Indian Herbs: Tulsi-Holy Basil

Practitioners of Ayurveda medicine prescribe remedies on the basis of their attributes /quality. This includes,slow/sharp, oily/dry, cold/hot, slimy/rough, dense/liquid, soft/hard, static/mobile, subtle/gross, thick/clear, and heavy/light. The other aspects of classification of herbs are according to six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Taste is a therapeutic agent in Ayurveda. The diseases can be addressed through Ayurveda based on healthy lifestyle practices and regular consumption of appropriate genic herbs.

Plants and herbs re-establish our connection with the natural world. As we become competent in our understanding of Ayurveda Herbalism we deepen our relationship with ourselves, as well as with the natural world outside. Our relationship with the earth, through the healing herbs itself, is a remarkable healing experience. The significance of Ayurveda tradition is proven by its timelessness, where it presents practical guidelines for healthy living and illuminates the simple path to walk through life in accordance with the cycle of nature, and hence enhances the well-being and harmony of all human beings who adopt these practices in their life. Many simple herbs, which are easily available around us, can make a positive difference. Among these herbs, tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn) is a leading herb and scientific research is now confirming its beneficial effects.

Modern-day scientific research into tulsi demonstrates many of its benefits. Tulsi can be ingested, made into a tea and can be used for many other purposes in daily life.

Tulsi has been found to protect organs and tissues against physical stress from prolonged physical exertion, physical restraint and exposure to cold. It counters 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 has broad-spectrum action as antimicrobial and, it can be used as a hand sanitizer, mouthwash and water purifier as well as in animal rearing, wound healing, in the preservation of foodstuff and herbal raw materials.

It is considered as a holy plant in the Indian Subcontinent The stems, leaves, seeds and even the soil are considered holy and medicinal. Tulsi symbolises purity as it is known to purify or depollute the atmosphere and subsequently act as a repellent to mosquitoes, flies and other insects.

Botanical Information:

Tulsi is found throughout the semitropical and tropical parts of India as it grows wild in tropics and warm regions. It is widely grown in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and Sasangir National Park in India. Tulsi seeds germinate easily. The seeds are mainly sown in the spring season.

Tulsi is identified by botanists primarily as Ocimum sanctum (Krishna Tulsi variety). Belonging to the Lamiaceae/Labiatae mint family, other closely related species and varieties (e.g., Ocimum canum) are cousins. Within India, all of the basils are honoured as Tulsi.

Basils are native to tropical Asia, likely having originated in India. Robust Tulsi varieties readily grow wild in many areas of Asia and Africa. Tulsi is a bushy perennial shrub, usually cultivated annually from seed, although it can also be propagated from the tip or root cuttings.


Active compounds that have been identified and extracted are eugenol (an essential oil) and ursolic acid. Although Tulsi is known as a general vitalizer and increases physical endurance, it contains no caffeine or other stimulants.

Benefits of Tulsi:

Tulsi leaves, stem, flower, root, seeds and oil even the surrounding soil, are found to harbour beneficial endophytic fungi and are all medicinally useful.

The research provides impressive evidence that Tulsi protects and reduces stress, enhances stamina and increases the body’s efficient use of oxygen, boosts the immune system, slows ageing, and provides a rich supply of antioxidants and other nutrients. The data indicate that Tulsi reduces inflammation, prevents gastric ulcers, protects against radiation, lowers fevers, cholesterol and high blood pressure, enhances periodontal health, displays significant natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activity, improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients, and even repels mosquitoes and other potentially harmful insects. It would appear that Tulsi has preventative and curative potential.

Ayurveda classics mention that the juice of its leaves provides relief in cold, fever, bronchitis and cough. It is an effective remedy for acute respiratory disorders. It can be effectively used against insects and bacteria. In non-healing ulcers as a wound wash or wound applicant, it is used as a repellent for external germs. Used against indigestion, it is a potent antioxidant; the powder is used for treating mouth ulcers. Local application of basil juice is beneficial in the treatment of skin disorders. Used as an eyewash. Diarrhoea and vomiting respond favourably to the juice of basil leaves.

External effects:

It acts as germicidal, aromatic, energizer, and anti oedematous.

It is used as an external application in non-healing ulcer, oedema and pain.

Internal effects:

Digestive system-appetizer, carminative, helps in downward movement of Vata and acts as anthelminthic. Hence administered in Indigestion, vomiting, abdominal colicky pain, worm infestation and the seeds are used in diarrhoea.

Cardiovascular system: It acts as a cardiac stimulant, blood purifier, anti oedematous and hence administered in cardiac muscle weakness, haematological disorders and in oedema

Respiratory system: Rhinitis, cold and cough,

Urinary system: The seeds are used as a diuretic and administered in pyuria, dysuria, burning micturition, cystitis.

Integumentary system: Acts as deodorant used in dermatological conditions

Thermoregulatory system: Antipyretic, helpS subside intermittent fever.

Grandma’s remedies:

1. Take Tulsi leaves, Poppy seeds (khas khas) and Yastimadhu (liquorice) and ground them, take them with an equal quantity of sugar in warm water, which is helpful for dry cough and sore throat. Tulsi leaves can also be taken along with pepper and salt for sore throat, cough etc.

2. A hot mixture of tulsi, dry ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, and black pepper prepared in water can help with a chronic cold.

3. Oil prepared with tulsi and other herbs like black pepper, sindhav lavana, dry ginger, drumstick seeds and bitter gourd can be administered into the nostrils to ease breathing ailments.

Tulsi Tea:

In a cup of water, put a few dried Tulsi leaves along with a pinch of cumin seeds. Filter the decoction, add honey when decoction is lukewarm. Alternatively, lemon juice can also be added to this. Regular consumption may help to detoxify the skin.

The general vitality-enhancing property of tulsi supports and enhances the body’s natural capacity to maintain a state of well-being,

According to the ancient Indian scriptures, Tulsi is honoured as a herb that helps in bringing people closer to divinity or the universe.

– This article was published in AyurvedSutra magazine- Monsoon edition, Volume 3, issue— 11-12

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