The predominant cause of global morbidity and mortality is lifestyle-related chronic diseases, many of which can be addressed through Ayurveda with its focus on healthy lifestyle practices and regular consumption of adaptogenic herbs. Of all the herbs used within Ayurveda, tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn) is preeminent, and scientific research is now confirming its beneficial effects. There is mounting evidence that tulsi can address physical, chemical, metabolic and psychological stress through a unique combination of pharmacological actions. Tulsi has been found to protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals, and physical stress from prolonged physical exertion, ischemia, physical restraint and exposure to cold and excessive noise. Tulsi has also been shown to counter metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels, and psychological stress through positive effects on memory and cognitive function and through its anxiolytic and anti-depressant properties. Tulsi’s broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity, which includes activity against a range of human and animal pathogens, suggests it can be used as a hand sanitizer, mouthwash and water purifier as well as in animal rearing, wound healing, the preservation of food stuffs and herbal raw materials and traveler’s health. Cultivation of tulsi plants has both spiritual and practical significance that connects the grower to the creative powers of nature, and organic cultivation offers solutions for food security, rural poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and climate change. The use of tulsi in daily rituals is a testament to Ayurvedic wisdom and provides an example of ancient knowledge offering solutions to modern problems
Despite the many wonders of science and industry, modern life is fraught with stress. Mobile devices and the web have vastly increased the pace of life so that many people feel that they are now drowning in an ever-expanding ocean of data, while industrial agriculture has burdened us with increasing exposure to unhealthy processed and packaged food and a plethora of pesticides, food packaging materials and other toxic industrial chemicals. Urban dwellers are also faced with increasing wealth inequality, social isolation, excessive noise, air, water and soil pollution and disconnection from nature. Thus, while industrialization has led to longer lifespans and vast increases in human populations, it is now recognized that the greatest causes of death and disease on the planet are preventable lifestyle-related chronic diseases.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic of obesity, diabetes, cancer, dementia, depression and other chronic diseases caused by modern lifestyles and their associated lack of physical activity, high intake of sugar, fat, salt, alcohol and tobacco and exposure to a toxic cocktail of industrial chemicals. The solutions to this current health crisis are therefore more likely to be found in the homes and behaviors of individuals than in medical clinics, hospital or pharmacies.
Ayurveda and lifestyle medicine
As a science of life and the world’s oldest medical system, Ayurveda has a holistic approach to health and disease that focuses on preserving and promoting good health and preventing disease through healthy lifestyle practices. These practices include consumption of fresh, minimally processed foods, the use of Rasayanas (formulas) that eradicate ageing and disease, sophisticated detoxification practices and regular consumption of adaptogenic herbs that enhance the body’s capacity to maintain balance in the midst of a variety of stressors.
Ayurveda’s use of medicinal and culinary herbs draws upon India’s incredible biodiversity with a variety that is unsurpassed by any medical system; yet, of all the herbs used, none has a status comparable to tulsi or holy basil (Ocimum sanctum).
Tulsi: A potent adaptogen
Tulsi is an aromatic shrub in the basil family Lamiaceae (tribe ocimeae) that is thought to have originated in north central India and now grows native throughout the eastern world tropics. Within Ayurveda, tulsi is known as “The Incomparable One,” “Mother Medicine of Nature” and “The Queen of Herbs,” and is revered as an “elixir of life” that is without equal for both its medicinal and spiritual properties. Within India, tulsi has been adopted into spiritual rituals and lifestyle practices that provide a vast array of health benefits that are just beginning to be confirmed by modern science. This emerging science on tulsi, which reinforces ancient Ayurvedic wisdom, suggests that tulsi is a tonic for the body, mind and spirit that offers solutions to many modern day health problems.
Tulsi is perhaps one of the best examples of Ayurveda’s holistic lifestyle approach to health. Tulsi tastes hot and bitter and is said to penetrate the deep tissues, dry tissue secretions and normalize kapha and vata. Daily consumption of tulsi is said to prevent disease, promote general health, well being and longevity and assist in dealing with the stresses of daily life. Tulsi is also credited with giving luster to the complexion, sweetness to the voice and fostering beauty, intelligence, stamina and a calm emotional disposition.In addition to these health-promoting properties, tulsi is recommended as a treatment for a range of conditions including anxiety, cough, asthma, diarrhea, fever, dysentery, arthritis, eye diseases, otalgia, indigestion, hiccups, vomiting, gastric, cardiac and genitourinary disorders, back pain, skin diseases, ringworm, insect, snake and scorpion bites and malaria.
Considered as a potent adaptogen, tulsi has a unique combination of pharmacological actions that promote well being and resilience. While the concept of an “adaptogen,” or herb that helps with the adaptation to stress and the promotion of homeostasis, is not widely used in Western medicine, Western science has revealed that tulsi does indeed possess many pharmacological actions that fulfill this purpose.
The medicinal properties of tulsi have been studied in hundreds of scientific studies including in vitro, animal and human experiments. These studies reveal that tulsi has a unique combination of actions that include: Antimicrobial (including antibacterial, antiviral, anti fungal, antiproton, antimalarial, antithetical), mosquito repellent, anti-diarrhea, anti-oxidant, anti-cataract, anti-inflammatory, chemo preventive, radio protective, hepatocyte-protective, neuron-protective, cardio-protective, anti-diabetic, anti-hyperparathyroidism, anti-hypertensive, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, anti-pyre tic, anti-allergic, noninflammatory, central nervous system depressant, memory enhancement, anti-asthmatic, anti-intrusive, diaphragmatic, anti-thyroid, anti-fertility, anti-ulcer, anti-emetic, anti-spasmodic, anti-arthritic, adaptogenic, anti-stress, anti-cataract, anti-epidermal and anti-coagulant activities.These pharmacological actions help the body and mind cope with a wide range of chemical, physical, infectious and emotional stresses and restore physiological and psychological function.
Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is indigenous to the Indian continent and highly revered for its medicinal uses within the Ayurvedic and Siddha medical systems. Many in vitro, animal and human studies attest to tulsi having multiple therapeutic actions including adaptogenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, and noninflammatory effects, yet to date there are no systematic reviews of human research on tulsi’s clinical efficacy and safety. We conducted a comprehensive literature review of human studies that reported on a clinical outcome after ingestion of tulsi. We searched for studies published in books, theses, conference proceedings, and electronic databases including Cochran Library, Google Scholar, Em-base, Medline, PubMed, Science Direct, and Indian Medical databases. A total of 24 studies were identified that reported therapeutic effects on metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, immunity, and nonrecognition. All studies reported favorable clinical outcomes with no studies reporting any significant adverse events. The reviewed studies reinforce traditional uses and suggest tulsi is an effective treatment for lifestyle-related chronic diseases including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and psychological stress. Further studies are required to explore mechanisms of action, clarify the dosage and dose form, and determine the populations most likely to benefit from tulsi’s therapeutic effects.
In recent years scientists worldwide have realized that the effective life span of any antimicrobial agent is limited, due to increasing development of resistance by microorganisms. Consequently, numerous studies have been conducted to find new alternative sources of antimicrobial agents, especially from plants. The aims of this project were to examine the antimicrobial properties of essential oils distilled from Australian-grown Ocimum tenuiflorum (Tulsi), to quantify the volatile components present in flower spikes, leaves and the essential oil, and to investigate the compounds responsible for any activity. Broth micro-dilution was used to determine the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of Tulsi essential oil against selected microbial pathogens. The oils, at concentrations of 4.5 and 2.25% completely inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus (including MARS) and Escherichia coli, while the same concentrations only partly inhibited the growth of Pseudomonas oleaginous. Of 54 compounds identified in Tulsi leaves, flower spikes, or essential oil, three are proposed to be responsible for this activity; camphor, eucalyptus and eugenol. Since S. aureus (including MRSA), P. oleaginous and E. coli are major pathogens causing skin and soft tissue infections, Tulsi essential oil could be a valuable topical antimicrobial agent for management of skin infections caused by these organisms.
The use of medicinal plants in traditional medicine has been described in literature dating back several 1000 years (Chang et al., 2016). Books on Ayurvedic medicine, written in the Vedic period (3500–1600 B.C.) describe practices, including the use of medicinal plants, that formed the basis of all other medical sciences developed on the Indian subcontinent (Pattanayak et al., 2010). In modern complementary and alternative medical practice, plants are the primary source of therapeutics and each part of the plant, including the seeds, root, stem, leaves, and fruit, potentially contains bio active components (Jiang et al., 2014, 2015; Mandave et al., 2014; Sun et al., 2014). The main bio active components in medicinal plants are considered to be combinations of secondary metabolites (Singh et al., 2010; Wu et al., 2016). There are many advantages and benefits associated with the use of medicinal plants, the main ones being their cost-effectiveness and global availability. Their safety compared to other medicinal products and the lack of major side-effects are other clear advantages (Niue et al., 2011). However, plant metabolism is very variable and before medicinal plant extracts or products are approved for primary health care, they need to be standardized, subjected to stringent quality control and assessed to ensure their safety (Mantra et al., 2012; Ola rte et al., 2013).
Among the medicinal plants, aromatic herbs are a rich source of biologically active compounds useful both in agriculture and medicine (Mathe la, 1991; Cutler and Cutler, 1999). Of these, Ocimum tenuiflorum, also known as Ocimum sanctum, Tulsi, or Holy Basil from the family Lamiaceae has been described as the “Queen of plants” and the “mother medicine of nature” due to its perceived medicinal qualities (Singh et al., 2010). It has been one of the most valued and holistic herbs used over years in traditional medicine in India and almost every part of the plant has been found to possess therapeutic properties (Singh et al., 2010). Traditionally, Tulsi is used in different forms; aqueous extracts from the leaves (fresh or dried as powder) are used in herbal teas or mixed with other herbs or honey to enhance the medicinal value. Traditional uses of Tulsi aqueous extracts include the treatment of different types of poisoning, stomach-ache, common colds, headaches, malaria, inflammation, and heart disease (Pattanayak et al., 2010). Oils extracted from the leaves and inflorescence of Tulsi have been claimed to have numerous useful properties, including as expectorants, analgesics, anti-emetics, and antipathetic; stress reducers and inflammation relievers; and as anti-asthmatic, hypoglycemic, protectiveness, hypertensive, hypoglycemic, and noninflammatory agents (Singh et al., 2010).
Several scientists have examined pharmacological effects of Tulsi products obtained by different extraction methods, such as steam distillation, benzene extraction and petroleum extraction. Preshrank and Gupta (2005), reviewed all the scientific studies of the therapeutic significance of Tulsi and eugenol, a major component of Tulsi. These pharmacological studies may be helpful to establish a scientific basis for the therapeutic use of this plant, especially in regard to the pharmacological effect on the central nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, and the gastric and urinary systems.
Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) are the cause considerable morbidity and cost to the community. Major causes of these infections are Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas oleaginous, and Escherichia coli and SENTRY Antimicrobial Surveillance Program, 2009 (Dryden, 2009, 2010). Although infections are often mild or moderate in severity, severe cases may require hospitalization and treatment with oral or par enteral antimicrobial agents. For instance, in 1995 more than 43,000 patients required hospitalized for treatment of SSTI in Scotland and 300,000 in the US (Enron et al., 2003). In recent years, SSTIs have become more difficult to manage due to the increasing occurrence of multi drug-resistant pathogens. To avoid the expansion of multi drug-resistant pathogens clinically, it is essential to differentiate between SSTI which require antibiotic treatment and those that do not. A recent survey in Europe reported that a major percentage of physicians prescribe systemic antibiotics for the treatment of conditions, such as MESA-colonized ulcers or broken skin surfaces, that do require systemic antibiotics (Dryden, 2010). Essential oil or its components may be valuable agents for the treatment of mild or moderate skin infections or colonized ulcers, preventing progression to more serious infections and minimizing the unnecessary antibiotic use and the associated development of resistance.
The aims of this study were to (i) examine the antimicrobial properties of Tulsi essential oil, (ii) analyze the volatile composition of leaves, flower spikes, and extracted oil from Tulsi plants grown in Australia using headspace–solid phase micro extraction–gas chromatography–mass spectrometer (HS-SP ME-CG-MS), and (iii) after reviewing the literature, suggest which volatile compounds are most likely to be responsible for the antimicrobial activity of Tulsi oil. To the best of our knowledge this is the first analysis the Australian-grown fresh Tulsi flowers spikes, leaves, and the essential oil extracted from flower
The Health Benefits of Tulsi
Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), also known as holy basil, is a medicinal herb used in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine that originated in India. Closely related to culinary basil, tulsi is native to India and Southeast Asia.
Tulsi is considered an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens are plants that help to adapt the body to stress and boost energy. Tulsi contains a number of beneficial compounds including:
To date, very few studies have looked at tulsi’s effects on human health. However, preliminary research suggests that the herb may offer certain benefits:
As an adaptogen, research suggests Tulsi may relieve anxiety and improve moods. Several animal and laboratory have shown its effectiveness, but few clinical trials have been done.
In a 2008 study of 35 adults with generalized anxiety disorder, researchers found that taking tulsi in capsule form twice daily for 60 days significantly reduced levels of anxiety. Subjects also reported feeling lower levels of stress and depression.
A 2015 placebo-controlled trial of healthy adults found Tulsi may ease stress and also improve cognitive functions like reaction time.
Tulsi may help keep cholesterol in check, according to a 2006 study on rabbits. Although the study showed that tulsi had significant cholesterol-lowering and antioxidant effects, results also found the herb had no effect on diabetes. An earlier study, however, found tulsi lowered blood sugar in rats.
A 2017 literature review published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found tulsi shows promise in preventing a treating lifestyle-related chronic diseases, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and psychological stress.
The review of 24 studies that reported on the therapeutic effects of tulsi on metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, immunity, and nonrecognition found favorable clinical outcomes without any significant side effects. The researchers note, however, that more studies are needed to clarify the beneficial dosage for different populations.
In a 2009 study on mice, scientists discovered that dietary supplementation with tulsi and clove protected the animals’ lungs against colonization with Klebsiella pneumonia, a common hospital-acquired bacteria known to cause pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
A 2002 study on mice suggests that treatment with tulsi may provide protection against mercury-induced toxicity, which known to damage the central nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, and other organs.
Possible Side Effects
Like other supplements, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of tulsi due to a lack of research.
Tulsi may lower blood sugar and should be used with caution in people who have diabetes and are on blood-sugar-lowering medication.
Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should not take tulsi as it may affect reproductive capacity, possibly due to its ursolic acid content. Tulsi may increase testosterone levels.
Tulsi contains eugenol, a substance also found in the essential oil of cloves and balsam of Peru. While small amounts of tulsi may prevent toxin-induced damage to the liver, in greater amounts eugenol may cause liver damage. Overdose is also possible, causing symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, or convulsions.
Keep in mind that supplements haven’t been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.
Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.
Selection, Preparation & Storage
Tulsi is available in capsules, tinctures, powders, and as an herbal tea, and is sold in health-food stores and online. Also called holy basil, look for its scientific name (Ocimum sanctum) on the ingredients list.
Tulsi is often sold in combination with other herbs and spices and can be found in herbal tea blends promoting stress relief and energy. The herb itself is caffeine-free, however, it may be combined with other tea leaves that contain caffeine. If you are watching your caffeine intake, check the label to be sure it is free of caffeine.
Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. To ensure you are purchasing a quality product look for a trusted independent, third-party seal on the label, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or Consumer Lab.
Tulsi is considered an adaptogenic herb, plants that help to adapt the body to stress and boost energy. It is often found in preparations that contain other adaptions, such as ashwagandha, astragalus root, Siberian ginseng, and turmeric, that work synergistic ally to provide optimal benefits.What Are Adaptation Herbs?
A Word From Very well
Due to the limited research, it’s too soon to recommend tulsi as a treatment for any condition. It’s also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you’re considering using tulsi for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.