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Ocimum tenuifolium (known as Holy basil in English, and Tulasi in Sanskrit), is a well known aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae. Apart from its culinary uses, for which it is known across the world, it is also used as a medicinal plant, and has an important role within many traditions of Hinduism, wherein devotees perform worship involving Tulasi plants or leaves. Native to India, it is a short lived perennial herb or small shrub, often grown as an annual. The foliage is green or purple, strongly scented. Leaves have petioles, and are ovate, up to 5cm long, usually somewhat toothed. Flowers are white, tinged purple, borne in racemes.
Its aroma is distinctively different from its close cousin, the Thai Basil which is sometimes wrongly called Holy Basil, in shops and on the internet, but they can be distinguished by their aroma and flavour. Holy Basil is slightly hairy, whereas Thai Basil is smooth and hairless; Holy Basil does not have the strong aniseed or licorice smell of Thai Basil; and Holy Basil has a spicy flavor sometimes compared to cloves
It is a very useful herb in the manufacture of several Ayurvedic medicines.It is found growing naturally in moist soil in nearly all over the globe.In India, Hindus grow Tulsi as a religious plant in their homes,temples,and their firms.They use Tulsi leaves in their daily routine worship.
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An infusion of the leaves is a quick remedy for bronchitis and colds and an infusion of the seeds is an excellent diuretic. A decoction of the roots is thought to relieve malarial fever. Leaves are diaphoretic, antiperiodic, bronchitis, gastric & hepatic disorders etc. A tea prepared with the leaves of O. sanctum is commonly used in cough, cold, mild, indigestion, diminished appetite and malaise. Anthelmintic, deodorant, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, cardiotonic, blood purifier, useful in skin diseases, antipyretic particularly in malarial fevers. Externally applied on chronic non healing ulcers, inflammation, skin disorders, useful in nausea, pain in abdomen, worms, allergic rhinitis, all types of cough, respiratory disorders. It acts as a powerful mosquito repellent.
In a 1997 study at M.S. University of Baroda, India, 17 NIDDM patients were supplemented with 1 g basil leaf per day for 30 days. Ten NIDDM patients served as controls, receiving no supplementation. All subjects were taking antidiabetic medications and did not change their diets. Holy basil lowered fasting blood glucose 20.8 percent, total cholesterol 11.3 percent and triacylglycerols 16.4 percent.18 I recommend 1-4 g of dried leaf daily. . It is said that eating Holy basil along with other foods will relieve stomach problems including cramps and digestive disorders.
The ethanolic extract of the leaves exhibited a hypoglycemic effect in rats and an antispasmodic effect in isolated guinea pig ileum. Tulsi extract was administered to 20 patients with shortness of breath secondary to tropical eosinophia in an oral dosage of 500 mg TID and an improvement in breathing was noted. The aqueous extract showed a hypotensive effect on anesthetised dogs and cats and negative inotropic and chronotropic activity (reduces the force and rate, respectively) on rabbit’s heart. Antibacterial activity has been shown against Staphlococcus aureus and Mycoplasma tuberculosis in vitro as well as against several other species of pathogens including fungi. The plant has had general adaptogenic effects in mice and rats and has been shown to protect against stress-induced ulcers. The leaf extract was found to protect guinea pigs against histamine and pollen induced asthma. Adaptogenic activity of Ocimum sanctum is reported in rats & mice.
Recent research studied the effect of Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi)on experimental cataract in rats and rabbits by P. SHARMA, S. KULSHRESHTHA AND A.L. SHARMA
Department of Pharmacology, S.N. Medical College, Agra – 282 001.
SUMMARY Objective: Methods: Two models of experimental cataract were induced: (1) Galactosaemic cataract in rats by 30% galactose, (2) Naphthalene cataract in rabbits by 1 gm/kg naphthalene. Ocimum sanctum (O.S.) was administered orally in both models at two dose levels 1 and 2 gm/kg of body weight for curative and prophylactic effects. The study was conducted for 40 days.
Results: O.S. delayed the onset of cataract as well as the subsequent maturation of cataract significantly in both models. In addition to delay in reaching various stages of development of cataract, IV stage did not develop with high doses till completion of 40 days of experimental period.
Conclusion: O.S. delayed the process of cataractogenesis in both models. The higher doses are more effective and have got promising prophylactic role rather than curative one. This effect is more clear in galactosaemiccataract. (Indian J Pharmacol 1998; 30: 16-20) More research: Surender Singh and D.K. Majumdar University of Delhi, New Delhi, India: The fixed oil of O. sanctum seeds was screened for antiarthritic activity using Freund’s adjuvant arthritis, formaldehyde-induced arthritis and also turpentine oil-induced joint edema in rats. The oil was administered intraperitoneally for 14 days in the case of adjuvant-induced arthritis and 10 days in formaldehyde-induced arthritis. The mean changes in diameter of paw were noted at regular intervals. X-rays of paws were taken at the end of study and SGOT & SGPT levels were also estimated. The fixed oil showed significant anti-arthritic activity in both models and anti-edema activity against turpentine oil-induced joint edema.
Traditional Uses: The leaf infusion or fresh leaf juice is commonly used in cough, mild upper respiratory infections, bronchospasm, stress-related skin disorders and indigestion. It is combined with ginger and maricha (black pepper) in bronchial asthma. It is given with honey in bronchitis and cough. The leaf juice is taken internally and also applied directly on cutaneous lesions in ringworm. The essential oil has been used in ear infections. The seeds are considered a general nutritious tonic.
Tulasi, as used in Ayurveda.
Tulsi has also been recognized by the rishis for thousands of years as a prime herb in Ayurvedic treatment.In the manufacture of todays cough syrup, Tulsi leaf extract is vastly used. It has been traditionally used by Hindus, and now others, for its diverse healing properties. Tulsi is mentioned by Acharya Charak, in the Charak Samhita, the central teaching of Ayurvedic medicine written at least two thousand years ago, and in the Rigveda. 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, Tulsi is regarded as a kind of “elixir of life” and believed to promote longevity.
Its aroma is distinctively different to its close cousin, the Thai Basil which is sometimes wrongly called Holy basil, in shops and on the internet, but they can be distinguished by appearance, aroma and flavor. Holy basil has purple stems, whereas Thai Basil has green stems; holy basil is slightly hairy, whereas Thai Basil is smooth and hairless; holy basil does not have the strong aniseed or licorice smell of Thai Basil; and Holy Basil has a hot, spicy flavor sometimes compared to cloves
Tulsi leaves contain a bright yellow volatile oil which is useful against insects and bacteria. The principal constituents of this oil are Eugenol, eugenol methyl ether and carvacrol. The oil is reported to possess anti-bacterial properties and acts as an insecticide. It inhibits the in vitro growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Micrococcus pyogenes var. aureus. It has marked insecticidal activity against mosquitoes. The juice of leaves, and or a concoction, called jushanda, a kind of tea, gives relief in common cold, fever, bronchitis, cough, digestive complaints, etc. When applied locally, it helps in eradicating ringworms and other skin diseases. Tulsi oil is also used as ear drops in case of pain. The seeds are used in curing urinary problems. Aphrodisiac virtue has been attributed to it, where powdered Tulsi root with clarified butter (ghee) is prescribed.
Tulasi as an Ayurvedic medicine
Tulas’s extracts are used in ayurvedic remedies for common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning, and malaria. Traditionally, tulasi is taken in many forms: as an herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee. Essential oil extracted from Karpoora Tulsi is mostly used for medicinal purposes and in herbal toiletry. For centuries, the dried leaves of Tulasi have been mixed with stored grains to repel insects.
Recent studies suggest that Tulasi may be a COX-2 inhibitor, like many modern painkillers, due to its significant amount of Eugenol (1-hydroxy-2-methoxy-4-allylbenzene). Studies have also shown Tulsi to be effective for diabetes, by reducing blood glucose levels. The same study showed significant reduction in total cholesterol levels with Tulsi. Another study showed that Tulsi’s beneficial effect on blood glucose levels is due to its antioxidant properties.
Tulasi also shows some promise for protection from radiation poisoning and cataracts. Some Vaishnavites do not use Tulasi for medicine, though, out of reverence. However, the use of Tulsi for purification and as a medicine is widespread throughout India. Many Hindus along with the ancient tradition of Ayurveda believe that the healing properties of sacred herbs such as Tulsi were given by the Lord himself, and can be used as a medicine out of reverence.
Tulasi in scripture
A number of passages in the Puranas and other scriptures (Vedas), point to the importance of tulsi within religious worship. Tulasi is regarded as a goddess (Lakshmi) and a consort of Vishnu. A garland of tulasi leaves is the first offering to the Lord as part of the daily ritual. Tulsi is accorded the sixth place among the eight objects of worship in the ritual of the consecration of the kalasha, the container of holy water.
According to one story, Tulasi was a gopi who fell in love with Krishna and so had a curse laid on her by His consort Radha. She is very dear to Vishnu. Tulsi is also mentioned in the stories of Mira and Radha immortalised in Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda. One story has it that when Krishna was weighed in gold, not even all the ornaments of His consort Satyabhama could outweigh Him. But a single tulsi leaf placed on one side by his consort Rukmini tilted the scale.
Tulsi is ceremonially married to Vishnu annually on the eleventh bright day of the month of Kaartika in the lunisolar calendar. This festival continues for five days and concludes on the full moon day, which falls in mid-October. This ritual, called the “Tulsi Vivaha”, inaugurates the annual marriage season in India.
In the Christian tradition it is said that Tulsi grew around the place of Crucifixion. Tulasi is also mentioned in Shiite writings.
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I very strongly believe that extensive research should be done on this herbs to explore its multivarious medicinal value.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.