As the stress of daily life has increased over the past decades, so has the proliferation of drugs and prescription medications used as mood enhancers to cope with ever-increasing demands. It’s harder to unplug — while our technology was intended to “free” us, it penetrates our downtime as a constant conduit for life’s demands.
Herbs for Mood Enhancement
Now, after a few decades of pharmaceutical intervention, many question the value of medications as mood enhancers — we now know that there is a long-term price for short-term relief. But ancient herbal wisdom may offer answers to modern stress. While there are several herbs for mood enhancement and mood stabilization in Ayurveda, including ashwagandha and gotu kola, the “Queen of Herbs” for mood and mental well-being is the adaptogen tulsi, also known as Holy Basil.
There are actually a few types of tulsi, also known holy basil: Ocimum sanctum L., including two plants, the green-leafed Rama tulsi and the purple-leafed Krishna tulsi; and Ocimum gratissimum, or Vana tulsi, a forest plant with dark green leaves. Researchers have also explored Ocimum tenuiflorum, another variety. While each strain has slightly different phytochemical characteristics, all are used in the same way, giving the same results.
Tulsi is an adaptogenic herbal powerhouse with a wide range of health-supporting characteristics.
So, what is Tulsi? Tulsi is an adaptogenic herbal powerhouse with a wide range of health-supporting characteristics. It is so revered in India’s Hindu homes that daily pujas are performed for the tulsi plants grown near front doors. In Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi is known as an “Elixir of Life” due to its healing capacity for multiple health conditions.
One Ayurvedic website, www.ayusante.com, reports that “Tulsi is probably the most widely known and common household herb in the Indian subcontinent. It is considered sacred, and rightly so, owing to its diverse healing properties.” Indeed, it is natural that tulsi would be a valued herb for mood enhancement and stabilization.
Tulsi for Anxiety and Mood Support
While tulsi has been treasured in India for centuries, modern science is discovering this plant’s value to boost your mood and promote a sense of emotional well-being. According to an article by Marc Cohen (School of Health Sciences, RMIT University, Victoria, Australia) in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, “There is mounting evidence that tulsi can address physical, chemical, metabolic and psychological stress through a unique combination of pharmacological actions.” Cohen goes on to explain that, “Tulsi has also been shown to counter psychological stress through positive effects on memory and cognitive function and through its anxiolytic and antidepressant properties.”
There have been dozens of studies on the health benefits of tulsi, including research on how tulsi affects mood, anxiety, and mental well-being. Of four studies reviewed, three reported “significant reduction in anxiety and stress levels…two studies reported reductions in overall stress-related symptoms in patients with psychosomatic problems compared to a control group.” All four studies reported “Significant improvements in mood and/or cognitive function regardless of age, gender, formulation, dose, or quality of the study.” Essentially, tulsi oils and products could prove useful as natural mood enhancers to aid in treating various mood disorders and enhancing overall health and well-being.
One animal study concluded that “the OS extract shows antianxiety and antidepressant properties at the same dose and can be a potential therapeutic agent against mixed anxiety and depressive syndrome.” Another study on memory reported that tulsi “may be useful as a nootropic agent in the early management of various cognitive disorders.”
An article in the Journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine stated that “The overall effects of extract of O. tenuiflorum in patients with stress were found to be significant. The whole plant extract of O. tenuiflorum, was found to be 1.6 times or 39% more effective in the management of stress symptoms in comparison to placebo group.”
In addition, another reported that tulsi reduced stress in animals after exposure to loud noise. Tulsi is also rich in nutrients — Vitamins A and C, calcium, zinc, iron, and chlorophyll.
Thousands of years of use in India would also indicate the safety of all three Tulsi species.
Twenty-four human studies “suggest that holy basil [tulsi] is a safe herb that can be used to help normalize glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and assist in relieving many other conditions.”
Hindus believe that tulsi is the plant that pleases Lord Vishnu above all others. In India, no Hindu household is complete without a tulsi plant. This has been the case for thousands of years — tulsi is considered so sacred that daily puja ceremonies are performed for the plant. It is often grown near the front entrance of homes, and is believed to protect and bless all that live within. Special tulsi planters with deities on all four sides are used, and many grow multiple plants to form a tulsi “forest.” There are practical reasons for this — tulsi is believed to clean and purify the atmosphere and may repel flies and mosquitoes.
Legend tells us that the tulsi plant is the incarnation of a princess who fell in love with Lord Krishna, provoking the anger of his consort Radha. She laid a curse on the princess, turning
her into a plant, but was immortalized by the gods as a sacred herb. Many other tulsi stories can be found in Hindu mythology, but all conclude that the plant is a sacred gift to humanity from the gods. Every part of the plant is sacred — even the soil around a tulsi plant is considered blessed.
Historically, tulsi has been a multi-purpose adaptogenic herb. Ancient Ayurvedic manuscripts suggest fresh flowers for bronchitis; leaves and seeds mixed with black pepper for malaria, the entire plant for nausea, and skin salves for eczema. Tulsi has been used to make infused oils and tinctures, and topically as a poultice. Tulsi herbal teas have been used for centuries for anxiety, and the leaves even infused into vinegar.
Adaptogens for Adaptation
According to often mis-quoted Darwin, “It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” The age of technology has brought life to a hectic pace that can overwhelm the delicate human nervous system, and in order to not only survive, but thrive, we must find natural remedies to adapt to life’s demands.
Herbs for mood enhancement, stabilization and calming anxiety can be viewed as an example of nature’s intelligence and ability to provide solutions to the demands of life. Adaptogenic herbs offer a variety of natural remedies for mood enhancement, stress support, and endurance. And unlike modern pharmaceutical drugs and medications, these herbs have been used and cherished for millennia. The test of time demonstrates their efficacy and safety as natural mood enhancers. Next time life becomes overwhelming and you aren’t sure what herb is good for stress, consider turning to herbal ancient Ayurvedic medicine for a safe reboot with long-term benefits to boost your mood.
Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons