Holy Basil or Tulsi are names for the Ocimum tenuiflorum plant, also sometimes given the scientific name Ocimum sanctum. Its biological name is Ocimum basilicum and in some countries it is also known as ‘Saint Joseph’s Wort’. Basil is native throughout the Eastern World tropics and widespread as a cultivated plant and an escaped weed. Native to and widespread in tropical regions of Asia, the holy basil plant has a long history of cultivation and use both as a medicinal plant, a seasoning, and as an herbal tea. It is widely known across South Asia as a medicinal plant and an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda. Holy basil tea has been used for more than 5,000 years in India, where the herb is regarded as the queen of herbs. Basil is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is the sacred ‘Queen of Herbs’ of India. It has been a principal herb in the ancient holistic healing system of Ayurveda for over 5000 years. For centuries, the dried leaves have been mixed with stored grains to repel insects.
Ocimum tenuiflorum, also known as Holy Basil, Basil, tulsi or Sweet Basil, is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae. This herb from the mint family features as a cooking herb mostly in Italian and Asian cuisine.
Basil has a distinct anise-like flavor. It is an aromatic herb-shrub grown in temperate climates. But besides just adding taste to your cooking dishes, basil has several health benefits as well. The two main morphotypes cultivated in India and Nepal are green-leaved (Sri or Lakshmi Basil) and purple-leaved (Krishna Basil). It is an erect, much branched sub shrub, 30–60 cm tall with hairy stems and simple, opposite, green leaves that are strongly scented. Leaves have petioles, and are ovate, up to 5 cm long, usually slightly toothed. A few leaves dropped in drinking water or food-stuff can purify it and can kill germs in it. The flowers are purplish in elongate racemes in close whorls. Over time, scientists learned that Tulsi’s unique chemistry is highly complex. The Tulsi herb contains hundreds of beneficial compounds known as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant compounds containing protective and health promoting properties. Working together, these compounds possess potential antioxidant, adaptogenic, and immune-enhancing properties that can help promote your general health. The essential oils in Tulsi leaves are a particularly rich source of these phytochemicals. Some of the main chemical constituents of tulsi are: oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, carvacrol, linalool, β-caryophyllene (about 8%), β-elemene (c.11.0%), and germacrene D (about 2%).
Health Benefits of Basil Tea
In fact, the Basil tea is believed to provide so many health-giving benefits that the plant is commonly called “Tulsi,” which translates from Sanskrit to mean “incomparable one.” Organic tulsi tea is recognized as having significant health benefits. Tulsi tea is prepared from the tulsi leaf. Holy basil extract or tulsi extract can be added to tea mixes, juice, or water. Tulsi is caffeine free like other herbal infusions and contains vitamins A and C, calcium, zinc, iron and chlorophyll. Fresh basil is the best, but if that is not available, even dried basil can be used as a substitute. It serves as an added mineral benefit when included in everyday cooking. Nutrients in basil include iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, magnesium, potassium and some dietary fiber. In two teaspoons of dried basil, you will get 7 calories. Basil is high in iron and can be included in daily diet so that there is higher blood production.
Diabetes is one of the few areas where holy basil has been formally tested in people. In a 2004 study, also published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, a research team led by Jyoti Sethi reported that holy basil significantly reduced blood sugar levels in albino rabbits after 30 days of supplementation with the fresh leaf at a daily dose of 2g per kilogram of body weight. In a recent study of forty patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), people taking two and one-half grams of dried Tulsi leaf powder every morning showed significant reductions in their blood glucose levels first thing in the morning as well as after their meals. Since holy basil also demonstrated an ability to inhibit free radicals, the researchers concluded that the beneficial effect on glucose levels is due to the antioxidant properties of the herb. The essential oils help the pancreas to improve its function and produce insulin more effectively. Diabetics need to include this herb as a part of their everyday diet by adding it to salads, sandwiches, soups and even chewing a few leaves by themselves. Diabetics can take up to 2.5 grams of dried holy basil but this is not meant to replace medication and should not be taken as a substitute.
For Heart Care
Although many foods you eat contain antioxidants, today’s poor diets likely don’t provide you with the free radical scavengers you need. More recent studies of holy basil are starting to reveal a valuable benefit: cholesterol support. It appears to be capable of lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The Holy Basil contains vitamin-C and other anti oxidants such as Eugenol which protect the heart from harmful effects of free radicals. Eugenol, a component in its essential oils, is very beneficial in reducing cholesterol from blood. This herb also has magnesium in it, which is known to reduce cholesterol. Not only does Tulsi help ease your everyday stress, which in turn helps protect your heart, but holy basil may also help usher bad cholesterol out of your body before it has the chance to be absorbed.
Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are atoms that are missing the required number of electrons within it. The natural response to this condition is for an atom to steal electrons from another atom. If it does so, then the atom from which it steals becomes a free radical itself. Ultimately the chain reaction will damage or destroy the human cell of which atoms are a core part. Antioxidants (certain vitamins) solve this problem by donating one of their own electrons to a free radical. This neutralizes it and puts a stop to the chain reaction of atoms stealing electrons from other atoms. Cell health is therefore protected. Vitamin-C, A, Phytonutrients and the essential oils in it are excellent anti oxidants and protects the body from nearly all the damages caused by the free radicals. Tulsi contains all this. It even contains beta carotene which counteracts the effect of free radicals. Tulsi, thus, is an anti-ageing herb.
For Fever, Cold and Cough
A decoction of the leaves, with honey and ginger is an effective remedy for influenza, cough and cold. A decoction of the leaves, cloves and common salt also gives immediate relief in case of influenza. They should be boiled in half a liter of water till only half the water is left and add then taken. In case of acute fevers, a decoction of the leaves boiled with powdered cardamom in half a liter of water and mixed with sugar and milk brings down the temperature. Actually, fever is not an ailment in itself. It is just a symptom which shows that our body is fighting against infections. Fever is mainly caused due to infections from protozoa (in case of malaria), bacteria (typhoid), viruses (flu) and even allergic substances and fungus. Holy Basil is an excellent anti biotic, germicidal, fungicidal and disinfectant and very efficiently protects our body from nearly all sorts of bacterial, viral and fungal infections. The tremendous disinfectant, germicidal and fungicidal properties of Tulsi destroys all these pathogens discussed above and heals fever. The miraculous healing properties of Holy Basil come mainly from its essential oils and Phytonutrients. During the rainy season, when malaria and dengue fever are widely prevalent, tender leaves, boiled with tea, act as preventive against theses diseases. The juice of Basil leaves can also be used to bring down fever. Extract of Basil leaves in fresh water should be given every 2 to 3 hours. In between one can keep giving sips of cold water. In children, it is every effective in bringing down the temperature.
In one study, holy basil was found to help reduce asthma symptoms. Tulsi is very beneficial in Asthma as it relieves congestion and facilitates breathing. The Phytonutrients and the essential oils, with help from other minerals in it, helps cure the causes of asthma also.
For Respiratory Disorders
The herb is useful in the treatment of respiratory system disorder. Basil is an important constituent of many Ayurvedic cough syrups and expectorants. It helps to mobilize mucus in bronchitis and asthma. The compounds like vitamin-C, Camphene, Eugenol and Cineole present in the essential oils of Tulsi help not only to cure the infections in lungs but also to cure congestion of the lungs. They are also found effective in healing damages caused to the lungs due to smoking, tuberculosis, lung cancer etc. Due to its anti biotic properties they herb even helps to cure tuberculosis . The Basil leaves promote the removal of the catarrhal matter and phlegm from the bronchial tube. Take 7 tulsi leaves coarsely cut. and add 5 coarsely ground cloves. Add 100 ml water to this and simmer on low heat till 50 ml water remains. Strain this in a cup add rock salt to taste. Drink this hot.
For Digestive Disorders
One of Tulsi’s traditional uses has been in the treatment of digestive disorders ranging from heartburn to bloating. S. Singh and D.K. Majumdar of the University of Delhi studied the effects of holy basil oil on the ulcerations and gastric secretions in ulcer-induced rats. Studies in animals have suggested that there is a scientific basis to these longstanding claims. The results, which were published in the April 1999 issue of Journal of Ethnopharmacology, showed that holy basil effectively countered the formation of ulcers caused by a variety of contributing factors, including alcohol and aspirin. Holy basil has been shown to have significant anti-ulcer activity. It reduces the effect of peptic acid or irritating drugs on the stomach lining and increases the production of protective stomach mucous. Take 20 tulsi leaves, 5 whole black peppercorns. Chew both together after meals. It relieves indigestion. The leaves strengthen the stomach and induce copious perspiration. For hiccups: To 12 grams tulsi juice add 6 grams honey. Mix this and drink. It stops hiccups. Basil is often used in tonics for digestion and is known to reduce and even prevent indigestion. Including basil regularly in the diet can even help prevent acid reflux.
For Kidney Stones
Basil is used for reducing kidney stones and to heal kidney infection. Acetic acid and certain components in its essential oils also facilitate dissolution of the stone. Tulsi, being a detoxifier and a mild diuretic in nature, help reduce uric acid level (main culprit as far as kidney stones are concerned) concentration in the blood as well as helps cleaning of the kidneys through urination. Basil juice with honey is a commonly used home remedy to dissolve kidney stones. This concoction can reduce the stones so that they can become easy to pass or even completely dissolve them. Basil has strengthening effect on the kidney. In case of renal stone the juice of basil leaves and honey, if taken regularly for 6 months it will expel them via the urinary tract. It also has pain-killer effects and help bear the pain from kidney stones. These home remedies should not be considered a substitute for actual treatment.
Tulsi is known as an adaptogen, or anti-stress agent, helping our bodies “adapt” to different forms of stressors (environmental, physical, mental, emotional). The herbal tulsi tea—with a taste similar to cloves—delivers nature’s most sought-after adaptogen. Adaptogenic herbs help the body naturally cope with stress. An adaptogen improves the body’s ability to adapt to and cope with stress. A study published in the September 2007 issue of Journal of Natural Products reported that several ocimumoside compounds in holy basil were observed to stabilize various biological activities in stress-induced rats. Alcohol extracts of this herb showed significant anti-stress activities in mice exposed to acute and chronic noise stress. Recent studies have shown that the Basil leaves afford significant protection against stress. Vitamin-C and other anti oxidants in Holy Basil, apart from repairing damages done by the free radicals, also minimize the stress induced by these oxidants. Use of holy basil prevented increased corticosterone levels that indicate elevated stress levels. It lessens significantly the negative effect of stress on the body and mind, caused by mental tension, emotional problems, disease, pollution and many other common life events. It soothes nerves, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation and thus reduces stress. In addition to its ability to dampen the chemical changes of stress, holy basil also appears to influence the neurochemistry of the brain in a manner similar to antidepressant medications. The antioxidant properties of holy basil may also underlie its effectiveness in dampening the effects of stress on the physiology.
For Skin Disorders
Basil cures skin disorders internally and externally, without any side effects. This property mainly comes from its essential oils which are highly anti biotic, disinfectant, anti bacterial and anti fungal in nature. Camphene in it also gives a soothing cooling effect. External application on the skin also removes extra oil from the skin surface. It is also an effective home remedy for eczema. Squeezed or crushed leaves when applied on itchy skin can provide relief from symptoms of eczema. Applied locally, basil juice is beneficial in the treatment of ringworm and other skin diseases. It has also been tried successfully by some naturopaths in the treatment of leucoderma. For Leucoderma, apply Tulsi oil 2-3 times a day on the affected areas. Basil is even used for the treatment of acne because of its anti inflammatory properties. The linolenic acid in it helps control the pimple and even blemishes or blackheads. A daily bath with decoction of Holy Basil mixed with your bathing water, or washing your face with it or simply applying the paste of its leaves on infected area of the skin in case of skin diseases or simply consuming Tulsi leaves, keeps your skin free from all infections.
For Dental and Oral Care
The herb is useful in teeth disorders. Its leaves, dried in the sun and powdered, can be used for brushing teeth. It can also be mixed with mustered oil to make a paste and used as toothpaste. This is very good for maintaining dental health, counteracting bad breath and for massaging the gums. It is also useful in pyorrhea and other teeth disorders. Tulsi is an excellent mouth freshener and oral disinfectant and its freshness lasts very long in the mouth. Holy Basil destroys more than 99 percent of the germs and bacteria in the mouth and this effect lasts long. It also cures ulcers in the mouth. It is also known to help inhibit growth of oral cancer caused by chewing tobacco etc. A few leaves chewed will cure these conditions. Holy Basil destroys bacteria which are responsible for dental cavities, plaque, tartar, bad breath etc. and protects teeth. It also has astringent properties which make the gums hold the teeth tighter thereby protecting them from falling. Tulsi also has certain compounds mercury (having rich germicidal properties) which can be harmful for the teeth if kept in direct contact for a long. Hence it is advised to avoid chewing of these leaves.
Against Radiation Damage
Tulsi also shows some promise for protection from radiation poisoning. It has anti-oxidant properties and can repair cells damaged by exposure to radiation. A water extract of holy basil protected mice against radiation damage to the liver and chromosome damage to the cells. Components of holy basil consistently limit the damage that radiation causes to the bone marrow and digestive tract in animals. When the cells were looked at microscopically, those animals that received holy basil had less chromosomal damage than those that received a placebo. A number of studies have looked at the ability of holy basil to protect healthy cells from the toxicity associated with radiation and chemotherapy for cancer. It prevented this damage by reducing hepatic lipid perioxidation and increasing the presence of two powerful cellular antioxidants: superoxide dimutase and superoxide catalase. Holy basil has been shown to protect the heart from damage caused by a widely used chemotherapy drug, adriamycin. It seems to work by protecting components of heart and liver cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals generated by the chemotherapy.
Basil is also known to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. Basil can restrict the growth of bacteria like staphylococcus aureus, E.coli and P.aeruginosa. Basil oil, in small concentrations, is also known to reduce Shigella, a bacterial infection known to cause diarrhea and possible intestinal damage. This protection is from the oils with flavonoids that exist in the basil, like linalool, cineole, eugenol, myrcene and limonene. If basil is not available, you can use basil oil.
Basil makes a good medicine for headache. A decoction of the leaves can be given for this disorder. Camphene, Eugenol, Cineol, Carvacrol and Methyl-Chavicol have excellent analgesic, sedative, anti congestive and disinfectant properties. Pounded leaves mixed with sandalwood paste can also be applied on the forehead for getting relief from heat, headache, and for providing coolness in general. Headaches caused due to migraine, sinus, cough and cold, high blood pressure etc. can be effectively controlled by the use of a single Tulsi.
For Enhancing Immunity
Experimental studies have shown an alcoholic extract of tulsi modulates immunity, thus promoting immune system function. Grind 6 Tulsi leaves. Take this with 1 spoon honey once a day. It improves immunity against various diseases. Adding to its potential value in the prevention and treatment of cancer, holy basil has also been shown to enhance different aspects of the immune response in animals. An immuno-modulator strengthens the body’s immune system and makes it more efficient in overcoming disease causing agents such as viruses, bacteria, microbes and allergens. In doing so health is protected and maintained. Studies have shown holy basil to have a protective effect against chemical carcinogens.
Drinking holy basil tea on a regular basis may help to relieve pain, according to a review published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology in 2005. The authors, P. Prakash and Neelu Gupta, propose that the presence of eugenol in holy basil may act like a selective COX-2 inhibitor. This means that this substance works the same way as modern painkillers to target and suppress the COX-2 enzyme responsible for causing inflammation and pain.
For Hair Loss
Basil is used even in treating hair loss. It increases blood flow to the roots and is therefore used in a number of gels and tonics for hair growth. Basil helps the hair root, strengthens the hair shaft, provides antioxidants and moisture to the hair follicles, all of which improve hair strength and quality.
Basil also soothes eyes and reduces stress. Just wash your eyes daily with a few leaves of basil soaked in water and you will be free from conjunctivitis, boils and many other problems of eyes which are caused due to viral, bacterial or fungal infection. Basil juice is an effective remedy for sore eyes and night-blindness, which is generally caused by deficiency of vitamin A. Two drops of black basil juice are put into the eyes daily at bedtime. A regular consumption can protect your eyes from all the damages done by the free radicals, such as cataract, macular degeneration, glaucoma, vision defects, opthalmia etc. due to the high anti oxidant properties of its essential oils, vitamin-A, vitamin-C etc. Tulsi also shows some promise for protection from Cataract.
Holy basil oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Several studies have demonstrated that constituents of holy basil can neutralize free radicals and inhibit the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. An animal study found an extract of holy basil to be essentially equivalent to a standard dose of aspirin.
For Insect Bites
The herb is a prophylactic or preventive and curative for insect stings or bites. A teaspoonful of the juice of the leaves is taken and is repeated after a few hours. Fresh juice must also be applied to the affected parts. A paste of fresh roots is also effective in case of bites of insects and leeches. Rubbing basil leaves or oil extracted from it on the body keeps mosquitoes and other insects away.
In addition to its anti-stress benefits, in vitro studies indicate that holy basil may act as a natural COX-2 inhibitor. This is good news for those of you looking for natural joint support, as it means holy basil can help keep your muscles and joints working comfortably. Regular consumption of basil can help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.
For Brain Health
In animal studies, pretreatment with methanol extracts of holy basil reduced brain damage caused by reduced cerebral circulation. The leaves are a nerve tonic and also sharpen memory.
For Chicken Pox
If pustules of chicken pox delay their appearance, basil leaves taken with saffron will hasten them.
Common pediatric problems like cough cold, fever, diarrhea and vomiting respond favorably to the juice of basil leaves.
For Ear Pain
Warm some tulsi juice. Put 4 drops in the affected ear. Stops pain. If there is discharge from the ear, continue this for some days.
For Sore Throat
Water boiled with basil leaves can be taken as drink in case of sore throat. This water can also be used as a gargle.
Preparation of Basil Tea
Take a small whole tulsi plant along with the roots. Grind the whole plant coarsely and add 500 ml water and 500 ml of Sesame oil. Simmer this on low heat till the water evaporates and only oil remains. Strain out the tulsi. Tulsi oil is ready for use after cooling.
Side Effects & Precautions
Holy basil is generally a very safe healing herb. These are only general guidelines as a first aid. It is always better to see a doctor depending upon the intensity of the case. It is important to note that, while there is scientific evidence that supports many of these health claims, additional research is needed to further substantiate medicinal impact and safety, as with any herbal therapy. Always consult with your doctor before using herbal treatments to address and support your healthcare needs. Eating large quantities of Basil has been known to cause contra indications, so one should be careful while trying this home remedy. Basil, especially holy basil, is an herb pregnant women are asked to keep away from. Though research has not yet proved it conclusively, it is best that pregnant women stay away from basil. Basil is used for inducing labor, so only if your pregnancy is overdue, you could have basil or basil tea. During pregnancy and lactation, one should always consult a primary health care provider before using any herb or herbal formula. There have been contradictory animal studies showing that holy basil might be toxic to embryos. Until conclusive information exists, avoid using it during pregnancy. Holy basil also is reported to have an anti-fertility effect and should be avoided if a woman is trying to get pregnant. Studies from the 1970′s suggested that holy basil might have a mild anti-fertility effect in animals. There are herbal treatments that use basil in programs for infertility; results
are still mixed. However, these home remedies could have contra indications; so do check with your doctor before you do use this herb. Preliminary studies indicate that holy basil might also enhance CYP-450 activity, thus speeding up the elimination of some medications.
Category: HERBAL TEAS