Tulsi (also known as Ocimum sanctum, or Holy Basil), is an Ayurvedic herb historically used for general health and a long life. While basil is found on every continent, holy basil (tulsi) is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. Scientific findings are available on various medicinal aspects ie adaptogenic, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, hepato-protective, cardio-protective, neuro-protective, antimicrobial, and antidiabetic.
Tulsi Benefits and Therapeutic Effects
In traditional systems of medicine, different parts of tulsi, have been recommended for the therapy of bronchitis, bronchial asthma, chronic fever, malaria, dysentery, arthritis, skin diseases, painful eye diseases. Eugenol, the active constituents present in tulsi have been found to be largely responsible for the therapeutic effects. Results from various researches indicate that holy basil might have effects as a painkiller, a COX-II anti-inflammatory agent, an antioxidant, and as a therapy for bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Tulsi helps fight inflammation since it contains strong anti-inflammatory agents called COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) inhibitors, which inhibit COX-2 inflammatory enzymes. In vitro research shows the ursolic acid in tulsi inhibits COX-2.
This herb supports healthy pulmonary function. Animal-based studies have found that extracts of tulsi help keep the bronchial airway passages clear. Two clinical trials treated asthma patients with 500 mg of tulsi 3 times daily for one month. Breathing function improved and the frequency of attacks was reduced.
Tulsi, especially, is an efficacious way to both prevent and combat the damaging effects of everyday stressors. As an adaptogen, tulsi improves the body’s natural protective response to physical and emotional stress. Studies examining this effect of tulsi have found that supplementation with various extracts of tulsi decreases stress hormone levels, corticosterone especially. Holy Basil Anxiety
There is a lack of safe hepatoprotective medications in modern medicine to prevent and treat drug-induced liver damage. New research on holy basil indicate that holy basil contains potent antioxidants and it may be liver protecting. Holy Basil seems to be beneficial in preventing toxin-induced harm to the liver in doses of 100-200mg/kg bodyweight. Synergism was noted on hepatoprotection when paired with silymarin (milk thistle). The agent used in the study to induce hepatic harm was acetaminophen.
Holy basil is considered as a sacred herb and traditionally it is believed that consumption of holy basil leaf on empty stomach increases immunity. Experimental studies have shown that alcoholic extract of holy basil modulates immunity. In a 2011 clinical trial in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, twenty-four healthy participants were given either holy basil extract (300mg ethanolic extract of tulsi leaves – empty stomach) or a placebo. After 4 weeks, results demonstrated important improvements in interferon and T-helper cells in the holy basil group compared to the placebo.
Tulsi may have blood sugar lowering properties and may be beneficial as an adjunct to dietary therapy and medication treatment in mild to moderate diabetes. In a animal-based study, holy basil was administered orally to diabetic rats, resulting in reductions in plasma glucose levels of 9 % by day 15 and 26 % by day 30. An uncontrolled study reported that 1,000 mg per day of tulsi lowered blood sugar. A controlled trial investigated 2,500 mg per day and found similar changes in blood sugar. In a clinical trial, 40 patients (type 2 diabetes) were treated. Participants were asked to stop their diabetes drugs 7 days before the start of the study. Then all participants were given tulsi leaves for a run-in period of 5 days. Half of the patients were randomly assigned to take 2.5 g of powdered tulsi leaf, and 20 were given placebo for 4 weeks and then were crossed over to the other treatment group without a washout period for another 4 weeks. In the first group, average fasting glucose declined from 134 mg/dl to 99 mg/dl after 4 weeks of therapy with tulsi. After being crossed over to placebo for 4 weeks, it increased to 115 mg/dl. In the placebo-first group, average fasting glucose declined from 132 mg/dl to 123 mg/dl after 4 weeks and then declined even further to 97 mg/dl after being crossed over for 4 weeks to tulsi.
Holy Basil contains the natural compound ursolic acid, which has proven beneficial in dealing with the inflammatory producing enzymes Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and 5-Lipoxygenase (5-LOX) responsible for joint pain and stress conditions. Research performed by the College of Pharmacy in New Delhi, found that an extract of Holy Basil (ursolic acid) inhibited arachidonic acid and leukotriene-induced edema. On the basis of the results it was proven that standardized Holy Basil extract may be effective as an anti-inflammatory agent, which blocks both inflammatory pathways, ie Cyclooxygenase-2 and 5-Lipoxygenase, as well as arachidonic acid metabolism. A study reported in “Phytomedicine” measured the activity of Tulsi’s phenolic compounds and found the COX-2 inhibitory activity of these compounds to be comparable to aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen.
Preclinical studies have shown that Holy basil and some of its phytochemicals eugenol, apigenin, rosmarinic acid, luteolin, myretenal, ß-sitosterol, and carnosic acid prevented chemical-induced liver, lung, oral, and skin cancers and to mediate these effects by increasing the antioxidant activity, altering the gene expressions, inducing apoptosis, and inhibiting angiogenesis and metastasis. In a 2007 study reported in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers examined the effectiveness of tulsi extract in rats who exhibited oxidative stress, DMBA-induced cancer. Four different concentrations of tulsi extract were fed to rats over a five day period, then were injected with DMBA. At a dosage of 300 mg per kilgram of body weight,tulsi extract significantly reduced the formation of cancerous micronuclei, enzymes which metabolize toxins in the body, and oxidation in both proteins and fats. A number of studies of animals have shown that holy basil protects healthy cells from the toxicity of chemotherapy and radiation.Tulsi has also been shown to protect the heart from damage caused by a widely used chemotherapy medication, adriamycin.
For general preventive treatment, the dosage range recommended in review literature is 300 mg – 2,000 milligrams of tulsi extract for a single dose on a daily basis. 600-1,800 mg divided doses has been used daily for curative treatment. In a clinical study used 2.5 grams tulsi leaves as dried powder in 200 mL water daily for two months for hypoglycemic effect.
Tulsi seems to be well tolerated in most people, and it has usually recognized as safe (GRAS) status in the United States. Tulsi can have a blood-thinning effect and may increase the effect of blood-thinning drugs. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet medications such as clopidogrel (Plavix®). Caution is advised when using drugs that may lower blood sugar. Theoretical interactions would be possible hypoglycemia when taken by diabetics treated with insulin or insulin secretagogues such as sulfonylureas, Prandin or Starlix.