Tulsi: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Introduction:

Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn) is a plant that belongs to the genus Ocimum and is known for its wide therapeutic properties. Tulsi (Hindi) is known as ‘holy basil’ in English. Tulsi is considered sacred according to the Hindu religion and is utilised as a medicinal herb in Indian homes for managing different diseases.[1] Tulsi is a bushy plant located in the tropical and semitropical regions of the world. It has a unique fragrance and a distinct taste. It grows up to a height of 3-5 feet.[2], [3] Tulsi leaves are extensively used in preparing Ayurvedic medicines.

The extracts obtained from Tulsi are used to manage various ailments like the common cold, heart diseases, headaches, stomach disorders, kidney stones, and many more. The Tulsi plant also protects against mosquitoes, flies, and insects. It helps fight against malarial fever. Tulsi leaves are also known for their healing property.3

Nutritional Value of Tulsi:

In 100 grams of Tulsi, the nutrients present are:[4]

NutrientValue
Energy23 kcal
Fat0.64 g
Protein3.15 g
Total dietary fibre1.6 g
Sucrose0.3 g
Total carbohydrates2.65 g
Glucose0.02 g
Fructose0.02 g
Galactose0.27 g
Iron3.17 mg
Calcium177 mg
Magnesium64 mg
Potassium295 mg
Sodium4 mg
Zinc0.81 mg
Selenium0.3 µg
Manganese1.15 mg
Vitamin C18 mg
Copper0.385 mg
Riboflavin0.076 mg
Niacin0.902 mg
Vitamin B-60.155 mg
Pantothenic acid0.209 mg
Vitamin A264 µg
Table depicting the nutritional value of Tulsi4

The major active constituent of Tulsi is eugenol. Tulsi also contains chemical compounds like caryophyllene, terpinene4-ol, eugenol methyl ester, and 3-carene. Other compounds isolated from tulsi include vitamin C, galic acid, vallinin, carvacrol, palmitric acid, and vitamin A.2

Also Read: Shilajit: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Therapeutic Uses of Tulsi:

Tulsi is known to have many therapeutic properties like:

  • Antipyretic (relieves fever)
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antiemetic (prevents vomiting)
  • Antidiabetic
  • Hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
  • Hypolipidemic (lowers cholesterol)
  • Analgesic (relieves pain)
  • Antiasthmatic
  • Hepatoprotective (liver-protective)
  • Antistress
  • Expectorant (expels mucous)
  • Anticancer
  • Diaphoretic (induces sweating)1,2

Benefits of Tulsi:

1. Benefits of Tulsi for infections:

Tulsi is known to have antimicrobial activity against different microorganisms like Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus. This property is attributed to its phytoconstituents present in various parts. The oil obtained from the Tulsi plant possesses antibacterial activity against organisms like Pseudomonas aeruginosa, S.aureus, and Bacillus pumius.2

2. Benefits of Tulsi for fever and the common cold:

The leaves of Tulsi are used to manage fevers. Tulsi leaves boiled with tea can be used to prevent malaria and dengue. A decoction of Tulsi leaves can be boiled with powdered cardamom in water and mixed with sugar and milk to manage acute fevers. The juice obtained from Tulsi leaves helps bring down the fever. It is also effective in reducing fever in children.3

3. Benefits of Tulsi for respiratory problems:

Tulsi is helpful in the management of disorders related to the respiratory system. A decoction obtained from the leaves of Tulsi is used with ginger and honey for dealing with asthma, cough, influenza, cold, and bronchitis. A decoction of the leaves, common salt, and cloves also provides quick relief in cases of influenza. The leaves of Tulsi have expectorant properties and help in expelling mucous from the bronchial tube.3

4. Benefits of Tulsi for diabetes:

Studies carried out on animals revealed that Tulsi leaves contain a hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) effect. Tulsi leaves can be used as an adjunct to dietary therapy and drug treatment in mild to moderate noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.[5] Another animal study suggested that Tulsi leaf extracts have a stimulatory effect on insulin production. Tulsi and neem extracts taken together are known to lower blood sugar levels in humans.2

5. Benefits of Tulsi for kidneys:

Tulsi is known to strengthen the kidney. The juice of Tulsi leaves, when taken with honey, helps in expelling kidney stones through urine.3

6. Benefits of Tulsi for heart diseases:

Tulsi is known to be effective in the management and prevention of heart diseases by lowering blood cholesterol levels and also preventing ischemia and stroke. Apart from this, Tulsi also plays an essential role in platelet aggregation and preventing the risk of pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure that affects arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart).[6]

7. Other Benefits of Tulsi:

  • The leaves of tulsi serve as a nerve tonic and aid in sharpening memory.
  • Tulsi leaves also strengthen the stomach and promote sweating.3
  • Tulsi leaves are described as an anti-stress agent. Tulsi leaves can be consumed to prevent stress.3 You should consult a doctor for the amount to be used.

Also Read: Apple Cider Vinegar: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

How to Use Tulsi?

The Tulsi plant is available in different formulations like:

  • Tribhuvanakirti Rasa
  • Muktapancamrta Rasa
  • Manasamitra Vataka
  • Muktadi Mahanjana3,7

The leaves of Tulsi are available in different formulations like:

  • Mahajvarankusa Rasa
  • Pancamrt Rasa
  • Manasamitra Vataka
  • Tribhuvana Kirti Rasa3,7

Tulsi can be used as:

  • Cold extract
  • Vegetable or mixed pulse soup
  • Refreshing drink
  • Ghrit (medicated ghee)
  • Medicinal powder
  • Medicated oil
  • Sheetajwarantakvati (pills that fight against malaria)
  • Tulsi tea3,7

Your Ayurvedic physician will prescribe you the form and dose as per your needs.

Side Effects of Tulsi:

Regardless of dose, formulation, age, or gender of participants, all the studies done so far with Tulsi revealed favourable therapeutic outcomes with minimum or no side effects. Only one clinical trial reported transient mild nausea. As the trial was only 13 weeks long, the failure to detect any negative effects does not rule out the possibility of long-term side effects. However, the traditional history of Tulsi usage implies that any major long-term effects are rare and that daily consumption is safe.[7]

Interactions With Other Drugs:

Tulsi may lead to herb-drug interactions in patients treated with medications metabolised by CYP2B6 (artemisinin, cyclophosphamide, ketamine, efavirenz, methadone, and bupropion) or with rifampicin. Hence, caution must be taken when taking these medications with Tulsi.[8]

Also Read: Barley: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Tulsi?

Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is a global shrub that is erect, sweet-scented, and grows up to a height of 3-5 feet. It has many medicinal benefits.3

What are the common names of Tulsi?

The common names of Tulsi include holy basil, Krishna tulsi, and many others.[9]

Does Tulsi contain antiallergic and immunomodulatory properties?

Yes, Tulsi is known to contain antiallergic properties. Hence, Tulsi can be helpful in the management of immunological conditions like allergies and asthma.3

Can Tulsi be used in treating skin disorders?

Tulsi leaves can be added to bathing water just before having a bath. This leads to smooth skin and prevents it from disorders. It also helps in managing many skin disorders like rashes, eczema, and ringworms.3

Can Tulsi be used for digestion?

The juice of Tulsi can be used as an appetiser. Apart from improving digestion and preventing flatulence (gas accumulation), it is helpful in constipation many abdominal disorders.3

Can Tulsi be used for dental problems?

Tulsi has ingredients that fight against bacteria responsible for plaque and cavities. It is also helpful in dealing with mouth ulcers. However, it must not be kept in the mouth for too long.3

Can Tulsi be used to improve memory?

Tulsi is a great rejuvenator and has been reported to reduce stress, relax the mind, and help improve memory.3

Also Read: Lemongrass: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

References:

  1. P. Prakash and Neelu Gupta; Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: A short review. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology. 2005 49 (2): 125-131. Available from: https://ijpp.com/IJPP%20archives/2005_49_2/125-131.pdf
  2. Naveen Srinivas, Ketki Sali, Atul A Bajoria; Therapeutic aspects of tulsi unraveled: A review. Journal of Indian Academy of oral medicine and radiology. 2016 28(1): 17-23. Available from: https://www.jiaomr.in/article.asp?issn=09721363;year=2016;volume=28;issue=1;spage=17;epage=23;aulast=Srinivas
  3. KP Sampath Kumar, Debit Bhowmik, Biswajit, Chiranjib, Pankaj and KK Tripathi Margret Chandira; Review article traditional indian herbal plants tulsi and its medical importance. Journal of pharmacognosy and phytochemistry. 2010 2(2): 103-108. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325987440_Review_Article_Traditional_Indian_Herbal_Plants_Tulsi_and_Its_Medicinal_Importance/link/5b31cc4e0f7e9b0df5cb9961/download
  4. U.S Department of agriculture. Basil fresh [Internet]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172232/nutrients
  5. P Agrawal, V Rai, RB Singh; Randomized placebo-controlled, single blind trial of holy basil leaves in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Internal journal of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics. 1996 Sep 34(9): 406-409. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8880292/
  6. Vishnu Sharma, Debabrata Chanda; Ocimum: The holy basil against cardiac anomalies. Compendium of plant genomes. 2018. Chapter 3 25-36. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328069487_Ocimum_The_Holy_Basil_Against_Cardiac_Anomalies
  7. The Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia of India part-1 Volume-2. Tulasi. [Internet]. Available from: http://www.ayurveda.hu/api/API-Vol-2.pdf
  8. Negar Jamshidi and Marc M. Cohen; The clinical efficacy and safety of tulsi in humans: A systematic review of the literature. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine. 2017. Available from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2017/9217567/
  9. Saneesh Kumar, Patrick J.Bouic and Bernd Rosenkranz;In vitro assessment of the interaction potential of ocimum basilicum (L.) Extracts on CYP2B6, 3A4, and rifampicin metabolism. Frontiers in pharmacology. 2020 Apr. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2020.00517/full
  10. Maliba Pharmacy College. Ocimum sanctum. [Internet]. Available from: http://maliba.edu.in/Herbs/Ocimum%20sanctum.pdf

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.