Ocimum sanctum (Holy basil), called Tulsi in India, is ubiquitous in Hindu tradition. Perhaps its role as a healing herb was instrumental in its "sacred" implication.
Ocimum sanctum(Tulsi) is perhaps the most common and most revered of all household plants in India.
Tulsi is an erect sweet -scented pubescent herb, 30-100cm in height , growing in abundance near cultivated field gardens and waste lands. Its leaves, seeds ands whole plant is useful.
Varieties of Tulsi
Krishna Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
Rama Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum),
Vana Tulsi (Ocimum gratissimum)
Energetics of Herb -Tulsi - Rasa -Katu( sharp) Tikta (bitter) , Virya -Ushna(hot) ,Vipak -Katu (sharp)
Ayurvedic practice recommends Tulsi in several formulations to enhance immunity and metabolic functions as well as in the management of respiratory problems (Shwas -Kasa).
Chemical Constituents - A variety of biologically active compounds have been isolated from the leaves including ursolic acid, apigenin and luteolin.
Tulsi medicinal properties / Uses:
- Pharmacological Effects In traditional Ayurvedic system of medicine,several medicinal properties have been attributed to this plant.
Recent pharmacological studies have established the anabolic, hypoglycemic , smooth muscle relaxant, cardiac depressant,antifertility,adaptogenic and immunomodulator properties of this plant.
- Antimicrobial effects Essential oil of Tulsi have antibacterial,antifungal and antiviral properties.It inhibites the growthof E coli, B.anthracis, M.tuberculosis etc. It's antitubercular activity is one-tenth the potency of streptomycin and one-fourth that of isoniazid.
Preperations containing Tulsi extract significantly shorten the course of illness, clinical symptoms and the biochemical parameters in patients with viral hepatitis and viral encephalitis.
- Antimalarial effects Essential oil of Tulsi has been reported to possess 100% larvicidal activity against the Culex mosquitoes. Trials have shown excellent antimalarial activity of Tulsi. It's extracts have marked incecticidal activity against mosquitoes.It's repellant action lasts for about two hours
- Antiallergic and Immunomodulator effects - Essential oil of Tulsi was found to have anti-allergic properties. When administered to laboratory animals, the compound was found to inhibit mast cell degranulation and histamine release in the presence of allergen. These studies reveal the potential role of Ocimum sanctum extracts in the management of immunological disorders including allergies and asthma.
- Antistress/Adaptogenic effects - Extracts from the plant have been found to reduce stress.
- Antifertility effect One of the major constituents of the leaves,ursolic acid has been reported to possess antifertility activity in rats and mice,This effect has been attributed to it's antiestrogenic effectwhich may be responsible for arrest of spermatogenesis in males and inhibitory effecton implantation of ovum in females.This constituent may prove to be a promising antifertility agent devoid of side effects.
- Anti diabetic effect - A randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over single blind trial on 40 human volunteers suffering from Type II diabetes was performed. During the four week trial, subjects alternately received a daily dose of 2.5 g of Tulsi leaves powder or a placebo for two week periods. The results showed 17.6 % reduction in fasting blood glucose and 7.3% decline in postprandial blood glucose on treatment with Tulsi as compared to the blood glucose levels during treatment with placebo
- For Heart ailments - As 'Tulsi' (basil) has a positive effect over blood pressure and also a de-toxicant,
its regular use prevents heart attacks. A tonic may be prepared by mixing 1 gm of dry 'Tulsi' leaves with a spoonful of butter and some candy sugar or honey.Take twice a day; first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night.
The drinking of Tulsi-leaf tea keeps the blood pressure even
- Other effects - The leaves in the form of a paste are used in parasitical diseases of the skin and also applied to the finger and toe nails during fever when the limbs are cold. The juice of the leaves is given in catarrh and bronchitis in children. The plant is said to have carminative, diaphoretic and stimulant properties. A decoction of the plant is used for cough and also as mouth wash for relieving tooth ache. It is good for headache, convulsions, cramps, fevers and cholera.
The drinking of Tulsi tea keeps one free from cough and colds and other ailments associated with 'Kapha' dosha in the body. This Tulsi tea is an instant pick-me-up (energy drink).
Today while learning and practicing Ayurveda and alternative medicine ; the knowledge of the Healing Herbs described in Ayurveda is very important.
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- 2. Rajasekaran, M. et al. (1989). J. Drug Dev. 2(3):179-182.
- 3. Banerjee, S. et al. (1996). Nutr. Cancer, 25(2):205-17.
- 4. Agarwal, P. et al. (1996) Int. J.Clin.Pharmacol. Ther., 34(9):406-9.
Dr.Sudarsan Prasad, Pune says - It gives a neat account of the medicinal uses. Although it doesn't go to the ligand/receptor level to understand the pharmacologic action of the ingredients like ursolic acid etc.,it is a good starting point. I benefited , because I am a learner of Ayurveda and I am amazed that a basic theory which only recognizes tridosha and it's balance could achieve so much in the absence of a detailed molecular picture.