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Putting the holiest of spices, holy basil, to the test

Does holy basil really fight off all the health no-nos people claim it does?

SAN ANTONIO — With thousands of supplements on the market, it may be hard to choose which to take to solve any medical issue you may have. One of the not-so-well-known dietary additions we found is called holy basil.

"When you think about basil you often hear about sweet basil, but holy basil is a little bit different," said Laura Lomax, a registered dietitian. "It has different properties in terms of its flavor aroma, even in culinary uses and medicinal properties. (It's used for) for stress management, decreasing anxiety, helping with skin conditions and overall in decreasing inflammatory conditions, even in improving dental hygiene and dental plaque."

Well that sounds awesome, let alone useful. But there's one caveat to the basil: You can get it in the form of a raw leaf, a powder or pill, or as a liquid. 

"There are actually very limited studies done on it to see what the real impact is for different conditions," said Dr. Caitlyn Mooney, who specializes in pediatrics and sports medicine within the University Health System. 

But people are trying it anyway, including 29-year-old Roy Jimenez, who's currently working to obtain a liberal arts degree. 

He said he decided to try the herb in a pill form to reduce stress. It turns out petting his cat, Twinky, just wasn't doing the job.

So what stressed him out? 

“I have a 4.0 GPA and I'm trying to keep it like that. It was my first semester in college, I didn't know what to expect," Jimenez said. "I was worried about how my bills were going to get paid."

But the biggest stressor of all? Stage 3 testicular cancer, which left him wondering if chemotherapy was going to work. 

Thankfully, it did and the the cancer is gone, resulting in a huge relief for Jimenez.

But we also really wanted to know if the holy basil did anything to stamp out the stress he was feeling. 

“It took a couple of hours to kick in but I felt more relaxed, more mellow," he said. 

Now we head to the kitchen for the first recipe, Chicken Holy Basil. In addition to chicken and the liquid form of holy basil, you'll be needing sugar, soy sauce, black pepper, a measuring cup, vegetable oil and garlic.

You mix up the right amounts of all those ingredients, cut up and cook the chicken, and add about 30 drops of holy basil.

We decided to use a microwaved bag of rice pilaf to use as a bed for the chicken. When it was all done...not so bad!

Next we needed a drink to go with it. Any drink will work, but for our recipe you'll need holy basil, a glass and Powerade. Just add 30 drops of the holy basil and swig away.

Last, but not least, time to make holy basil toothpaste. For this recipe you'll be needing holy basil, baking powder and coconut oil. Mix the right amounts of baking powder and coconut oil into a paste, then add the holy basil. 

It didn’t taste so hot, but they say it fights off cavities and helps destroy plaque.

So there you have it! Chicken holy basil, a holy basil drink and holy basil toothpaste. But our dietitian had one last, very important piece of advice. 

“Run it by your healthcare team," Lomax said. "Because it actually has been found to interfere with some medications you might be taking."

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