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Holy basil (ocimum sanctum) - “tulsi”
Maimes Report on Holy Basil
Ocimum sanctum – Tulsi
Version 1 – November 2004 – www.holy-basil.com
This report was written by Steven Maimes – SALAM Research (Rochester, New Hampshire) to advance
understanding of the uses and benefits of the herb HOLY BASIL (Ocimum sanctum). It is a work in progress
and will be periodically revised. Please note the disclaimer and fair use notice at the end of the report.
Throughout this report we will refer to the herb Ocimum sanctum
as holy basil
(or HB) and if the source was
from India we may call it Tulsi
. Holy basil is not to be confused with sweet culinary basil (Ocimum basilicum
Familiar name: Holy Basil
, Sacred Basil
– Latin: Ocimum sanctum
(“sacred fragrant lipped basil”). More recently this species has become known by
the name Ocimum tenuiflorum
(“basil with small flowers”) or Ocumum gratissimum
(“very grateful basil”).
– Botanical Family: Lamiaceae
– Hindi: Tulsi
– Sanskrit: Tulasi
is one of roughly 60 species of the genus Ocimum
, the basil genus, which consists of aromatic herbs and shrubs indigenous to the tropical regions of Asia, and the Americas. Ocimum sanctum is little known in the Western world but wildly cultivated in India. At least three types of Tulsi are encountered with in cultivation; the green leafed (Sri or Rama Tulsi) is the most common; the second type (Krishna Tulsi) bears dark green-to-purple leaves; a third type is a forest variety (Vana Tulsi) that often grows wild. [See photos at end of report] Holy basil has for thousands of years been revered and used in Ayurvedic systems of medicine and is a well-known sacred plant of the Indian subcontinent. Holy basil has largely been overlooked in the West, despite being one of the most esteemed botanicals in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurveda is a system of healing that has its roots in ancient India. Ayur
means “life” and Veda
The knowledge contained in Ayurveda deals with the nature and purpose of life and includes health and disease.
Medicinal, religious and culinary use of holy basil has been documented for centuries in Asia, China, the Middle East, North Africa and Australia. After the herb was introduced in Europe from the Orient it became known to Christians as sacred or holy basil.
Additional text on Tulsi’s History and Mythology in India
can be found later in this report.
ACTIVE COMPOUNDS – HOLY BASIL (Ocimum sanctum)
- Leading phytochemical compounds in holy basil leaf include eugenol (volatile oil), ursolic acid (triterpenoid)
and rosmarinic acid (phenylpropanoid). Other active compounds include caryophyllene and oleanolic acid.
Seeds contain fixed oils having linoleic acid and linolenic acid.
- Nutritional components include vitamins A and C; minerals calcium, iron and zinc; as well as chlorophyll.
- Holy basil contains no caffeine or other stimulants.
- Note that there can be many chemo-types of the various members of the Ocimum
family. Also chemical
compositions change throughout the seasons and are affected by different soil, growing, harvesting,
processing and storage conditions.
Holy basil is highly aromatic and different varieties may smell and taste of peppermint, cloves, licorice or
lemon. The clove-like odor comes from its high eugenol content. The plant grows abundantly in India,
Malaysia, Australia, Central and South America and western Asia. It also grows in Puerto Rico.
For thousands of years, Ayurvedic physicians, practitioners and laypeople have observed the effects of using
holy basil. Some of them documented their actions and reported on the efficacy and safety of the herb. Many
of these writings can be found in India (written in Hindi). There is also an oral tradition of knowledge.
It is our belief that the long standing approach of Ayurveda cannot be superseded by modern methods. The
results of relatively short-term animal studies, in vitro studies, and small human clinical studies are both
variable and limited in their applications. As individuals and conditions are never completely alike, the effect of
herbs will not be exactly the same from application to application – even with double blind, placebo-controlled
studies in spite of their increased reproducibility and validity. Furthermore, the experienced physician or
practitioner’s own perceptions about the effectiveness of a treatment cannot be simply displaced by out-of-
Humans are physically, mentally and emotionally very complex. The observations made by practitioners over
prolonged periods of time may provide more accurate overall assessment of the effect of holy basil than short-
term clinical studies and experiments.
Most of the modern research on holy basil has been on animals. These animal studies have tended to
corroborate and confirm the related claims in Ayurvedic literature. This research has confirmed dozens of holy
basil’s traditionally known actions and therapeutic uses including its remarkable adaptogenic and anti-stress
activities, as well as its powerful support for the immune system. Modern clinical studies are also in agreement
with claims from Ayurvedic literature. Clinical studies were undertaken in cases of bronchial asthma, viral
encephalitis, stress-related arterial hypertension, compounded states of the humoral and cellular immune
system, gastric ulcers, arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome. Science and Statistics
There seems to be many reasons why little significant scientific research is being done on herbs. There are
certainly economic concerns. We know that herbs are inexpensive (especially when compared to the retail
price of pharmaceuticals) and that pharmaceutical companies would not profit from the cost of expensive
herbal studies. Also, even if science comes up with statistics and models – there are too many variables.
Within science it is possible to demonstrate statistically effects (good or bad) that are of no widespread
relevance. The statistically significance of a “finding” merely provides an estimate of the likelihood or
probability that the “effect” identified was not just a random accidental occurrence, and might actually be due
to the variables and conditions of interest (or some other unidentified cause).
Science and Belief
In science nothing is ever really proven in any absolute sense. Scientific “facts” are always in a state of flux
and exist only in the relative conceptual world. All scientific research can do is provide support
(“corroboration”) for or against specific hypotheses (guesses).
Beyond science we have belief that there is an absolute relevance to life and our existence and that there is
interconnectedness between all living things. This belief can apply to the herbs that we take. We take holy
basil to increase health and prevent and treat disease. The belief that the herb will help can contribute to its
efficacy. [This topic will be expanded in future versions of this report.] TONICS AND ADAPTOGENS
Within Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, there is a long history of using tonic remedies to restore health.
Indian physicians practicing Ayurveda recognized the contribution of rejuvenating herbs 5000 years ago. In
ancient China, tonic herbs were referred to as “superior” or “imperial” herbs and were used daily by the wisest
and wealthiest people. The main function of a tonic is to maintain wellness with an emphasis on staying well
more than getting cured. Adaptogenic herbs
are considered phytomedicines or natural product remedies based on plants. They can
be considered a sub-category of herbal tonics because they rejuvenate the body and increase vital energy.
The Russians introduced the term “adaptogen” in the 1960s simply to distinguish the tonic action of Siberian
ginseng from other herbs. An adaptogen has the ability to increase the body’s resistance to stress by
stimulating a non-specific, self-regulation response in adapting to stress. Adaptogens also produce an
increase in the power of resistance against multiple (physical, chemical or environmental) stressors. Simply, adaptogens help the body adapt to stress, support normal functions and restore balance. Today, herbalists are beginning to classify holy basil as a primary adaptogen and are finding that HB modulates the “stress response” and increases adaptive energy.
References and sources exist for most of the following information. For most readers, these references are not
important. This draft document will not provide individual references. Some sources will be included in the Reference
section. Inquire if you need specific references. We also have noted conclusions of studies without providing details.
Notations beginning with “AYURVEDA” = remedies from the Ayurvedic (or folk) tradition.
"HEALTH is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely absence of
disease or infirmity."
(The World Health Organization)
It’s Uses and Benefits Relating to the Various Human Body Systems
Based on observations made by practitioners and modern scientific research
Note: We tried to place actions into the correct body systems. Since many actions overlap, only the primary
system was selected.
– (heart, blood, circulation)
Cardio-tonic – prevents heart attacks Lowers stress-related high blood pressure; normalizes blood pressure Vascular protection – protects the heart and blood vessels, promotes even circulation Mild blood thinning qualities, thereby decreasing the likelihood of strokes Lowers dangerous cholesterol Protects against damage caused by foreign toxins in the blood (such as industrial chemicals) Treatment of stress-related arterial hypertension (high blood pressure) AYURVEDA: Tulsi is an excellent heart tonic and can be combined with the colder Arjuna and slightly
warm Hawthorne to make a tridoshic remedy that builds and purifies the heart.
AYURVEDA: The drinking of Tulsi-leaf tea keeps the blood pressure even. Tulsi tea also provides
(esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas)
Liver support – generally contributes to healthy liver function, and counteracts various liver diseases Liver protective – improves the metabolic breakdown and elimination of dangerous chemicals in the
blood; included as part of a detoxification program
Anti-diabetic – insulin and glucose normalizing; blood-sugar and blood-lipid normalizing Hypoglycemic (low blood glucose) Balances blood sugar and insulin metabolism; can reduce fasting blood glucose Inhibits lipid peroxidation (the oxidative deterioration of lipids); normalizes lipids Anti-ulcer activity – found to possess potent anti-ulcerogenic as well as ulcer-healing properties and
could act as a potent therapeutic agent against peptic ulcer disease; decreases incidence of gastric ulcer.
Reduces the effect of irritating drugs on the stomach lining and increases the production of protective
Improves the digestive system – such as indigestion, heartburn, bloating, vomiting, intestinal gas,
diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal worms and induces appetite.
Enhances the efficient digestion, absorption and use of nutrients from food and other herbs. Improves the digestive fire (agni) Helps in the elimination of toxins Diminishes "bad breath" Antimicrobial effects – inhibits the growth of E. coli AYURVEDA: Tulsi is a remover of worms and parasites, when the fresh juice or strong tea is taken
with honey; the sweetness excites the parasites drawing them out of their hiding places.
AYURVEDA: Taking Tulsi, as a tea, with dried ginger is a common treatment for indigestion. AYURVEDA: Tulsi seeds soaked in water make a type of kheer or pudding that is useful in dysentery. AYURVEDA: Tulsi is one of the rare ‘digestives’ that stimulates and nourishes the agni at all the
– (pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, thymus, pineal, pancreas, ovaries, and
Stress resilience – increases the capacity to cope and adapt to changing and challenging
environments, and reduces the negative physical and psychological effects of stress; anti-stress
Energy and performance – improves stamina and endurance; reduces fatigue; enhances motor activity
and physical performance; increases the body's efficiency in using oxygen; enhances protein synthesis and strength
Improve endurance and resistances when tested against a battery of stress-induced conditions
Enhances the body’s natural bipolar adaptogenic homeostatic balancing capacity and helps return
stressed physiological systems to normal
Supports normal cortisol (hydrocortisone); supports the stress response assisting in the normalization
of cortisol; balances and regulates cortisol levels
Lowers the stress-induced release of adrenal hormones Long-term subtle effect on the physiological functions of the body; can normalize the altered
physiological functions of illness over time.
Anti-aging effect – by increasing adaptive effects AYURVEDA: Increases Ojas (essence that supports the body) and is adaptogenic.
Results with chronic fatigue syndrome Calms the mind – improves both cellular and humoral immunity
– (inflammatory response, white blood cells, lymph glands)
Strengthens and modulates the immune system – immunomodulatory effects Improves immune response – enhances humoral (body fluids) and cellular immunity Increased cell-mediated immunity – both in the number of immune defense cells and also in their
Anti-inflammatory action – reduces the painful and dangerous inflammation that plays a key role in
various forms of arthritis, cancer and degenerative neurological disorders (COX-2 inhibition)
Anti-inflammatory similar to aspirin and ibuprofen, but unlike aspirin and ibuprofen it is not irritating to
the stomach. Modulates inflammation (COX-2 inhibition)
Immunostimulant properties – inhibits antigen-induced (allergic) histamine Reduces asthmatic and other adverse immune reactions Used in the treatment of colds and flu Antiviral properties – success with viral hepatitis, viral encephalitis and AIDS-virus Contains eugenol – known to be anti-viral and one of the best herbal antibiotics Antioxidant – reduced oxidative stress Anti-allergic – management of immunological disorders including allergies and asthma Antibiotic protection – offers significant natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties thereby
helpful in treating many serious systemic diseases, as well as localized infections
Anti-aging – supports the body and mind in reducing the negative effects of aging Relieves canker sores and useful in pyorrhea (gum infection)
INTEGUMENTARY OR SKIN SYSTEM
– (skin, sweat)
Benefits skin – reduces eczema, psoriasis and various other skin disorders Helps difficult skin diseases like leprosy and staph infection of the skin Antiseptic agent for wounds Antibiotic protection Essential oil has antifungal and antibacterial activity Contains ursolic acid – one of the cosmetic industry’s latest favorites because not only does it quickly
heal skin, returns elasticity and removes wrinkles, but it is so good at preventing and curing skin cancer
AYURVEDA: Tulsi applied topically as a paste with black pepper is used to treat ringworm and
AYURVEDA: A paste of the leaves applied externally is useful to reduce the irritation of insect bites
and parasitical diseases of the skin; also applied to the finger and toe nails during fever when the limbs are cold.
– (skeletal, smooth and cardiac muscles)
Anabolic activity – enhances protein synthesis, muscle mass and strength A remedy for sore eyes and night-blindness (vitamin A) AYURVEDA: To treat conjunctivitis the juice of Tulsi mixed with honey is used as an eye wash to
either wash the eyes or spread on the tender skin below the eye.
– (brain, spinal cord, nerves)
Central nervous system effect – increased motor activity Analgesic activity Normalizes neurotransmitter levels in the brain Influences the neurochemistry of the brain in a manner similar to antidepressant medications Nerve tonic; sharpens memory Antipyretic – prevents, removes or reduces fevers Treatment for viral encephalitis, malaria and typhoid; The Imperial Malarial Conference has declared
Tulsi to be a genuine remedy for malaria.
Drug and nicotine withdrawal AYURVEDA: Tulsi oil is also used as ear drops in case of pain. Add fresh garlic juice after you cook
Tulsi in mustard oil and then place this warm medicated oil in the ears to remove ear aches.
AYURVEDA: The fresh juice of Tulsi taken with black pepper powder cures periodic fevers. 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.
Anti-fertility effect – may reduce the estrogen hormone levels in females and decrease the sperm
AYURVEDA: Aphrodisiac – powdered Tulsi root with clarified butter (ghee)
– (respiration, nose, trachea, lungs)
Contributes generally to respiratory health – supports healthy pulmonary function; provides lung and
Helpful in the treatment of a variety of serious allergic, inflammatory and infectious disorders affecting
Used to strengthen the respiratory system – one of the main herbs for coughs and colds Used for bronchial asthma; expectorant and bronchodilator effects Used against respiratory ailments including bronchititis and tuberculosis
Anti-catarrh (inflammation of mucus membranes) and anti-phlegm (mucus) Used for rhinitis (inflammation of nasal mucus membrane) AYURVEDA: Can serve as a cure and a prophylactic as well for the severe acute respiratory
syndrome (SARS) - The root of the tulsi plant should be crushed and boiled with turmeric powder for a few minutes, after which it should be filtered. Consuming two spoonfuls of this potion twice daily will cure SARS and prevent contracting of the disease.
AYURVEDA: Tulsi tea with honey is a good expectorant especially in cases where fever is involved. AYURVEDA: The juice of the leaves is given in catarrh and bronchitis in children. AYURVEDA: Chewing the leaves relieves cold and flu. A decoction of the leaves, cloves and common
salt also gives immediate relief in case of influenza.
URINARY OR EXCRETORY SYSTEM
– (kidney, bladder)
Seeds are used in curing urinary problems. Seeds are used as diuretics and for facilitating urination. Strengthening effect on the kidney. AYURVEDA: In case of kidney stone the juice of basil leaves and honey, if taken regularly for 6
months it will expel them via the urinary tract.
ADDITIONAL USES AND BENEFITS OF HOLY BASIL
– mind-body connection
Aids meditation and delivers nutrients to the mind necessary for the experience of enlightenment. Opens the heart and mind Elevates mood and spirit When used in the prevention and cure of illness and disease – “ritual” becomes a spiritual component
of its efficacy. Perhaps its role as a healing herb was instrumental in its "sacred" implication.
Spiritually endowed and empowered to transform souls AYURVEDA: Ayurvedic physician and author Dr. Vasant Lad says that Tulsi affects the “energy field.” AYURVEDA: Tulsi performs the indispensable spiritual function of balancing and toning the energetic
chakra system. Specifically, it has an affinity with the second chakra (third eye).
AYURVEDA: “Its quality is pure sattva… Basil opens the heart and the mind, bestowing the energy of
love and devotion (bhakti). Sacred to Vishnu and Krishna, it strengthens faith, compassion and clarity. Basil gives the protection of the divine by clearing the aura and strengthening the immune system.” (“The Yoga of Herbs” by Frawley & Lad)
AYURVEDA: Tulsi tea with honey promotes clarity of mind AYURVEDA: Wearing a Tulsi mala, a necklace of 108 beads carved from Tulsi’s woody stems and
worn around the neck or wrist, is a common way to benefit from the power of her presence which includes psychic protection and spiritual nourishment. In the Padmapurana Lord Shiva tells the sage Narada about this power: “Oh Narada, wherever Tulsi grows there is no misery. She is the holiest of the holy. Wherever the breeze blows her fragrance there is purity. Vishnu showers blessing on those who worship and grow Tulsi. Tulsi is sacred because Brahma resides in the roots, Vishnu resides in the stems and leaves and Rudra resides in the flowering tops.”
In India, many families keep a Tulsi plant in their homes, where it is held to create an
atmosphere of peace and prosperity. It has long been used for its purifying influence.
Stress may be the number one cause of illness and disease. The American Institute of Stress reports as many
as 75% to 90% of visits to healthcare professionals are related in some way to the adverse effects of stress. In
survey after survey, Americans identify stress as their number one health concern today and more than 50%
of adults in the U.S. report high stress on a daily basis. Adapting to stress is a natural mechanism for human
survival. But the stress of modern living has increased levels of stress adaptation. Too much stress can
seriously affect performance, health, and well-being.
Holy basil has been used successfully in the prevention and treatment of many stress disorders – see chart. Holy Basil’s Role in the Prevention and Treatment of Stress Disorders
Prevention & Treatment
Disturbed central nervous system (CNS) –
psychosis, depression, hypertension, schizophrenia Reduced immunity – chronic and viral infections
Improves cellular and humoral (fluids) immunity
Increased adrenaline – increased blood pressure
and heart rate Increased intestinal motility (movement by independent
means) – emotional diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome Increased coagulation (thrombosis - blood clots)
Increased free radicals (cell damage); results in
heart attacks (arteriosclerosis – hardening of the arteries), diabetes, cataracts and other diseases Bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infections
Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral
(biological stressors) – such as pneumonia, colds, herpes Radiation, cancer, leukemia (physical stressors)
Adapted from Tulsi
by Dr. Narendra Singh (2002)
ANTI-CANCER; RADIATION AND CHEMOTHERAPY PROTECTION
Ursolic and oleanolic acids have anti-tumor activity
Anti-oxidative – protects healthy cells from radiation damage [anti-cancer]
Protective effect against chemical carcinogens
Radioprotective properties – ability to protect the DNA of the body from the dangerous, mutating
Reduces the cell and tissue damage caused by harmful rays of the sun, TV, computers, X-rays,
radiation therapy, high altitude air travel, etc. Protection against radiation-induced chromosome damage; enhancement of bone marrow radioprotection
Protects against chemotherapy-induced damage Protects the heart from damage caused by a widely used chemotherapy drug, Adriamycin
(doxorubicin) – protects components of heart and liver cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals generated by the chemotherapy.
Holistic health promotion – enhances general health and well-being, having positive overall effects on
Allopathic medicine complement – enhances the effectiveness and reduces the negative and often
dangerous side effects of many standard modern medical treatments.
Anti-aging effects – helps retain youthful vigor, and slows the biological aging process by reducing the
Provides significant antioxidant and free radical scavenging protection. Neutralizes dangerous
biochemicals that contribute to premature aging, cancer, and degenerative diseases.
Enhances the efficient digestion, absorption and use of nutrients from food and other herbs.
Tulsi has been recognized for thousands of years to be one of India’s greatest healing herbs. Tulsi in Sanskrit
means “one that is incomparable” – one that does not tolerate or permit similarity.
What other herb claims to have benefits for hundreds of conditions with thousands of years of empirical
experience and use? Tulsi is incomparable and as such must be taken seriously. The knowledge of holy basil
needs to spread for the benefit of all humanity.
Dosing of herbal preparations is highly dependent on a variety of factors such as growing and harvesting
conditions, plant parts and extraction methods used. The dosage form chosen by manufacturers and the
different chemical markers used is also variable. Therefore ranges must be employed as guidelines.
Holy Basil is generally effective in a single dose of 300mg to 600mg of dried leaves daily for preventive
therapy, and 600mg to 1800mg in divided doses daily for curative therapy.
Dr. Narendra Singh recommends a dose of 2 grams of the freshly dried herb twice daily for several
Tulsi (or Holy Basil) Tea
Holy basil can also be taken as tea (usually around 2 grams a cup). A cup of Tulsi tea simply from an
infused tea bag is an excellent prophylactic and a good direct medicine for many mild therapies.
Other dosage information
Classically, a typical dose is 10-20 ml of the fresh leaf juice. Herbal decoction and dose in most cases; an ounce of dried herb in 16 ounces of water and gently
simmered for 30 minutes, then taken three times a day in 5 ounce quantities.
A child’s dose is usually a quarter to half that of an adult dose. Supercritical extracts and other extracts – as directed. Dr. Narendra Singh in his book on Tulsi
reports that after three decades of clinical research that the
adaptogenic/antistress activity of holy basil (including an increase in stamina and immunological resistance) is likely to take one week to one month to develop and gives appreciable improvements in health lasting for a month of more after discontinuation. For preventive measures, taking HB for at least a month is recommended.
Higher doses (400 milligram/kilogram) of are speculated to increase central nervous system (CNS)
activity and/or reduce stress. Doses less than 200 milligram/kilogram are thought to decrease CNS activity.
PRECAUTIONARY INFORMATION: CONTRAINDICATIONS AND SAFETY
Safety and contraindications
Holy basil has a long history of safe traditional use in India. There is no indication of safety concerns
about HB in the literature and no human drug interaction data is currently available.
Holy basil is generally a very safe healing herb. It is advised to become familiar with manufacturers
and their products before assuming that the product is safe and effective.
Holy basil is available as a dietary supplement in the United States under the Dietary Supplement
Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).
Holy basil is synergistic with other herbs. UK – HB is on the general sales list Canada – approved as an over-the-counter drug France – considered Traditional Medicine Germany – not yet Commission E approved.
Holy basil is not recommended for therapeutic use during pregnancy and lactation and should not be
given therapeutically to infants or toddlers. Studies from the 1970’s suggested that holy basil might have a mild anti-fertility effect in animals. Although this has not been shown to occur in people, if you are pregnant or trying to be, do not take medicinal doses of holy basil.
It has been reported that holy basil may decrease blood sugar – this may be a concern for people who
are hypoglycemic (low level of sugar in the blood)
HB has mild blood thinning qualities [Ayurvedic practitioners claim that Ayurvedic herbs are less toxic due to their slow bioavailability.] Regarding basil – most likely sweet culinary basil (Ocimum basilicum
), it has been said:
Basil should be used cautiously by persons with diabetes.
Basil may increase the hypoglycemic effects of insulin and/or oral antidiabetics; do not use concurrently.
Differentiating between Rama, Krishna and Vana Tulsi
When using Tulsi one of the first questions people have is, ‘Which Tulsi should I use?’ Rama Tulsi, meaning
white, and Krishna Tulsi, or black, are both varieties of Ocimum sanctum. Rama Tulsi is actually very green
while Krishna Tulsi is deep magenta, often bordering on purple. Though Krishna is used more for its clearing
action, as in clearing toxins out of the head, and Rama is used more for its dipana actions, to increase the
digestive fire, for the most part the two varieties can be used interchangeably. The chemotypes of the two
varieties can vary greatly depending on when and where they grow. Often Tulsi is blended evenly between
Rama, Krishna and Vana varieties or perhaps a 2:2:1 blend [Prashanti de Jager]. Tulsi and children
Like adults, children also love Tulsi tea. Tulsi, being a relatively gentle herb, is frequently used in cases of
pediatric fever, cough, asthma and abdominal disorders, or as an enjoyable prophylaxis.
Tulsi is known as “the incomparable one”, “the mother medicine of nature”, “the elixir or life”, and
TULSI’S HISTORY AND MYTHOLOGY IN INDIA
“The Tulsi is the most sacred plant in India. No plant in the world commands such.universal respect,
adoration and worship from the people as does Tulsi. It is the plant par excellence.” [Indian Botanical Folklore]
“A house with a Tulsi plant in front of it is a place of pilgrimage. The wind that carries the aroma of Tulsi
spreads purity wherever it blows.”
In India, many traditional Hindus grow Tulsi and have at least one living Tulsi plant. They use its leaves in
routine worship; they feel protected by its sacred aura; and they use rosary beads for meditation made from its
Tulsi is used by Ayurvedic practitioners and laypersons for many health ailments and it has both medicinal and
spiritual significance in Ayurveda. Tulsi is also used as a valued culinary herb closely related to the sweet basil
plant widely available in the West.
The Tulsi plant has ties with the Hindu god Vishnu (the preserver) and his worship. Tulsi is acclaimed in India
as possessing sattva (energy of purity) and as being capable of bringing on goodness, virtue and joy in
humans. In the Puranas (sacred Hindu text), everything associated with the Tulsi plant is holy, including water
given to it and soil in which it grows, as well as all its parts, among them leaves, flowers, seed, and roots.
There are many legends from India regarding the Tulsi plant.
Tulsi is classified as a “rasayana,” an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and promotes
long-life. For perhaps 5000 years, Tulsi has been considered truly legendary of India’s healing herbs. From
general well-being to acute critical imbalances, Tulsi’s magnanimous healing nature is used and honored daily
Tulsi has a long history of medicinal use, and is mentioned in the oldest ancient Sanskrit Ayurvedic text – Charak Samhita
ritten perhaps 600 BC and compiled approximately 400 CE). Tulsi is also mentioned in the Rigveda
(Book of Eternal Knowledge), thought to have been written around 5000 BC.
Tulsi in Sanskrit means “one that is incomparable” – one that does not tolerate or permit similarity. It is
pronounced in English as “tool-see.”
Positive judgments by Indian enthusiasts on the health and therapeutic merits of Tulsi are as pronounced as
Chinese and East Asian convictions about the merits of ginseng.
AYURVEDA: Tulsi was recognized thousands of years ago by the ancient rishis to be one of India’s greatest
healing herbs. They saw that this herb is so good for health and healing that they declared that it was God
herself. Where most herbs are used for two or three diseases, Tulsi is recommended for hundreds of serious
disorders and is actually highly recommended as a daily prophylactic to prevent disease. They established
Tulsi as one of the eight indispensable items an any Vedic worship ritual to ensure that every house and
temple had at least one Tulsi bush in its proximity, thus allowing everybody easy access to her outstanding
healing power. Still today Tulsi, which can be found planted around most homes in India, is the most
respected and honored herb there due to its continuing importance in healing, religion, spirituality, culture, and
in decorative aesthetics. It is so readily found, now even in the West, that one of its names is Sulabha, ‘the
easily obtainable one.’ [Prashanti de Jager]
INDIA: Holy basil has also been used in the traditional systems of medicine of Siddha (based largely on
Ayurveda) and Unani (founded by Hakim Ibn Sina).
AYURVEDA: Destroyer of kapha (phlegm) and pitta (bile); Regulator of three doshas. Tulsi is used in over 300
HOLY BASIL PRODUCTS
We recommend the organic holy basil products manufactured by New Chapter (Vermont). They include:
New Chapter: Supercritical Holy Basil
, (leaf), supercritical extract (min. 7% eugenol - 6.6 mg and min, 4% caryophllene - 3.8 mg) – 94 mg. Ocimum sanctum
, (leaf), hydroethanolic extract (minimum 1% triterpenoic acids - 5.4 mg including ursolic acid oleanolic acids, and minimum 1% rosmarinic acid - 5.4 mg) – 536 mg.
Holy Basil (ocimum sanctum
leaf; minimum 2% ursolic acid) - 800 mg
New Chapter: Zyflamend (compound formula)
Contains 100 mg of Holy Basil extract; also contains Rosemary, Turmeric, Ginger, Green Tea
Other recommended products include:
Organics (Colorado): Organic Tulsi Tea (bulk and tea bags)
(California): Holy Basil Extract (5:1; yielding 9 mg ursolic acid) - 450 mg
MediHerb (Australia): Andrographis Complex – formula containing Echinacea, Holy Basil and Andrographis;
Holy Basil leaf 4:1 extract (from Ocimum teniflorum leaf 500 mg) – 125 mg.
Metagenics (California): Exhilarin – formula containing Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, and Bacopa with Supportive
Herbs; Holy Basil Leaf Extract (Ocimum sanctum) - 250 mg
Note: We are not affiliated with any of these companies and only recommend these products based upon personal experience and company reputation. There are certainly other reputable products not listed.
Some of the information in this report came from the following sources
Tulsi: The Mother Medicine of Nature
by Dr. Narendra Singh “Tulsi Queen of Herbs: India’s Holy Basil” by Ralph Miller and Sam Miller “Sri Tulsi ji: The Incomparable Queen of Herbs” by Prashanti de Jager Holy Basil: Tulsi (A Herb)
by Yash Rai Donnie Yance – writings on adaptogens
Articles on Tulsi - Holy Basil:
“Tulsi Queen of Herbs: India’s Holy Basil “
Ralph Miller and Sam Miller [PDF format]
“Sri Tulsi ji: The Incomparable Queen of Herbs”
Books on Tulsi
Tulsi: The Mother Medicine of Nature
by Dr. Narendra Singh and Dr. Yamuna Hoette with Dr. Ralph
Miller. International Institute of Herbal Medicine (Lucknow, India). 2002
Holy Basil: Tulsi (A Herb)
by Yash Rai. Navneet Publications India Ltd. 2002
Supplier of Holy Basil Seeds
Seeds of Change (Santa Fe, NM) – http://www.seedsofchange.com
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obtained from scientific research and sources considered reputable in the specific area of discussion. HEALTH DISCLAIMER
Holy basil is not to be used if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or if you may become pregnant. One should
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Copyright 2004 by Steven Maimes, SALAM Research
Permission is granted to redistribute or quote this document for non-commercial purposes provided that you include
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VARIETIES OF TULSI
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