Described as “The Queen of Herbs,” “The Elixir of Life” and “The Incomparable One,” Tulsi may be your best natural stress buster and all-purpose
essential oil to keep in your medicine cabinet.
Revered as a gift and religious symbol, it’s considered both holy and healing and has a variety of uses in Ayurvedic medicine.
This potent plant, more commonly known as holy basil, can be used in a variety of ways as an essential oil or you can grow it in your healing herb garden to eat fresh, use in cooking or make as a tea.
So what makes it nature’s mother of medicine?
First, it’s an adaptogen, meaning it can adapt to serve the body where it needs it most. Adaptogens are characterized as stress busters, helping the body function optimally during times of stress, but Tulsi also promotes purity and lightness in the body and prevents disease.
Tulsi has been valued for centuries because of its benefits for the mind, body and spirit. In Ayurvedic medicine, this powerful herb has been used for common colds and flu, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, clearing sinuses, respiratory problems, heart disease and stress. It’s classified as a “Rasyana,” which nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and promotes long life.
This superpower herb is a member of the mint family, deeply rooted in religion and mythology, and native to tropical Asia, but now found in most tropical parts of the world. This herb has been grown and used for thousands of years in India, where it’s even celebrated as a holiday on Tulsi Vivaha, the beginning of holy wedding season of the Hindus.
In Hinduism, Tulsi is considered a sacred plant and found at entrance of most houses or earthen pots indoors and around Hindu shrines to bring good fortune and positive energy. The plant’s woody stalks are often made into beads used in meditation malas or rosaries.
Tulsi in Hindu means “the incomparable one” and several ancient systems of medicine, including Ayurveda, Greek, Roman, and Siddha, have used the leaves, stems and roots of the plant for medicinal purposes.
This herb is believed to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, lower stress, remove toxins, beat oxidative stress, calm the digestive system, regulate blood pressure, and support the hair, skin, eyes, kjidneys and heart. It’s also recommended for cancer, diabetes, wound healing, liver support, hypoglycemic conditions, ulcers, arthritis, radiation poisoning, cataracts, urinary problems, mouth infections, oral care and common pediatric problems.
Tulsi leaves offer a rich source of essential oil, containing eugenol, nerol, camphor, and a variety of terpenes and flavonoids. The oil is a strong antiseptic against many kinds of disease-causing organisms, including bacteria, fungi and parasites.
10 potential health benefits of Tulsi:
- Antidepressant and stress buster – Several studies have found Tulsi helps to maintain normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which helps balance emotional health. It also works to enhance the body’s natural response to physical and emotional stress. Multiple scientific studies examining this property of holy basil have found that supplementation with various extracts decrease stress hormone levels, corticosterone in particular. The leaf also has powerful adaptogen properties, helping to sooth the nerves, regulate blood circulation and beat free radicals produced during an episode of stress.
- Respiratory relief – The herb can help sooth a cough or sore throat and loosen catarrhal matter and phlegm from the bronchial tube. Tulsi is an expectorant, cough suppressant and a bronchodilator. It also helps to modulate the immune system and its antimicrobial, antibacterial properties help the body defeat bacteria and viruses, making it a great relief for coughs, cold, and other respiratory disorders including chronic and acute bronchitis. It also relieves congestion since it contains potent components like camphene, eugenol and cineole in its essential oils. You can drink water boiled in case of sore throat or take a decoction of the leaves, with honey and ginger, for other respiratory illnesses.
- Heart health – It has a powerful antioxidant compound called Eugenol, which helps protect the heart by keeping one’s blood pressure under control and lowering cholesterol levels. It’s also a memory booster and nerve tonic.
- Hair and skin – With powerful purifying properties, when eaten raw, holy basil can purify the blood and give the skin a beautiful glow. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties also prevent acne breakouts and blemishes and it can reduce itchiness of the scalp and hair fall. Mix the powder in coconut oil and apply regularly to the scalp to prevent hair fall. Eating tulsi leaves, drinking the juice, or adding its paste to a face pack can help improve skin and hair conditions.
- Fever reduction – In many countries, the leaves of basil are used for many fevers due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The tender leaves, boiled with tea, act as preventive against these diseases. Chewing tulsi leaves is recommended to relieve cold and flu.
- Skin conditions – Applied to the skin, its anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties are soothing to bites, cuts, and scrapes. The herb is a prophylactic or preventive and curative for insect stings or bites. Applied locally, basil juice is beneficial in the treatment of ringworm, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions.
- Headache remedy – Tulsi helps to relieve headaches caused due to sinusitis, allergies, cold or even migraines. This is because it has adaptogenic, pain relieving and decongestant properties. A decoction of the leaves can be given, or pounded leaves turned into a paste can be applied on the forehead for relief from heat, headache or coolness in general.
- Kidney function – As a diuretic and detoxifier, is great for the kidneys. Tulsi helps reduce the uric acid levels in the blood (one of the main reasons for kidney stones), cleanse the kidneys and increase function. The presence of acetic acid and other components in its essential oils helps break down kidney stones. Its pain relieving properties also help reduce the pain of kidney stones. It’s recommended to drink the juice of tulsi leaves with honey every day for six months to help expel the stone through the urinary tract.
- Blood sugar regulation – The leaves are packed with antioxidants and essential oils that produce eugenol, methyl eugenol and caryophyllene. Collectively, these substances help the pancreatic beta cells (cells that store and release insulin) function properly. This in turn helps increase sensitivity to insulin.
- Fights cancer – Strong antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties tulsi has been found to help stop the progression of breast cancer and oral cancer (caused due to chewing tobacco). This is because its compounds restrict the flow of blood to the tumour by attacking the blood vessels supplying it. Have the extract of tulsi every day to keep these conditions at bay.
Consult your homeopath or Ayurvedic practitioner on the best ways to take Tulsi for your particular health issue or ailment. You can eat the leaves raw or cook them in dishes, boil them in water to make a tea or mix a decoction with sugar and milk, especially good for children. You can also take a towel, immerse in water boiled with crushed leaves or tulsi extract, then wring out the water and put on your forehead for headaches, cold or flu.
If taking a supplement, it should be standardized for eugenol, caryophyllene and triterpenoic acids, such as ursolic and oleanolic acids. It is important to look for a dietary supplement which utilizes multiple extracts of holy basil, such as alcohol extracts, supercritical (or CO2) extracts, and distillation extracts, to provide the most complete supplement.
This article is educational in nature. Benefits of tulsi have not been evaluated by the FDA to treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.