Ocimum sanctum L. (also known as Ocimum tenuiflorum, Tulsi) has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for its diverse healing properties. Tulsi, the Queen of herbs, the legendary ‘Incomparable one’ of India, is one of the holiest and most cherished of the many healing and healthy giving herbs of the orient. The sacred basil, Tulsi, is renowned for its religious and spiritual sanctity, as well as for its important role in the traditional Ayurvedic and Unani system of holistic health and herbal medicine of the East. It is mentioned by Charaka in the Charaka Samhita; an Ayurvedic text. Tulsi is considered to be an adaptogen, balancing different processes in the body, and helpful for adapting to stress. Marked by its strong aroma and astringent taste, it is regarded in Ayurveda as a kind of ‘elixir of life’ and believed to promote longevity.
It is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes and for its essential oil. Tulsi is an important symbol in many Hindu religious traditions, which link the plant with Goddess figure. The name ‘Tulsi in Sanskrit means ‘the incomparable one’. The presence of a Tulsi plant symbolizes the religious bend of a Hindu family.
Pharmacogn Rev. 2010 Jan-Jun; 4(7): 95–105. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.65323
Tulsi or Tulasi is a sacred plant for Hindus. Water mixed with tulsi petals is given to the dying to raise their departing souls to heaven. Tulsi, which is Sanskrit for "the incomparable one", is worshipped throughout India, most often regarded as a consort of Krishna in the form of Lakshmi. According to Brahma Vaivarta Purana, tulsi is an expression of Sita. There are two types of tulsi worshipped in Hinduism: "Rama tulsi" has light green leaves and is larger in size; "Shyama tulsi" has dark green leaves and is important for the worship of Hanuman. Many Hindus have tulsi plants growing in front of or near their home, often in special pots. Traditionally tulsi is planted in the center of the central courtyard of Hindu houses. It is also frequently grown next to Hanuman temples, especially in Varanasi.
In the ceremony of Tulsi Vivah, tulsi is ceremonially married to Krishna annually on the eleventh day of the waxing moon or twelfth of the month of Kartika in the lunar calendar. This day also marks the end of the four-month Cāturmāsya period, which is considered inauspicious for weddings and other rituals, and so the day inaugurates the annual marriage season in India. The ritual lighting of lamps each evening during Kartika includes the worship of the tulsi plant, which is held to be auspicious for the home. Vaishnavas especially follow the daily worship of tulsi during Kartika.
J. Nat. Prod. Plant Resour., 2012, 2 (1):39-48.
Mechanism of Action:
There are different mechanisms to describe the medicinal benefits of O. sanctum, like free radical scavenging, metal chelation, as well as immune modulation may act at different levels individually or in combination to bring about the radioprotective, chemopreventive, adaptogenic, antidiabetic effects etc.
Different parts of plant are used in ayurveda and siddha systems of medicine for prevention and cure of many illnesses like common cold, headache, cough, flu, earache, fever, colic pain, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, hepatic diseases, malaria fever, as an antidote for snake bite and scorpion sting, flatulence, migraine headaches, fatigue, skin diseases, wound, insomnia, arthritis, digestive disorders, night blindness, diarrhoea and influenza. The leaves are good for nerves and to sharpen memory. Chewing of OS leaves also cures ulcers and infections of mouth.
J. Nat. Prod. Plant Resour., 2012, 2 (1):39-48
Prophylactic Uses – Chewing tulsi leaves and mixing it in tea can prevent many diseases including diseases due to weather change:
• It has been found that Tulsi has excellent anti-malarial properties. Eugenol is the main constituent and it is responsible for its repellant property. Tulsi removes worms and parasites.
• Chewing of leaves before a meal helps stimulating the appetite, and a tea taken after a meal promotes digestion by increasing the flow of gastric juices, while reducing gas and bloating. Ocimum sanctum also reduces the chances of ulcers.
• A decoction of Tulsi leaves is a popular remedy for common cold in India. It is also given for fever along with the clove. It also lowers the uric acid levels and hence is considered as a potential anti-inflammatory agent. The leaves of basil are specific for many fevers. During the rainy season, when malaria and dengue fever are widely prevalent, tender leaves, boiled with tea, act as preventive against these diseases.
• Tulsi is an important constituent of many cough syrups and expectorants. It helps to mobilize mucus in bronchitis and asthma. Chewing Tulsi leaves relieves cold and flu.
• It is useful in teeth disorders and is also recommended as a remedy against pyorrhoea.
• It is a good source of antioxidants and offer substantial protection against free radical induced damage. Oxygen free radicals are natural physiological products, containing one or more unpaired electrons. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) may damage life important membrane lipids, proteins, DNA and carbohydrates. This damage has been implicated in the causation of several diseases such as liver cirrhosis, atherosclerosis, cancer, and diabetes etc.
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Antioxidant – The antioxidant activity of the flavonoids helps to reduce lipid peroxidation and it also has the ability to scavenge highly reactive free radicals.
Adaptogenic & Anti-stress - Tulsi is one of the most effective adaptogen known. The immunostimulant capacity of O. sanctum may be responsible for its adaptogenic action.
Immuno-modulator - Tulsi is one of the effective immuno modulator. It modulates both humoral and cell-mediated immune responses and GABAergic pathways may mediate these immunomodulatory effects.
Antimicrobial – Tulsi has antimicrobial activity which inhibits the growth of various microbial strains.
J. Nat. Prod. Plant Resour., 2012, 2 (1):39-48.
Hypoglycemic - Ocimum sanctum probably exerts its hypoglycemic effect by increasing the glucose uptake into cell. O. sanctum elevates the glutathione and antioxidant enzyme levels (SOD) and decreases lipid peroxidation, thereby suggesting that hypoglycemic effect of Ocimum sanctum may be linked and mediated through modulation of cellular antioxidant defense system.
Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, 2004, 19 (2) 152-155
According to a controlled trial over 35 subjects, O. sanctum is useful in the treatment of stress and depression in human and works as anxiolytic agent.
Nepal Med Coll J. 2008 Sep;10(3):176-9.
Tulsi has its religious as well as medicinal values. It is used for many problems since ancient time, like common cough, cold, fever, malaria etc. It has various other health benefits which make it useful in different diseases like diabetes, heart problems, infectious diseases, skin diseases and it also work as anti-repellant, immune enhancer, anxiolytic etc. Therefore, it is good to have any part of Tulsi plant; it will help you for your better health!