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What Is Tulsi?

Also known as “holy basil,” tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is an herb commonly used in ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India). It is closely related to culinary basil, and native to India and Southeast Asia.

Uses for Tulsi

In herbal medicine, tulsi is typically used to treat the following conditions:

  • asthma
  • bronchitis
  • arthritis
  • colds
  • flu
  • Tulsi is also thought to act as an adaptogen (a type of herb said to strengthen your resistance to stress while enhancing your energy).

    Benefits of Tulsi

    To date, very few studies have looked tulsi’s effects on human health. However, research suggests that the herb may show promise in treatment of the following:

    1) Anxiety

    In a 2008 study of 35 adults with generalized anxiety disorder, researchers found that taking tulsi in capsule form daily for 60 days was linked to significantly lower levels of stress and depression.

    2) High cholesterol

    Tulsi may help keep cholesterol in check, according to a 2006 study on rabbits. Although the study showed that tulsi had significant cholesterol-lowering and antioxidant effects, results also revealed that the herb had no effect on diabetes.

    3) Respiratory Infections

    In a 2009 study on mice, scientists discovered that dietary supplementation with tulsi protected the animals’ lungs against colonization with Klebsiella pneumoniae (common hospital-acquired bacteria known to cause pneumonia and urinary tract infections).

    4) Mercury Poisoning

    A 2002 study on mice suggests that treatment with tulsi may provide protection against mercury-induced toxicity (known to damage the central nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, and other organs).

    Is Tulsi Safe?

    Although tulsi is generally considered safe, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their physicians before using the herb.

    Individuals currently taking any kind of medication should also talk to a doctor before using tulsi.

    How to Use Tulsi

    Available in capsule and tincture form, tulsi is also commonly found in herbal teas. Tulsi products are sold at most health-food stores.


    Bhattacharyya D, Sur TK, Jana U, Debnath PK. “Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders.” Nepal Medical College Journal 2008 10(3):176-9.

    Gupta S, Mediratta PK, Singh S, Sharma KK, Shukla R. “Antidiabetic, antihypercholesterolaemic and antioxidant effect of Ocimum sanctum (Linn) seed oil.” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 2006 44(4):300-4.

    Saini A, Sharma S, Chhibber S. “Induction of resistance to respiratory tract infection with Klebsiella pneumoniae in mice fed on a diet supplemented with tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) and clove (Syzgium aromaticum) oils.” Journal of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infection 2009 42(2):107-13.

    Sharma MK, Kumar M, Kumar A. “Ocimum sanctum aqueous leaf extract provides protection against mercury induced toxicity in Swiss albino mice.” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 2002 40(9):1079-82.


    September 23, 2009 - Posted by | 1

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