Choosing the ideal herb for your particular needs can be challenging because so many incredible herbs are available that offer diverse health benefits.

So, how do you know which herb is better for you when some herbs, like Holy basil and Ashwagandha, offer many of the same benefits?

Learn more about Holy basil and Ashwagandha, including their differences, benefits, side effects, and dosages, and how you may want to consider this in your health routine.

Holy Basil vs. Ashwagandha – Their Difference

Ayurvedic medicine has introduced many powerhouse herbs that, even until now, are still available and ready to use for everyone’s consumption. Two of these herbs are Holy basil and Ashwagandha. Considered to be adaptogenic herbs or those that can ward off mental and physical stress in the body, both Holy basil and Ashwagandha can work by bringing homeostasis or balance to the central nervous system (CNS), achieving optimum health [1].

Holy basil vs. Ashwagandha, so what is their difference? Both holy basil and ashwagandha have been used for years in Ayurvedic medicine. Some of their key difference is that they vary in taste. 

Holy basil is a little spicy, like pepper or clove. Additionally, Holy basil is also typical in Thai cooking and is available in the form of beverages such as tea. Meanwhile, Ashwagandha, much like its literal meaning, does not offer the best aroma and, therefore, is not used in cooking. 

Let’s explore more about the benefits of holy basil and ashwagandha below. 

What is Holy Basil?

Holy basil is a popular native herb found in India and grows throughout Southeast Asia. It has purple flowers and green stems, and a purple tinge. Holy basil should not be confused with the typical basil we use in cooking pasta dishes, rather, it is most famous as a herbal supplement used in Ayurvedic medicine.

What is Ashwagandha?

Like holy basil, ashwagandha is another popular native herb found in Asia and the African regions. Ashwagandha is also called the Indian winter cherry and Indian ginseng. It is a small shrub with small, pale green flowers and red berries. Ashwagandha is part of the nightshade family, like tomatoes and potatoes. The roots of the Ashwagandha plant are similar to ginger or carrots. Ashwagandha is also popular as a herbal supplement in Ayurvedic medicine, and the roots are considered the purest source.

Holy Basil vs. Ashwagandha – Their Benefits

Holy basil got its moniker as “Mother Medicine of Nature” and “The Queen of Herbs” in Ayurveda [2]. This is because Holy basil’s healing properties are powerful in both internal and external illnesses.

Meanwhile, Ashwagandha is popular as Rasayana in Ayurveda, and their roots are believed to boost life span and energy both physically and mentally [3]. Additionally, Ashwagandha is the go-to herbal supplement in Ayurveda to support reproductive and sexual health.

Holy basil can also promote a healthy immune system and is known to manage fever, nausea, cough, and diarrhea. Meanwhile, Ashwagandha boosts physical stamina during physical exercise as it supports the muscles and lungs.

Holy basil and Ashwagandha are both used to support mental health and decrease anxiety and even depression. It is also noteworthy that these two plants can boost memory and cognitive skills offering strong brain health.

Holy basil and Ashwagandha are also popular when it comes to fighting off free radicals that are caused by oxidative stress in the body. 

Holy Basil vs. Ashwagandha – Are There Any Side Effects?

While Holy basil and Ashwagandha can support mental and physical health, there are also reported side effects of these two powerhouse herbs. Some users may experience mild nausea in using Holy basil due to the active compound called eugenol present in this herb. This is also one of the common side effects when using ashwagandha supplements. But on both occasions, these side effects are tolerable and likely to disappear when you stop using these herbs. 

Holy basil is not advisable to use if you’re taking anticoagulant (blood thinners) medicines, like Coumadin, Heparin, Aspirin, Plavix, etc. When taking Ashwagandha, it would be noticeable that people may experience its sedative effect, especially when taking sedative drugs like benzodiazepines and barbiturates. 

Ashwagandha and Holy Basil Dosages

Holy basil is available either as a tea or pill. The average daily dose of Holy basil falls between 300 and 2,000 mg per day, depending on the user’s needs. Ashwagandha supplements are available in capsule or powdered form. The average daily dose of Ashwagandha ranges between 250 and 600 mg per day based on the user’s health goals. 

Bottomline: Holy Basil vs. Ashwagandha

Holy basil and Ashwagandha are both used in Ayurvedic medicine known for their adaptogenic properties. This means these two herbs can boost the immune system, mental, and even physical health. Although they are popular in Ayurvedic medicine, it is still important to note that they are still deemed supplements; which FDA has no clear guidelines until now. Always consult with your healthcare professional to ensure that you only get take the right amount of dosage depending on your needs.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking

  • Panossian A, Wikman G. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Jan 19;3(1):188-224. doi: 10.3390/ph3010188. PMID: 27713248; PMCID: PMC3991026.
  • Cohen MM. Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014 Oct-Dec;5(4):251-9. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.146554. PMID: 25624701; PMCID: PMC4296439.
  • Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, Gilca M. An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(5 Suppl):208-13. doi: 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9. Epub 2011 Jul 3. PMID: 22754076; PMCID: PMC3252722.

Charish is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian (RDN) who really enjoys helping her readers understand their dietary habits better. She has impressive experience and knowledge about the nutritional values of various foods and ingredients and enjoys informing her readers about popular diets, supplements, and herbs. Charish harnesses her nutritional expertise to inspire and empower people to make positive, healthy changes through what they eat (and drink!). LinkedIn