The fragrant tulsi or holy basil has earned its rights as a sacred plant in India. For centuries, ancient medical systems such as ayurveda have used it to treat a variety of disorders and ailments. Modern science is also starting to recognize the abilities of this wondrous plant.
The essential oil of tulsi has an impressive array of beneficial compounds: eugenol, carvacrol, eugenal, limatrol, methylchavicol, caryophylline, thymol, rosmarinic acid, linalool, methyl chavicol, ursolic acid, and citral. The list is practically endless. Furthermore, the seeds have fatty acids and sitosterol, giving tulsi even more benefits to brag about. Ready to jump on the holy basil bandwagon and experience its many blessings for yourself?
We all have to deal with stress. It’s also a risk factor for diseases such as depression, hypertension, and peptic ulcers. Fortunately, tulsi has been known to relax the mind, making it easier to deal with stress. In a recent study, researchers subjected albino rats to extreme noise levels, an act that altered their brain chemistry. However, tulsi leaf extract had a normalizing effect on the neurotransmitter levels that had changed due to the noise stress.Consider brewing a cup of calming tulsi tea the next time you’re feeling on edge or tense.
In India, it’s common to combat fever by consuming tulsi leaves steeped in hot water. Animal studies have found that consuming tulsi leaf extract or tea can even reduce fever caused by typhoid. If you’re running a high fever, some tulsi may help you get back on your feet again.
If you’re worried about your sugar levels, tulsi may be able to help you out. According to research, holy basil leaves have the power to significantly lower blood glucose. They also have antioxidant properties that scavenge free radicals, contributing to its antidiabetic effect. And since diabetes is a chronic condition that can lead to heart disease and stroke, it’s certainly worth considering the potential of tulsi.
Gastric ulcers, a common problem many of us face, can be caused by stomach acid, bile salts, and the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are generally used to treat inflammation and pain, can also lead to ulcers. Research has found that both tulsi leaves and seeds can protect your gastric mucosa (stomach lining) from becoming ulcerated. A study treated rats with NSAIDs followed by tulsi leaf extract. Researchers found that tulsi protected the body’s antioxidant enzymes and prevented gastric tissue injury.7 Tulsi seed oil has also been found to prevent ulcers by inhibiting gastric secretions.8 If you’re prone to ulcers, tulsi tea may be the key to preventing tummy trouble.
Every day, we come in contact with germs that can damage our health. Thankfully, we’ve got a strong defense line. Our immune system can recognize and destroy these germs, protecting us from infection. Tulsi is just the right ally to lend a hand to your hard-working immune system. When consumed on an empty stomach, tulsi leaves have been known to enhance immunity. Researchers tested this traditional remedy and found that T-helper cell level increased after administration of tulsi leaf extract. These cells are responsible for activating the immune system’s secretions of interferon and interleukin-4, two substances that strengthen the body against disease.9
Tulsi seed oil has also been found to improve immunity. Specifically, it is thought to influence neurotransmitters that are involved in the activation of the immune system.10
High cholesterol is a major risk for heart disease and stroke. This is where tulsi leaves come in. It has been found to significantly lower total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Simultaneously, it can also increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and the amount of fat excreted through stool. Tulsi seeds have been found to have the same impact.11 Of course, don’t forget that, tulsi aside, a healthy diet and regular exercise is key to controlling cholesterol levels.12
Essential oils in tulsi have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects. They contain beneficial substances like eugenol, caryophyllene, carvacrol, and methyl eugenol; these compounds are thought to be responsible for tulsi’s microbe-fighting properties. As a result, tulsi has the ability to combat fungi from the Aspergillus species, a microorganism that can cause allergic reactions and lung infections. It can also treat thrush and yeast infections caused by the Candida species.
On a bacterial level, tulsi oil can fight E. coli, S. aureus, V. cholerae (cholera), and Klebisella (urinary tract infections and pneumonia). It also works against the herpes viruses, hepatitis B virus, and adenoviruses. The latter is responsible for diseases like pneumonia, bronchitis, and diarrhea. So if you’re looking for a multi-talented defender, you can’t ask for a better fighter than the holy basil.
There is evidence that some of the phytochemicals in tulsi – eugenol, apigenin, rosmarinic acid, β–sitosterol, myretenal, luteolin, and carnosic acid – can prevent cancers of the liver, skin, mouth, and lung. Phytochemicals like eugenol, apigenin, rosmarinic acid, and carnosic acid can also stop the damage to the DNA by factors like radiation. Tulsi works its magic by increasing antioxidant activity. It can also change the way genes express themselves, induce cell death, and inhibit the formation of new tumors.
While more research is needed before tulsi can be effectively used for cancer prevention and treatment, these properties establish its potential in the fight against cancer14 So, you can’t go wrong by adding some antioxidant-rich tulsi leaves to your favorite salad!
The linoleic acid present in tulsi has an anti-inflammatory effect and can be helpful in dealing with the inflammation associated with acne.15 Moreover, the essential oil of tulsi has an inhibitory effect against P. acnes bacteria, which plays a role in the development of acne.16
So, how do you use tulsi to tackle acne? Steep around 2 to 4 teaspoons of dried basil leaves in a cup of hot water for about 20 minutes. After it cools down, apply this tea to acne-affected areas to get clear skin.
Did you know that tulsi leaves contain a magic ingredient – ursolic acid – that can help with weight loss? In one study, rats fed a high-fat diet and treated with ursolic acid in their drinking water were compared to those who were not treated with ursolic acid. It was found that those treated with ursolic acid showed much lower body weights and abdominal fat. While further research can help firm this up, there’s no harm in adding tulsi leaves to your diet to lose those extra pounds!
Tulsi oil is thought to promote hair growth. It also shows inhibitory effects against Malassezia, the yeast that’s associated with dandruff. 21 So, massage a few drops of tulsi oil diluted with coconut oil into your scalp for thick, glossy, dandruff free mane.
Traditionally, tulsi has been consumed as a herbal tea or dried powder. Sometimes, the fresh leaves are consumed on their own or with ghee (clarified butter).22
Make a Cuppa: If you’d like to brew yourself a cup of tulsi tea, just pour around 8 ounces of hot water over a teaspoon of dried tulsi leaves. Let it steep for around 3 minutes and enjoy!
You can also steep tulsi leaves with green tea to make a potent drink that incorporates the benefits associated with green tea.
Also, steeping a little grated ginger in your cup of tulsi tea can boost the antioxidant as well as blood thinning properties of your tea.24 25
Cook Away!: If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, holy basil (and lemon basil) leaves are commonly used in Thai cooking and can be added raw to salads, cooked into soups and stir-fries, and even used to add flavor to fruit salads and preserves.SaveSave