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Both Holy Basil and Ashwagandha have a lot to offer and I’m a big fan of both of them. But since they’re so similar in many ways, it might be hard for some people to choose between them.
If that’s you, you’ve come to the right place.
I started this Supplement Comparison Series for that exact reason. In each article, I take two types of supplement and put them head-to-head on benefits, price, side effects, my recommendations, and more to help you figure out which one to use.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at Holy Basil vs Ashwagandha.
Let’s get going.
What is Holy Basil?
Holy Basil (Ocimum Sanctum) is a leafy, green plant native to India that’s been used for thousands of years to treat colds, coughs and other minor illnesses.
As the name suggests, Holy Basil has spiritual significance in Ayurveda.
In fact, Hindus see Holy Basil as one of the most sacred herbs there is, as it’s seen as the plant manifestation of Lakshmi.
(The Hindu Goddess of Wealth, Fortune and Prosperity.)
For this reason, many Indian families keep a Holy Basil plant in their homes, treating it with great care.
What is Ashwagandha?
Like Holy Basil, Ashwagandha is an ancient herb from India that has been used safely for thousands of years. And to this day, Ashwagandha is still used to promote feelings of calmness, vitality and strength in people (for good reason too).
Ashwagandha is formally known as Withania Somnifera. It belongs to the nightshade family of plants, which also contains well known vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines.
In the Sanskrit language, Ashwagandha’s name refers to the phrase “the smell of a horse”. This basically means that the Ashwagandha root smells like the sweat of a horse, but can give you the strength of a stallion…
(A fair trade off in my opinion.)
Benefits of Holy Basil
Holy Basil lowers blood sugar
High blood sugar levels can lead to mood swings, brain fog and low energy.
When you’re low on energy, you’re more likely to binge on unhealthy foods and have trouble concentrating and focusing during the day.
Over time, this can damage your health and possibly even harm your career, if your productivity levels are too low.
Not to worry though – Holy Basil has been shown to be effective at lowering blood sugar levels.
In a study performed on Type 2 diabetics, Holy Basil lowered fasting blood sugar levels by 18% and post-meal blood sugar levels by 7%.
Holy Basil improves anxiety
Did you know that over 40 million adults in the United States are affected by anxiety disorders?
This makes anxiety the most common mental illness in America.
Now for the good news…
Holy Basil has been clinically trialed in treating anxiety and has shown some really promising results.
A study revealed that in as little as 60 days, taking 1000mg of Holy Basil each day significantly improved anxiety, stress and depression in the subjects.
(Related reading: Do Cold Showers Help Anxiety?)
Holy Basil improves sleep quality
Nowadays, a lot of people suffer from insomnia and sleep deprivation.
This is partly due to chronically high Cortisol levels thanks to the stressful lifestyles we live.
(When your Cortisol levels are high, your body is in fight-or-flight mode which makes it difficult to fall asleep at night.)
And this is where Holy Basil enters the fray.
Research has shown that Holy Basil is effective at lowering Cortisol levels which will help calm your body in the evening, helping you sleep better.
(Related reading: Does Phosphatidylserine Improve Sleep?)
Holy Basil improves cognitive function
Thanks to Smartphones and addictive Social Media apps, human attention spans seem to be shorter than ever.
And with Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter probably not leaving us anytime soon, this problem will only get worse.
Thankfully, research has shown that Holy Basil can improve short-term memory and attention.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha lowers blood sugar
Like Holy Basil, Ashwagandha has been shown to be effective at lowering blood sugar levels.
A study on 12 participants investigated how their blood sugar levels responded to Ashwagandha powder.
After 30 days of taking Ashwagandha, the decrease in blood sugar was similar to that of a prescribed blood sugar lowering drug!
Ashwagandha boosts testosterone
Nowadays, many people have lower than ideal testosterone levels.
The reasons for this are widespread, including high sugar diets and excessive Alcohol consumption.
But low testosterone levels are catastrophic for both your physical and mental wellbeing.
To combat low T levels, you may want to consider supplementing with Ashwagandha as research has shown that it’s super effective at boosting your T levels.
Ashwagandha improves anxiety
Many studies have shown Ashwagandha’s ability to improve anxiety symptoms.
For example, a 2-month study had some participants take 600mg of Ashwagandha every day.
Compared to those who took a placebo, the Ashwagandha takers had a significant reduction in scores on the “stress test”.
Another study over 6 weeks compared anxiety levels in subjects taking either a placebo or Ashwagandha.
By the end of the study, 88% of people who took the Ashwagandha had less anxiety.
(Related reading: Does Phosphatidylserine Work For Anxiety?)
Ashwagandha helps increase muscle strength and size
One of the lesser known benefits of Ashwagandha is its muscle enhancing properties.
A study of 57 subjects looked at the relationship between Ashwagandha and muscle strength and size.
Some of the subjects took a placebo and the others took 600mg of Ashwagandha daily, split into 2 doses.
The results showed that those who took the Ashwagandha had greater increases in muscle size, muscle strength, fat loss and testosterone levels.
Holy Basil Cost
Holy Basil comes in many different forms, including tablets, powder, tea and essential oil.
Here are some typical prices you’ll find for each of the above:
- Tablets: $17 for 100
- Powder: $20 for 1lb
- Loose leaf tea: $30 for 1lb
- Essential Oil: $15 for 1/3 oz
Ashwagandha generally comes in the form of tablets or as a liquid extract.
Typical prices for these are:
- Tablets: $18 for 100
- Liquid Extract: $17 for 2oz
Holy Basil Side Effects
Reduced blood clotting
Holy Basil may slow blood clotting, which can increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. For this reason, it’s advised to stop using Holy Basil at least a couple of weeks before surgery.
Lower blood sugar levels
For the vast majority of people, lower blood sugar levels from Holy Basil are healthy.
But if you’re already taking medication to lower your blood sugar (i.e. Type 2 Diabetics), then you increase the risk of Hypoglycaemia. This is an extremely dangerous condition, so if you are taking medication to lower your blood sugar, then please consult your doctor before using Holy Basil.
Ashwagandha Side Effects
Although Ashwagandha supplements are usually well-tolerated, mild to moderate side effects such as sleepiness, headaches and stomach upset have been reported in clinical studies.
Lower blood sugar levels
Similar to Holy Basil, the blood sugar lowering effects of Ashwagandha are healthy in normal people.
But please consult your doctor before taking Ashwagandha if you’re already taking blood sugar lowering medication. Hypoglycaemia is a very serious condition and Ashwagandha may increase the risk of this.
The following people should NOT take Ashwagandha:
- Pregnant women
- People with stomach ulcers
- Those with high/low blood pressure
- People who’re allergic to Nightshade plants, i.e. Potatoes, Tomatoes, etc.
- People with autoimmune conditions, i.e. Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.
My Holy Basil Recommendation: Banyan Botanicals Tulsi
Banyan Botanicals Tulsi has been my go-to source of Holy Basil for many months now.
Since taking these tablets, my sleep quality has skyrocketed.
What I like about it
With each ingredient being Organic and from natural sources, these are arguably the highest quality Holy Basil tablets on the market.
They’ve worked great for me and the reviews are excellent, so many other people are having excellent results too.
As a bonus, Banyan Botanicals use ecologically friendly methods of farming and help support local farmers which makes a positive difference.
They’re not the cheapest tablets, but they’re definitely worth the price. There’s no doubt about that.
My Ashwagandha Recommendation: NaturaLife Labs Ashwagandha
This solid, high-strength and reasonably priced Ashwagandha supplement gets my gold star.
What I like about it
A great feature of this Ashwagandha supplement is that it contains Black Pepper extract.
Studies have shown that black pepper can aid the absorption of Ashwagandha, making it much more effective than other brands.
And like Banyan Botanicals Tulsi, this Ashwagandha only contains natural, organic ingredients so you don’t have to worry about nasty preservatives or anything like that.
It has fantastic reviews too which proves that it’s effective.
The recommended serving size is 3 capsules, meaning the bottle will only last you around a month or so.
(Assuming you take it every day…)
This isn’t a deal-breaker by any means though – the benefits of this supplement far outweigh the inconvenience of lasting only a month.
Holy Basil vs Ashwagandha: The Verdict
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this Holy Basil vs Ashwagandha breakdown.
These are both great supplements, and either would make a fantastic choice. They both come in at similar price points and offer plenty of benefits.
In reality, the only way to find out which one you respond to better is to try both.
But for a high-level guide to making this decision, here’s what I would recommend:
You might prefer Holy Basil if:
- You want to improve your sleep quality
- You want to improve your attention span
- You would rather drink tea then take tablets/capsules
You might prefer Ashwagandha if:
- You want to boost your testosterone levels
- You don’t mind the smell of horse sweat (ha!)
- You want to increase muscle strength and size
Hope this helped!