Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum), or holy basil, which belongs to the Lamiaceae plant family, is an aromatic herb that is native to India and cultivated throughout countries in Southeast Asia. Growing from thirty to sixty centimeters in height, the multiple branched shrub has hairy stems and simple phyllotaxic purple or green leaves that are strongly scented.
Other names for holy basil include St. Joseph’s Wort, fever plant, tulasi leaf, bai gapraow, harombabe, surasa, wu mao ding, miri taratoni, and ding xiang luo le, among other names.
History and Habitat of Holy Basil
Holy basil, which is known for its healing properties, has a vibrant history that dates back to 3000 years in India. For millennia, holy basil plant has adorned temples and houses throughout the country and has been revered as ‘Mother Medicine of Nature’ and the ‘Elixir of Life.’ Used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine, the leaves are regarded as anti-stress agents (adaptogens) and have been widely used to promote health throughout the body.
Aside from being found in India and cultivated across Southeast Asia, holy basil is also grown throughout Africa and Madagascar. However, it is considered an invasive weed in the Pacific Islands.
Generally, the leaf is the part used in a medicinal capacity. The herb is taken traditionally as a tea made from the leaves, fresh leaf, dried extract powder, or mixed with ghee.
Health Benefits of Holy Basil (Tulsi)
In the past few decades, several Indian researchers and scientists have studied the medicinal properties and pharmacological effects of tulsi on the reproductive system, immune system, cardiovascular system, central nervous system, urinary system, gastric system, and blood biochemistry.
No wonder scientists have described Holy Basil as “an herb for all seasons.”
Due to results of their research, the plant is found to have several benefits, including:
- Relieves headaches
- Fights acne
- Protects against blood disorders
- Fights convulsive activity in epilepsy
- Fights disease
- Aids in cases of mercury poisoning
- Balances hormones
- Fever Remedy
- Cures respiratory disorders
- Supports eye health
Protects against blood disorders
Several human clinical trials and animal test tube experiments indicate that holy basil has anti-diabetic activity. Studies indicate that holy basil can correct abnormal lipid profiles, reduce blood glucose, and protect the kidneys and liver from metabolic damage due to elevated glucose levels.
Holy basil prevents and treats disease. In research, people who consume holy basil regularly are less likely to develop disease cells and are less likely to have their immunity compromised. The herb’s phytochemicals prevent chemically induced oral, liver, skin, and lung diseases because they alter healthy gene expressions, increase antioxidant activity, prevent blood vessel growth that leads to disease cell growth, induce disease cell death, and stop metastasis (the spread of disease from organ to organ).
Holy basil also heals radiation treatment damage and protects the body from radiation poisoning. The herb raises the body’s levels of antioxidant molecules (including glutathione) and enhances antioxidant enzyme activity.
Cures respiratory disorders
Holy basil can cure various respiratory disorders including acting as a natural remedy for bronchitis, which is a deep cough that normally occurs with another upper respiratory infection type, such as flu or the cold. The leaves’ components (cineole, eugenol, and camphene) provide relief from congestion and other respiratory disorder symptoms. Holy basil is also a natural asthma remedy as it allows for easier breathing and relieves congestion.
Supports eye health
The eyes are prone to fungal, bacterial, and viral infections that may be dangerous. Tulsi can fight against boils and pink eye (conjunctivitis). The herb also has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties that protect the eyes from free radicals and environmental damage. The leaves also prevent several eye issues including ophthalmia, vision defects, and cataracts. The herb also naturally treats macular degeneration and glaucoma.
Good vitamin K source
The fat-soluble vitamin K is vital for heart health and bone health. Vitamin K is involved in blood clotting and bone mineralization; it also helps keep a healthy metabolism, maintains cognitive function, and protects against disease. A cup of holy basil leaves has more than the required daily vitamin K amount, making the herb the best source for vitamin K deficiency prevention. The herb is also beneficial for digestive health and bone density.
Also known as the stress hormone, cortisol can impact memory, learning, bone density, immune function, heart disease, and weight. Thus, elevated cortisol levels may be harmful. Holy basil can naturally balance hormone and cortisol levels. By adding the herb to your foods, you get your body to run smoothly. Tulsi will additionally help to beneficially regulate neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin.
Many in vitro, animal and human studies attest to tulsi having multiple therapeutic actions including adaptogenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and immunomodulatory effects – National Institute of Health
In Ayurveda, holy basil’s taste is bitter and pungent. Its post-digestive effect is pungent. With its heating energy, the herb has dry and light qualities. It balances the Ayurvedic doshas of vata and kapha, and it increases pitta.
For thousands of years, tulsi has been used around the world by many cultures. In the Vedas, it is described as India’s most sacred plant and was used traditionally in Ayurveda medicinal formulas and religious ceremonies.
Holy Basil (Tulsi) has been shown to lower sperm count so it shouldn’t be used by men trying to conceive. It does so so effectively that it has application as a male contraceptive. Pregnant or breast feeding women should avoid use of the herb unless recommended by a doctor. Holy Basil may increase the risk of bleeding so it must not be used for at least two weeks prior to any surgery.
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