Ursolic acid is one of the main active compounds in Holy Basil, an adaptogen we’ve seen in a few nootropic stacks and supplements (like Brain Awake by Irwin Naturals). Ursolic acid actually occurs in many foods, including apple peels, yerba mate, and some herbs and spices, though because Holy Basil contains a relatively high concentration along with other adaptogenic ingredients, it’s the extract we tend to see most. Some of ursolic acid’s research-linked impacts have little to do with brain function; in fact, it is more closely tied to increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass.
Holy Basil is an herb that’s been used for centuries in traditional ayurvetic medicine. It contains more than one active molecule, though some of its effects are likely tied to its high ursolic acid content. The compounds ocimarin and ocimumosides may account for much of the anti-stress or adaptogen effects. Holy Basil may also protect the liver against toxin damage, and like some other adaptogens, may help prevent cadmium accumulation/buildup within the body.
Ursolic acid has been linked to several side effects. Research indicates ursolic acid may actually be an anti-fertility agent and could reduce reproductive capability in the short term. Animal studies suggest it may inhibit spermatogenesis, though it has not been tied to long-term damage in the testes. It may also reduce sperm motility.
Optimal and effective dosages of Holy Basil, again, the main form of ursolic acid we’ve been seeing in nootropics, for humans are not presently known to a high degree of scientific accuracy, as most studies have been carried out on testing mice and rats.
As far as adaptogens go, most of the BrainWiz testers prefer Rhodiola rosea and Bacopa monnieri. Rhodiola especially has worked for us in several forms and stacks, and across research literature, relatively few side effects have been observed. (We take a closer look at Rhodiola and its relative lack of side effects here.)
If you experience any side effects from ursolic acid or Holy Basil extract, or if you have a condition that makes you especially sensitive to stimulants, impacts brain function, or causes adverse reactions to medications or supplements, it’s best to seek the advice of a medical professional before beginning any new supplement regime.
Image: By Mokkie (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons