Naturopathic Health: Ocimum Sanctum for Stress Relief

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Dr. Jaclyn Chasse, N.D. is a licensed naturopathic doctor and the Medical Educator for Emerson Ecologics, a distributor of dietary supplements to medical professionals. Dr. Chasse’s clinical practice, Northeast Center for Holistic Medicine (, focuses on women’s health, pediatrics and infertility, with an emphasis on botanical medicine. Dr. Chasse is also a master gardener and spends her free time cooking, playing in the woods with her family and taming her small yard into an urban permaculture oasis.

I love practicing as a naturopathic doctor. I knew this before I even saw my first patient, but every day since has reinforced that for me. I have always been a nature-lover and a scientist, and the use of herbs as medicine allows me to take those two loves and apply them to help others. It is incredibly fulfilling. But even more than that, I am consistently surprised, taught and humbled by the plants that I use in practice. Like trusted friends, their potent actions exceed what I could expect of them. They go above and beyond to heal in ways that I would not have expected.

One example of this was with a patient who came in to see me for fertility. No clear medical cause for the couple’s difficulty conceiving could be found, but in speaking with them it was very clear that at least part of the problem was the incredible stress the couple was under. On top of the stressors of trying to start a family, they each had stressful jobs along with typical financial and relationship stressors. For the husband, the stress seemed to roll off his back, but the woman was clearly overwhelmed. She complained of anxiety and trouble sleeping, and felt like she was less effective at work and at home than she used to be. 

I ordered the testing that I typically run on couples who come in for fertility and started them on a basic multivitamin and fish oil. I also started the woman on holy basil (one of my favorite plants). Ocimum sanctum, also known as sacred basil, is a well known adaptogen that comes from the Ayurvedic tradition. It has been reported to support almost every system of the body including the cardiovascular system, the digestive tract and the endocrine systems. It is most famous for its effects on the hormones that manage stress–cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Holy basil is a versatile herb used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic healing.
Photo by Jaclyn Chasse

At their follow up visit a few weeks later, we met to discuss their laboratory test results. When I saw the couple again, there was a visible change in the woman. She reported feeling more grounded. Her anxiety had subsided and she was sleeping again. She noticed that whenever she forgot her holy basil, her feeling of being overwhelmed would creep back.

This plant has had a profound effect on her hormonal system, and I’m happy to report that the couple now has a 1.5 year old daughter. But the holy basil that the woman started on that first visit is what allowed her to heal and to be able to be more present in her own life. Pretty amazing for a little plant!

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