Holy basil, a small shrub with scented leaves, is widely used throughout south Asia for purported medicinal purposes and as an herbal tea. Ayurvedic medicine regards holy basil as an adaptogen -- an herb that brings body systems into balance and increases resilience. Scientific studies have supported the use of holy basil for some health conditions. Consult a qualified health professional to determine the most appropriate course of therapy for your needs before supplementing with holy basil.


Cultured Plants

Cultured holy basil showed more antioxidant content and activity levels than field-grown plants, in a study published in the October 2007 "Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry." The researchers identified rosmarinic acid as the primary antioxidant in the cultured holy basil samples. Cultured samples showed higher activity than field-grown samples at scavenging free radicals and tested higher in several other antioxidant parameters. The researchers concluded that cultured holy basil may possess superior antioxidant capacity compared to the field-grown variety.



The September 2007 issue of the "Journal of Medicinal Foods" published a study that showed holy basil possesses significant detoxifying ability. In the study, researchers gave holy basil leaf extract in doses of 100 mg, 200 mg, 300 mg and 400 mg per kg body weight to laboratory rats for five days prior to exposure to a toxin. Holy basil dosage of 300 mg per kg protected the rats from liver damage, inhibited the oxidation of lipids and proteins and enhanced the activity of liver-detoxifying enzymes.


A study published in the September 2007 "Journal of Natural Products" announced the discovery of three new active compounds to go along with the eight known substances in holy basil. Scientists tested the new substances at a dose of 40 mg per kg body weight on laboratory rats that underwent acute stress and observed promising stress-reducing effects. Some of these compounds reduced blood sugar and cortisol levels, conserved energy production and decreased adrenal size, indicating holy basil's significant anti-stress capability on several levels.


Holy basil may be useful to prevent seizures, according to a study published in the 2003 "Indian Journal of Experimental Biology." Scientists gave extracts of holy basil stem, leaf and stem callus -- cells that form at the cut surface of a stem -- to laboratory animals and observed significant anticonvulsant activity compared with the standard antiseizure drug phenytoin.


Fatty acids in holy basil show effective anti-inflammatory properties, say authors of a study published in the June 2008 "Indian Journal of Experimental Biology." Holy basil contains high quantities of the omega-3 essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid and produced the greatest inhibition of inflammation when tested against flaxseed and soybean oil in the study on laboratory rats.

The health benefits of holy basil or tulsi include oral care, relief from respiratory disorders, fever, asthama, lung disorders, heart diseases and stress.


Holy Basil (scientific name is Ocimum Sanctum) or Tulsi is undoubtedly the best medicinal herb ever known. It has endless miraculous and medicinal values and is being worshipped in India since thousands of years. Even going closer to a Tulsi plant alone can protect you from many infections. A few leaves dropped in drinking water or food-stuff can purify it and can kill germs in it. Even smelling it or keeping it planted in a pot indoors can protect the whole family from infections, cough and cold and other viral infections.

These are not at all exaggerated. It has been an age old custom in India to worship it twice daily, water it and light lamps near it, once in the morning and once in the evening. It was, and still is, believed that it would protect the whole family from evils and bring good luck. Basil leaves have also been an inevitable part of all worships since ages. These are not at all superstitions and have sufficient scientific reasons behind them. Keeping in view the ultra disinfectant and germicidal properties of this legendary herb, the wise people then devised these customs to bring people into contact with this plant daily, so that they may keep safe from day-to-day infections. Recent researches on Tulsi confirm most of these beliefs. In the following paragraphs, we shall see why it deserves to be worshipped.

The health benefits of Tulsi include the following:

  • Fever: The miraculous healing properties of Holy Basil come mainly from its essential oils and Phytonutrients. Holy Basil is an excellent anti biotic, germicidal, fungicidal and disinfectant and very efficiently protects our body from nearly all sorts of bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Fever is mainly caused due to infections from protozoa (in case of malaria), bacteria (typhoid), viruses (flu) and even allergic substances and fungus. Actually, fever is not an ailment in itself. It is just a symptom which shows that our body is fighting against infections. The tremendous disinfectant, germicidal and fungicidal properties of Tulsi destroys all these pathogens discussed above and heals fever. It is an old practice in India to have decoction of Tulsi leaves and flowers in cases of fever.
  • Respiratory Disorders: Tulsi, apart from curing viral, bacterial and fungal infections of the respiratory system, gives miraculous relief in congestion due to presence of components like Camphene, Eugenol and Cineole in its essential oils. It is very effective in curing nearly all types of respiratory disorders including bronchitis (chronic and acute).
  • Asthma: Tulsi is very beneficial in Asthma as it relieves congestion and facilitates breathing. The Phytonutrients and the essential oils, with help from other minerals in it, helps cure the causes ofasthma also.
  • Lung Disorders: The compounds like vitamin-C, Camphene, Eugenol and Cineole present in the essential oils of Tulsi do not only cure the infections in lungs but also cure congestion of the lungs. They are also found effective in healing damages caused to the lungs due to smoking, tuberculosis, lung cancer etc. It also helps cure tuberculosis due to its anti biotic properties.
  • Heart Diseases: The Holy Basil contains vitamin-C and other anti oxidants such as Eugenol which protect the heart from harmful effects of free radicals. In addition, Eugenol, a component in its essential oils, is very beneficial in reducing cholesterol from blood.
  • Stress: Vitamin-C and other anti oxidants in Holy Basil, apart from repairing damages done by the free radicals, also minimize the stress induced by these oxidants. They soothe nerves, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and thus reduce stress. One such component is Camphene. Potassium also reduces blood pressure related stress by replacing sodium.
  • Oral Care: Tulsi is an excellent mouth freshener and oral disinfectant and its freshness lasts very long in the mouth. Holy Basil destroys more than 99 percent of the germs and bacteria in the mouth and this effect lasts long. It also cures ulcer in the mouth. It is also known to help inhibit growth of oral cancer caused by chewing tobacco etc.
  • Dental Care: Holy Basil destroys bacteria which are responsible for dental cavities, plaque, tartar, bad breath etc. and protects teeth. It also has astringent properties which make the gums hold the teeth tighter thereby protecting them from falling. But, Tulsi also has certain compounds mercury (having rich germicidal properties) which can be harmful for the teeth if kept in direct contact for a long. Hence it is advised to avoid chewing of these leaves (discussed in holy books and Ayurveda that chewing leaves robs them of their holiness). But it has no harm if you do not chew it or have its decoction.
  • Kidney Stones: Tulsi, being detoxifier and mild diuretic in nature, help reduce uric acid level (main culprit as far as kidney stones are concerned) concentration in the blood as well as helps cleaning of the kidneys through urination. Acetic acid and certain components in its essential oils also facilitate dissolution of the stone. It also has pain-killer effects and help bear the pain from kidney stones.
  • Skin Care: A daily bath with decoction of Holy Basil mixed with your bathing water, or washing your face with it or simply applying the paste of its leaves on infected area of the skin in case of skin diseases or simply consuming Tulsi leaves, keeps your skin free from all infections. You won’t believe this but rubbing basil leaves or oil extracted from it on the body keeps mosquitoes and other insects away. It cures skin disorders internally and externally, without any side effects. This property mainly comes from its essential oils which are highly anti biotic, disinfectant, anti bacterial and anti fungal in nature. External application on the skin also removes extra oil from the skin surface. Camphene in it also gives a soothing cooling effect.
  • Eye Care: Just wash your eyes daily with a few leaves of basil soaked in water and you will be free from conjunctivitis, boils and many other problems of eyes which are caused due to viral, bacterial or fungal infection. It also soothes eyes and reduces stress. A regular consumption can protect your eyes from all the damages done by the free radicals, such as cataract, macular degeneration, glaucoma, vision defects, opthalmia etc. due to the high anti oxidant properties of its essential oils, vitamin-A, vitamin-C etc.
  • Headache: Headaches caused due to migraine, sinus, cough and cold, high blood pressure etc. can be effectively controlled by the use of a single Tulsi. Camphene, Eugenol, Cineol, Carvacrol and Methyl-Chavicol have excellent analgesic, sedative, anti congestive and disinfectant properties.
  • Anti Ageing: Vitamin-C, A, Phytonutrients and the essential oils in it are excellent anti oxidants and protects the body from nearly all the damages caused by the free radicals. In traditional Indian medicine system called Ayurveda, it is considered as a tonic to retain youth and avoid aging.
  • Immunity: Holy Basil is so good for boosting up the immune system that cannot be explained in words. It protects from nearly all sorts of infections from viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa. Recent studies show that it is also helpful in inhibiting growth HIV and carcinogenic cells.
  • Other Benefits: It can protect from radiation poisoning and also heal up damages from it. It can be given after surgery to help heal wounds quickly and also to protect them from infections. It acts as a vaccine against pox if consumed regularly. It is anti carcinogenic and found to be effective in healing nearly all types of cancer and tumors. Being expectorant is one of the most priced properties of Holy Basil and it is very efficient in curing cough and cold. It is beneficial in reducing labor pain, destroying rabies germs, treating gastroenteritis, cholera, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rheumatism, nausea, septic, urinary and genital infections, destroying worms in stomach and its dried leaves are mixed with food grains to use as an insect-repellant. Apart from these, Holy Basil has numerous other medicinal values on which an encyclopedia can be compiled.

    Source: Aparup Mukherjee for organicfacts.net and Tracey Roizman for livestrong.com