Described as the most holy plant on earth in the ancient Vedic Puranas, tulsi is still revered today as a sacred plant. For thousands of years, tulsi has been grown for spiritual purposes in the backyards of most Indian homes. As it was sometimes considered too sacred to ingest, its branches are sanded into beads and worn to enhance spiritual progress. The fragrance is used to purify temples, and the leaves are used in sacred ceremonies to honor God and heighten one’s awareness. Tulsi is named after these spiritual attributes and commonly called “holy basil” and botanically named Ocimum sanctum. (1)
Because tulsi was sometimes considered too sacred to ingest, what is not commonly known about tulsi are its best kept secrets for health. Called the “Queen of Herbs,” “The Incomparable One,” and “The Mother Medicine of Nature,” tulsi is as powerful for health as it is considered sacred.
Tulsi (Holy Basil) Health Benefits
One of the more popular active constituents of tulsi is its volatile oil, eugenol. Studies suggest that it supports a host of systems in the body including the immune, cardiovascular, reproductive, gastric, urinary, and central nervous systems. It has been shown to be protective to the liver, heart, and blood and is antagonistic to foreign microbes. (2-5)
Tulsi is unique in that it is also rich in many other volatile oils in addition to eugenol that will dissipate if the herb is simply dried, or ingested as a tulsi tea or a raw herb capsule. Tulsi is one herb that would need to be ingested within hours of harvest or as a special type of extract that would capture these very powerful volatile oils. In order to capture the full potency of tulsi, our new tulsi formula that has both the dried, ground herb along with a portion of the formula as an extract to capture the therapeutic array of volatile oils. It is only in this form that the full spectrum of tulsi’s botanical constituents can be captured.
Perhaps the other most important constituent among tulsi’s arsenal of active agents is a compound called ursolic acid. It is commonly used in the cosmetic industry for its ability to support healthy, elastic, and youthful skin. In fact, these results are so effective it have been patented for cosmetic use. (6)
Tulsi is uniquely suited to support the health of the inner skin, such as the intestinal and respiratory tracts. In one study, it supported the health of beneficial microbes in the gut when exposed to harmful bacteria. (2,7) As a kapha-reducing herb, along with its immune-supportive properties, tulsi is famous for supporting respiratory health. (8)
While tulsi balances vata (cold and dry qualities) and kapha (warm and moist qualities), and in excess it can increase pitta (hot and fiery qualities), it can be used in any season for all types. As a kapha-reducing herb, tulsi supports the healthy expectoration of mucus from the lungs and respiratory tract as well as any excess mucus in the digestive tract.
As a result of tulsi’s broad scope of beneficial properties, it has earned the title of “adaptogen.” This classification means that it helps the body in times of stress. As an adaptogen, few herbs match tulsi’s list of benefits:
- Tulsi has been found to support healthy organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals. (9,10)
- Physical stress from prolonged physical exertion, physical restraint and exposure to cold and excessive noise. (9,10)
- Counters metabolic stress through normalization of:
- blood glucose (9,10)
- blood pressure (9,10)
- lipid levels (9,10)
- Supports the body’s natural antioxidant response to stress. (10)
- Adapts to psychological stress through positive effects on memory, cognitive function and mood. (9,10)
Not only considered a sacred herb, as we can see, tulsi packs a real punch in terms of its health benefits as well!
How have tulsi’s sacred qualities and health benefits affected you?