Ayurveda refers to tulsi or holy basil as “the incomparable one,” “mother medicine of nature” and “the queen of herbs”. Let’s take a look at the benefits, uses, research, and contraindications of tulsi.
It is revered as an elixir of life for both its medicinal and spiritual properties. It belongs to the mint family and has two main varieties1. The greener variety is called ‘Rama tulsi’ and the purplish variety is called ‘Krishna tulsi’.
Holy basil or ocimum sanctum, should not be confused with sweet basil, ocimum basilicum, which is commonly used for culinary purposes.
In Hinduism, tulsi is worshipped as a goddess and every part of the tulsi plant is revered and considered sacred, including the leaves, stem, flower, root, seeds, and oil.
Every Indian household has a tulsi plant which is used for spiritual and religious practices. Its strong eugenol laden smell is believed to repel mosquitoes, flies, and insects.
Fun Fact: Hundreds of thousands of tulsiplants have been planted around the Taj Mahal (India), one of the seven wonders of the world, to help protect the iconic marble building from environmental pollution and damage.2
Holy basil has a pungent, bitter taste, as well as light, dry and sharp properties, and a hot potency.
Tulsi2,1 is considered as the earliest herbs known to humanity that took up the significant role of managing health concerns like common cold, headache, cough, flu, earache, fever, colic pain, sore throat, asthma, hepatic diseases, malaria fever, wound insomnia, arthritis, digestive disorder, night blindness and influenza. The intake of the leaves of tulsi mau help enhance memory.
It is antimicrobial and antiviral in nature and helps reduce itching.
Tulsi extract is used in cosmetics for its antibacterial activity. Classified as a fragrant and skin conditioning agent, it is used in anti-acne preparations3. Tulsi helps prevent the look of wrinkles as it contains ursolic4acid. This compound further helps to retain elasticity in young faces. This very factor contributed to tulsi’s fame in the beauty and cosmetic industry and the very reason it is used in numerous face packs or face creams.
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Due to its Kapha and Vata pacifying properties, it is useful in combating dandruff, itching of the scalp, and the resultant hair loss. Holy basil helps in increasing hair luster. It also gives volume to hair and cures lice problem4.
Part used: Leaf, Root, and Seed
Dosage: Fresh Juice 5-10 ml, Root decoction 50-100 ml, Seed powder 3 g. Extract 300mg-2000 mg. Please note, the extract, roots, and seeds should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
An easy way to use tulsidaily is as follows: Take 10-12 tulsi leaves, wash them and shred them.
If fresh leaves are not available, take ½ tsp of dry tulsi leaves. Boil them in about 1 cup of water on a medium flame and reduce to half. Strain and enjoy!
You may add a little ginger and clove while making this tea for extra benefit. Avoid adding milk, as milk is incompatible with tulsiaccording to the Ayurvedic texts. Read on for tulsi’sproven benefits as seen in research studies.
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Modern research on tulsi benefits4,2
Holy basil's beneficial effects are found across quite a few categories of medicinal activities, including anti-bacterial, anti-acne, anti-stress, antilipidemic, antidiabetic, and blood glucose-lowering properties.
Research has shown strong antibacterial activity of the extract of holy basil.
Experiments have shown that tulsimay help manage bacterial infections such as urinary tract infections, skin and wound infections, fever, acne etc.
In another study holy basil oil was tested in trials as an antibacterial treatment for acne. It was found that tulsiis helpful in decreasing the inflammation associated with acne. Though, using holy basil with aloe vera gel, leads to an increase in acne due to the synergistic effect of these agents.
While modern scientific studies suggest that tulsiis effective in treating a range of stressful conditions, within Ayurveda, tulsi is more commonly recommended as a preventive measure to enhance the ability to adapt to both psychological and physical stress and therefore prevent the development of stress-related diseases
Reduction of fasting blood sugar was observed with the addition of Ocimum sanctum leaf powder to the diet of diabetic rats; uronic acid and total amino acids were also reduced.9
Having been granted “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) status in the United States of America by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), holy basil is well tolerated by most people.
Patients with known allergy/hypersensitivity to ocimum sanctum, its constituents, or to members of the lamiaceae family, should avoid using this herb.
Holy basil (tulsi) should be used cautiously in/by:
One should avoid taking milk with tulsias it is considered a bad food combination in Ayurveda. As such, there are no reports to date of toxicity with the use of holy basil. Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before taking tulsi.
Wash 10 to 20 fresh leaves of tulsiand make a pulp out of them. Add water to the pulp, about one cup, and add some spices like powdered dry ginger, cardamom seeds, and roots of pippali. Now add some sugar for taste and boil the mixture. The tea is ready. Do not strain but drink it while it is still hot. It is best to chew and swallow the cooked pulp of tulsi leaves after drinking the decoction. Take this decoction every morning. Tulsi tea might help cure various diseases, help stimulate appetite, and impart a feeling of freshness and vigor.
Cold extract of tulsi:
Grind 5-7 leaves of tulsi with 3-4 black pepper seeds with a little water till a thick liquid is obtained. This thick liquid is a cold extract of tulsi. You can drink it on an empty stomach every morning. Tulsi cold extract helps to soothe and strengthen the brain.
Cut a few bundles of onion saplings, including the leaves, into small pieces along with celery leaves small pieces, 1 cup diced carrots, 1 cup diced tomatoes, 1 capsicum, salt and pepper according to taste, some neem leaves, one spoonful of carom seeds, one spoonful of tulsi, and one spoonful of oregano. Add these vegetables in water and boil to from a vegetable stock
Add 12 to 15 tulsi leaves into boiling water along with some lemon grass (green tea), and 12 to 15 mint leaves. Allow to brew for 15 minutes, and then strain the mixture. It is a good idea to add a little lemon juice and honey to improve the taste. You can drink this every morning on an empty stomach. It helps stimulate digestion.
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