Closely related to the culinary herb sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a plant with a rich history of use as a healing herb. Because this venerable herb has so many applications, it has become one of my favorites. I often include holy basil in adaptogenic tonics, and also find it useful for specific conditions, ranging from support for cancer and cardiovascular disease to improving skin health.

Native to India, holy basil is also known as tulsi, which means “the incomparable one.” Considered as sacred in the Hindu faith, most traditional homes and temples in India have at least one tulsi plant, which is used in prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being. In Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi is classified as a rasayana, an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and enlightenment and promotes long life.


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Most of you know that I enjoy cooking—my intention is to create food that is not only delicious, but deeply nourishing. As an herbalist, I’m especially interested in the health benefits of common herbs and spices used in culinary traditions around the world. My Italian heritage means that basil, oregano, and rosemary play a prominent role in our kitchen, but our shelves are filled with a wide variety of spices and herbs. One of my favorites is turmeric, a deep golden yellow powder that is best known as an ingredient in East Indian curries. Throughout history, turmeric has been valued as a spice, food preservative, dye (giving Buddhist robes their familiar golden color), and most importantly, as a powerful plant medicine. A close relative of ginger, turmeric grows in southern India, China, and Indonesia.


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I recently conferred with a patient who had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory type of arthritis that affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling and potential joint destruction and deformity. The standard treatment for the disease is high dosages of pharmaceutical drugs, including anti-inflammatories, steroids, and immune suppressive drugs. The danger is that although these drugs suppress symptoms and may keep the disease somewhat under control, they do not address the underlying causes. And the side effects of these types of drugs can be significant, including serious liver damage, increased risk for infection, and heart disease.


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If you believe the findings of a recent highly publicized research report, you may be wondering if you should throw your fish oil supplements into the garbage. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (September 2012), researchers who evaluated data from 20 previous studies maintain that neither fish oil supplements nor a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids effectively reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In my estimation, this is a seriously flawed evaluation of research. I’ve collected an enormous amount of data that strongly suggest multiple benefits from the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, including protection from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurological disease, and autoimmune disease, as well as for bone, skin, and lung health.


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