Is Holy Basil Considered a Nootropic?

holy basil

Holy basil is an herb with an aroma so sweet and sharp that many report feeling immediate reductions of stress and enhancements of courage after inhaling its scent. Because of this, it’s well known for its abilities to lift mood and reduce brain fog.

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) also goes by the name tulsi and is a member of the mint family. It shares its primary active constituent, eugenol, with clove bud essential oil, and as such, these two oils have similar aromas.1

Tulsi has a rich history in India, where it is considered sacred and has both spiritual and religious significance. Additionally, it holds the title of “elixir of life” in Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine in India. It’s this multi-faceted admiration that earned it the name tulsi, meaning the “incomparable one”.2

Traditional uses of tulsi over the years have included promoting longevity and balancing the body, as well as reducing headaches, inflammation, digestive troubles, skin diseases.

holy basilIs Holy Basil a Nootropic?

Today, holy basil is widely used around the world by those looking to relieve stress because of its role as an adaptogenic herb, a plant that helps the body adapt to stress.

One of the many strengths of holy basil is its ability to protect the body from the harm of the stress response without leading to feelings of fatigue or drowsiness. Many compounds that reduce stress do so with a sedative effect. It’s also known to boost physical endurance and overall vitality, and animal studies suggest that it may help to keep the mind sharp with age.

The ability of tulsi to protect memory and enhance brain function has led researchers to refer to it as a nootropic.3

Nootropic Benefits of Holy Basilholy basil

Protects the Body from Stress

Many health issues and diseases today, from mood disorders to heart disease, can be tied to damage caused in the body from the free radical and inflammatory damage induced by high levels of stress.4

Animal studies have found holy basil to prevent both acute and chronic stress-induced increases in stress hormones, as well as stress-induced changes in neurotransmitter levels.5

In one of these studies, holy basil extract was found to facilitate an increase in dopamine, which is thought to enhance the ability to cope with stress.6

Boosts Concentration and Memory

Acetylcholine (ACh) is a neurotransmitter that many refer to as the “learning neurotransmitter.” Sufficient levels of ACh are absolutely critical for memory recall and learning. Many popular nootropics work by reducing the breakdown of ACh, which increases the effects of ACh.

In preclinical studies, holy basil inhibited an enzyme responsible for the breakdown of ACh, acetylcholinesterase, thereby increasing levels of ACh in the brain.7

holy basilPotentially Prevents Cognitive Decline

Animal studies on the effects of tulsi in mice have led researchers to speculate that this herb may help improve symptoms in those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders.

In these studies, holy basil was found to protect against memory deficits caused by certain drugs, as well as protect against memory troubles linked to aging.8


Many of the benefits of essential oils on how people feel and think are due to the electrical signals sent from olfactory receptors in the nasal passages to the brain. These impulses have been found to impact memories, moods, and even the release of hormones and neurotransmitters.

The high concentration of eugenol and other bioactive compounds found in holy basil essential oil is thought to help boost mood and enhance cognitive function. Try experiencing aromatherapy in a room diffuser or in MONQ’s Healthy diffuser for a portable remedy to help make you feel refreshed.

PhotoCredits: Sayhmog/, Fecundapstock/, file404/


By Maddy Jenner

Maddy is a researcher and an essential oil advocate and loves learning about the intersection of these categories. She loves hiking, camping, exploring and being outside

Favorite MONQ blend: Vibrant

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The above information relates to studies of specific individual essential oil ingredients, some of which are used in the essential oil blends for various MONQ diffusers. Please note, however, that while individual ingredients may have been shown to exhibit certain independent effects when used alone, the specific blends of ingredients contained in MONQ diffusers have not been tested. No specific claims are being made that use of any MONQ diffusers will lead to any of the effects discussed above.  Additionally, please note that MONQ diffusers have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MONQ diffusers are not intended to be used in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, prevention, or treatment of any disease or medical condition. If you have a health condition or concern, please consult a physician or your alternative health care provider prior to using MONQ diffusers. MONQ blends should not be inhaled into the lungs.

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