products. ‘The plant is widely used in Ayurvedic and folk medicine, often as an herbal tea for a variety of ailments and is considered sacred in Hinduism.’
A fascinating layer to holy basil is the scope of its identity breakdown. In Ayurveda it can be categorized as Kapoor, Vana, Rama, and Krishna all signifying its purported benefits and growing conditions. Under a taxonomical structure, the same plant is identified under two different species. This is unique because it is rare to see a plant use two different classifications synonymously. The primary variety we grow in the U.S. is Kapoor due to its adaptability in a range of climates and versatility in the medicinal herb sector.
Jumping back and forth between the two worlds of Ayurveda and western thoughts on medicine, we find labs and nutraceutical companies start to quantify some of the compounds that may be the most effective in the plant. A primary constituent that is being focused on is the terpene eugenol. Although other molecules such as beta caryophelene and alpha-cubabene have been reported in high numbers, eugenol has been the primary focus because of its high levels in reported results. Holy Basil is also believed to be a potent adaptogen which a trending term that encompasses a variety of different plants that can help the body adapt to an array of stressors.
Eugenol is one component we can test in a lab but being able to make sure the consumer can get a full spectrum delivery of the plant’s benefits is also very important. Much like hemp’s ability to have an entourage effect when a full spectrum oil is extract, these medicinal herbs deserve the same exploration in how they are being handled from seed all the way through to a finished tincture, gel cap, tea, or skin care product. Knowing your supplier season after season and utilizing an extraction company with high and transparent quality standards will ensure that your products are not only effective but also being handled with care and respect.