Saturday, August 1, 2015

Tulsi (Holy basil) for Stress

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum, Family Lamiaceae; also known as Ocimum tenuiflorum) has an important place in the traditional systems of medicine in many Asian, African and South American countries. It is referred to as ‘Tulsi’ in India and its medicinal properties have been mentioned in ancient Indian medical literature namely Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita (about 1000 BC). Within Ayurveda, Tulsi has been referred to as “The Incomparable One,” “Mother Medicine of Nature” and “The Queen of Herbs,” and is considered as an “elixir of life” with both medicinal and spiritual properties.  It is considered to be an adaptogen, balancing various bodily processes, and helpful for adapting to stress. It is notable that adaptogenic herbs do not alter mood as such, but help the body function optimally during stress.

Medicines with several beneficial effects can be extracted from the leaves, stems, and seeds of the plant. Holy basil has been reported to have expectorant, antimicrobial, analgesic, anticancer, antiasthmatic, antiemetic, diaphoretic, antidiabetic, antifertility, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, radioprotective, chemoprotective, hypotensive, hypolipidemic, neuroprotective,, immunomodulatory, cognition enhancing, anti-anxiety etc properties.

There are at least two types of holy basil commonly cultivated, the Green type and the Purple type. The green type is more common and is called Sri Tulsi or Rama Tulsi, whereas the purple type is not that common and is called as Krishna Tulsi or Shyam Tulsi.

Traditionally, holy basil is taken in many forms including herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee. It is often added to soups because of its peppery taste. You can consider growing your own holy basil plant from seeds or cuttings and making freshly brewed tea every day or even nibbling on a few leaves. Many Ayurvedic practitioners recommend the regular consumption of tulsi tea.

In a small sized clinical study, plant extract of holy basil (500 mg equivalent) given twice daily for 60 days decreased generalized anxiety disorders and related stress and depression. In another study, taking whole plant extract of holy basil, one capsule (400 mg equivalent) after breakfast and two capsules after dinner for 6 weeks decreased symptoms of stress, including forgetfulness, sexual problems, exhaustion, and sleep problems. In one study, extract of holy basil (300 mg equivalent) given once daily for 30 days resulted in enhanced short-term memory and attention.

Insufficient literature exists about the safety of the use of holy basil during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Animal studies suggest that large amounts of holy basil might negatively affect fertility. Holy basil might slow blood clotting, so it is advisable to stop using holy basil at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery. Although no evidence exists in published literature, precaution should be exercised while taking holy basil with medications that decrease clotting (e.g. aspirin, clopidogrel, heparin, warfarin, etc).


1. Bhattacharyya D, Sur TK, Jana U, Debnath PK. Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Nepal Med Coll J. 2008; 10(3):176-9.

2. Cohen MM. Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014;5(4):251-9.

3. Sampath S, Mahapatra SC, Padhi MM, Sharma R, Talwar A. Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) leaf extract enhances specific cognitive parameters in healthy adult volunteers: A placebo controlled study. Indian J PhysiolPharmacol 2015; 59(1): 69–77.

4. Ram Chandra Saxena, Rakesh Singh, Parveen Kumar, et al. Efficacy of an Extract of Ocimum tenuiflorum (OciBest) in the Management of General Stress: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.2012, Article ID 894509, 7 pages.


Destination Infinity said...

That reminds me, I need to buy a sapling of Tulsi and plant it in our pot. I have been postponing this activity, but now you have inspired me to act :)

Destination Infinity

VS said...

And you can also try Tulsi tea. :)