All human beings feel stress.Stress is the psychological, physiological, and behavioral response when there is a perceived lack of equilibrium between the demands placed upon individuals and their ability to meet those demands.Stress begins in and affects the brain as well as the rest of the body.1
Stress threshold for individuals vary. When stress is encountered over a prolonged period of time, the response to stress becomes poor and this will eventually lead to grave health. A greater risk of developing cancer and heart disease is seen among individuals with work- related stress in the United States.
Common symptoms of stress may include: headache, forgetfulness, lack of appetite, aggressive behavior,sexual problems, and sleep problems. An herb which can be of help in relieving stress is Ocimum tenuiflorum or commonly known as holy basil.
Holy basil is an herb found abundantly growing in Malaysia, Australia, West Africa, and some Arab countries. 2 Since ancient times, it has been used in treating bronchitis, diarrhea, and has been suggested to possess anticancer, antidiabetic, antifungal, antimicrobial, analgesic, antiemetic, adaptogenic/ anti-stress properties. The plant substance which increases the state of non-specific resistance against multiple stresses is called adaptogen.
The ethanolic extract of the dried whole plant of Ocimumtenuiflorum (Holy Basil) increased physical endurance and provided better healing effects in in vivo studies.3 It has also been shown that holy basil can prevent reduction in the levelsof brain catecholamine andmonoamine oxidase and it increaseddopamine and 5-hydroxytryptamine in response to a stressful event, enhancing the stress adaptation and coping in in vivo studies.4
Traditional medicine is a favorable alternative for boosting physical and mental performance to evade stress levels. Despite preclinical evidences on anti-stress activity of Ocimumtenuiflorum (Holy Basil), clinical data are lacking to scientifically affirm that it can indeed help with general stress reduction. An extract of the whole plant of O. tenuiflorum (composed of phytochemical specifications, namely, Ociglycoside-I, rosmarinic acid, and triterpene acids) has been developed to solidify claims to its anti-stress potential.
The 2011 randomized, placebo-controlled study aims to evaluate the efficacy of symptomatic control of general stressin regards to the intake of holy basil to general stress in self- evaluated patients at weeks 0, 2, 4, and 6 trial period.
One hundred fifty-eight patients were selected for the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Patients were randomly assigned to placebo and holy basil group and were handed over one container. Each capsule of holy basil contained 400 mg of active components while the placebo capsules contained microcrystalline cellulose. Subjects were advised to take one capsule after breakfast and two capsules after dinner.
Mean scores of all symptoms of stress which include abnormal perception of hearing,blurring of vision, abnormal movements, sexual problems of recent origin, abnormal sensory perceptions, avoidance of even familiar people, and missing appointments, headache, palpitations at rest, frequent gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and frequent sleep problems decreased significantly from week 2 to weeks 4 and 6, and mean scores of forgetfulness, sexual problems of recent origin, quarrelsome behavior and frequent feelings of exhaustion decreased significantly from week 2 to week 6 in the holy basil group.
In the placebo group, most of the symptoms showed nonsignificant decrease except in these symptoms: headache, palpitations at rest, frequent GI symptoms, frequent feelings of exhaustion, and frequent sleep problems from week 0 weeks 2, 4, and 6 and blurring of vision, forgetfulness, and quarrelsome behaviour from week 0 to weeks 4 and 6. Significant decrease in abnormal movements was only noticed from week 0 to week 6.
Supplementation with holy basil significantly decreased the intensity of forgetfulness to about one-third. Sexual problems and stress are psychologically linked as excessive stress can lead to reduced libido/sex drive in both sexes. O. tenuiflorum or holy basil extract remarkably reduced the symptom scores of sexual problems by 87.5% in comparison to patients in the placebo group.
At the end of the study, the analysis of total symptom scores of OciBest revealed significant reduction as compared to placebo. No adverse effect was found with OciBest administration. It was safe and well tolerated by patients and was 39% (1.6 times higher) more effective in stress management symptoms in comparison to placebo group.
- S. Palmer. Occupational Stress. The Health and Safety Practitioner. vol. 7, pp. 16–18,1989.
- P. Prakash et. al. Therapeutic Uses of Ocimum Sanctum Linn With A Note on Eugenol and Its Pharmacological Actions: A Short Review. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2005.
- Modal, S. et al. The science behind scaredness of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn) Review Article. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2009.
- N. Singh, N. Misra, A. K. Srivastava, K. S. Dixit, and G. P. Gupta. Effect of Anti-Stress Plants on Biochemical Changes During Stress Reaction. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, vol.23, pp. 137–142, 1991.