Can Basil Help Ease Asthma?

If you cook with a lot of basil, did you know that you could be getting more advantages than just the great flavor?

The basil herb, which is a member of the mint family, is known in many countries for its numerous health benefits, including relieving respiratory disorders such as asthma. But while much anecdotal evidence exists, the research exploring whether using basil truly improves respiratory diseases is still limited. Nonetheless, many people have been relying on herbs for centuries to treat a variety of bronchial conditions with great success.

The Facts about Basil

When you read or hear about basil, you may not realize how many different varieties exist. And while most of them seem to have important health effects, one of the most powerful varieties is holy basis, which is also referred to as Ocimum sanctum or Tulsi (in Hindi).

The benefit of this and other herbs in the basil family is believed to come from the antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral effects. In addition, the essential oils and phytonutrients contained in this and other kinds of basil can help to loosen congestion and lessen related asthma symptoms.

Using Basil as Asthma Remedies in Animals

Some research efforts done using an extract of holy basil to treat asthma in animals confirms some of these effects. One such study was performed by scientists in India and was included in 1983 by the journal published by the Indian College of Allergy and Applied Immunology.  The researchers credit this health benefit to the fact that holy basil can prevent bronchial airways from narrowing and going into spasms.

Asthma Remedies in People

To find out if the same benefits also play out in humans, the Indian researchers also tried giving holy basil to people who suffer from asthma for a one-month period. As with the animals, the breathing ability of participants did improve and the number of asthma attacks did go down, too.

Personal Asthma Remedies: Is Basil for You?

Perhaps you're tempted to use basil to treat your own asthma symptoms. The fact is that it may be worth a try, but there're a few precautions it's important to know before you take this approach. First, always check with your allergist to make sure herbal remedies will be a good option for you and if so, to get some guidance on how, and how much, you can safely use. You should also make sure to continue using your traditional asthma medications and following your asthma action plan, unless your doctor says it's okay to change anything.

Also keep in mind that there are also some people who shouldn't use some, or all, basil's products. For instance, pregnant woman may need to avoid taking basil's essential oil to treat any health conditions, although cooking with the herb shouldn't cause any ill effects. People with diabetes should also consult with their doctors before using this herb for its medicinal effects. Finally, if you have any allergy to basil, remember that using this herb can make you feel worse, instead of better.


NaturalTherapy Center

University of Michigan Health System