Globally, certain medicinal herbs are extremely popular and are touted as highly effective in treating a variety of problems. Basil leaves are ranked high among the popular varieties of herbs, and is used both as a medicinal ingredient and also as a flavoring agent in cooking in certain geographies. While the benefits and the uses of basil leaves may not require any introduction, it is necessary to understand that the leaves also result in undesirable effects, either out of overuse or as a reaction to other conditions or medications. Here is a detailed look at holy basil side effects and the best ways of mitigating the effects.
Overview of the herb
Before we look at holy basil side effects it is important to understand more about the leaves. Known scientifically/botanically as Ocimum tenuiflorum, basil leaves are one of popular medicinal herbs. The plant comprises green stems that could sometimes appear purplish, while the flowers and the blossoms are typically violet. The medicinal preparations make use of most of the parts of the herb – for instance, the leaves, the stems and the seeds are used in preparations. With the possible exception of the roots, every single part of the herb is used. In certain cuisines, the leaves are used as an exotic spicing ingredient to flavor the preparations. The varieties of basil used in cuisines are different from the varieties that are generally used for medicinal value. Basil varieties used for cooking are generally spicier than the varieties used in alternative/traditional medicinal preparations.
Use of basil leaves in certain conditions
To understand holy basil side effects, it is required to learn a little about its properties. Basil leaves are used for certain conditions mainly due to its property as an adaptogen. This refers to the property of any substance that helps the body to adjust and adapt to stress. The outcome of stress is unstable blood sugar levels, apart from other undesirable effects that impact the quality of life. The leaves of the medicinal herb are used for various treating conditions, and this includes an upset stomach, diabetes, and headache. Perhaps, the most common reason for use of the herb is the common cold. It is also used a natural topical application for treating ringworm and also as a mosquito repellent.
The leaves are known for specifically delivering positive outcomes in treating certain conditions. For instance, individuals report an increase in energy levels when on the herbs. Its properties help to improve specific functions, especially the gastrointestinal functions. It helps boost the immune system, and additionally helps to balance the hormone levels of the body. This balancing of cortisol levels is attributed to the stress management properties of the herb. Other qualities include the ability to bring down inflammation, and a clear improvement in the functioning of the brain.
Effects of basil leaves attributed to its properties
The properties of basil leaves are attributed to various properties of the medicinal herb. It possesses moderate to strong antioxidant properties, is adaptogenic, and by virtue of its anti- inflammatory properties has been used as an ingredient in traditional medicines. The herb has anti-diabetic properties and is often given to patients with stomach ache and diarrhea due to its antidiarrheal properties. One of the reasons for its use in treating cough and cold is the antitussive properties, while it is used as part of topical applications by virtue of its anti-pyretic qualities. Other qualities worth mentioning include the antimicrobial properties, and its use as an anti-coagulant. In addition to the antioxidant properties mentioned above, the herb also has properties that help it render protection to the organs including liver, heart and brain. Coupled with the adaptogenic properties, this gives the herb an anti—aging quality. Finally, basil leaves are also anti-arthritic, which makes it useful for patients with arthritis.
Commonly reported holy basil side effects
While benefits are public knowledge, and have been touted throughout the ages, it is important to take note of the various holy basil side effects. The herbs are not suitable in certain conditions and may react in some cases, which would have undesirable side effects. It is therefore necessary to take adequate precautions to mitigate the effects.
Iron content results in discoloration of teeth
By virtue of the high iron content in the leaves, the teeth are likely to get discolored when the leaves are chewed. This is precisely one of the reasons why the leaves are always instructed to be swallowed in traditional medicine. Practitioners of natural/traditional medicine fully understand holy basil side effects and hence advice individuals to avoid chewing of the leaves.
Caution to be exercised when taken along with other anti-diabetic medications
The medicinal herb has proven anti-diabetic properties, and diabetics on other medications are advised to exercise caution when combining both. As a result of the combined effect of the medication and the herb, the sugar levels are likely to dip down below the desired levels. This could impact the overall health of the individuals and is therefore to be avoided. Most individuals who take the leaves alongside medication are unaware of some of the potent holy basil side effects.
Estragol in the herb makes it unsafe for pregnant women
Among all holy basil side effects, perhaps the most serious or adverse side effect is the one on pregnant women. The herb can trigger uterus contractions that are dangerous in nature and could possibly result in a miscarriage. The impact on pregnant women and the embryo makes this unsuitable for use by pregnant women. Another adverse effect of the herb is the possibility of diarrhea and the impact on menstrual cycle of women. It is therefore important to seek medical advice before taking the leaves.
Effect on blood thinners
Other holy basil side effects that require attention is the impact on medications prescribed for blood thinning. By virtue of the anti-coagulant property, the herb will enhance the effect of other blood thinning medications. Consequently, the combined effect of medications and the natural medicine is likely to result in blood thinning to a level that is not safe and not intended. Individuals are therefore advised to take note of this effect and stop either the medication or the herb. A list of the medications is given in a subsequent section.
Liver damage when taken with pain killers
Despite its properties of protecting the heart, liver and brain, the medicinal herb poses a probable risk to liver health when taken alongside pain killers. The herb interacts with certain types of pain killer medications, including acetaminophen, and when both are taken for longer duration, the probability of impact on liver health is strong.
Effect of the herbs on male/female fertility
Holy basil side effects include an impact of the herbs on male and female fertility. It is therefore necessary to use the leaves in moderation. One of the biggest risks associated with the use of traditional medicine or alternate medicine is the perceived safety of the formulations. Most individuals are led to believe that natural medicine is total safe and that consumption of large quantities or portions would not have any adverse effect.
While the adverse effects of allopathy are noted and suitable caution is exercised, individuals do not use the same caution with natural medicines. Holy basil side effects on fertility include a possible reduction in sperm count and a reduction in the overall weight of organs with reproductive roles. For instance, studies have revealed that the leaves could impact the weight of the testes, the prostate, the ovary, the adrenal glands and the uterus. However, the bright side of these adverse effects are the reversible nature of the effects. This effectively means that the weight would be restored after the consumption of leaves are stopped for a month.
Possible overdose of aromatic oil – Eugenol
One of the primary constituents of basil leaves is Eugenol and individuals who consume large quantities of the herb are likely to end up with an overdose. This could result in possible poisoning effect. To put this in perspective, clove oil cannot be consumed in large quantities due to the strong presence of Eugenol. A similar effect is experienced in the medicinal herb due to the presence of the aromatic oil. Individuals who end up with eugenol poisoning may experience bouts of coughing with bleeding, an abnormal change in breathing rate, and discoloration of urine.
Specific drug interactions
Apart from holy basil side effects it is also necessary to take a look at specific drug interactions or contraindications of the herb. Individuals on certain medications are strongly advised against taking the herb as this could impact outcomes and cause adverse effects. Medications that are intended to be used as anti-coagulants are known to interact with holy basil and patients on the medications are to stay away from basil. The commonly and popularly used anti-coagulants include heparin, ticlopidine, warfarin, aspirin, enoxaparin, , clopidogrel and dalteparin among others. Similarly, individuals on medications that result in drowsiness as a result of the mechanism of action are also advised to avoid use of basil leaves.
Other drug interactions include medications that have a specific mechanism of action. For instance, medications that use the liver’s enzyme mechanism are likely to be impacted by holy basil side effects. Medications that are commonly used and are likely to end up with undesirable effects as a result of the interaction include diazepam and scopolamine. The amnesic effects of these medications could be impaired when the medicinal herb is taken along with the medications. Symptoms that are indicative of this condition includes heartburn, and feelings of nausea, that may or may not be accompanied by headache.