Holy Basil

Holy Basil (Tulsi)  –  Ocimum tenuiflorum (sanctum)

Native to India, Eastern Africa, Hainan Island & Taiwan.  Is found grown up to an altitude of 5900 feet in the Himalayas.  Holy Basil (Tulsi) is one of the main herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine.  It is believed that the best way to take Tulsi medicinally is in its raw form as a hot tea infusion.  Purchase now in 30gm or 60gm packs here and/or read on for more interesting facts:

Tulsi’s actions are many, including:
Adaptogenic – helps the body adapt to stress or change from any source
Antibacterial – used to prevent, resist and counteract bacterial infection
Hepatoprotective – has the ability to prevent damage to the liver
Hypotensive – lowering of blood pressure
Febrifuge – reduces fever
Antiseptic – used to prevent, resist and counteract infection
Immunomodulatory – modifies the response of the immune system
Antispasmodic – used to reduce or prevent excessive involuntary muscular contractions or spasms
Carminative – improves digestion and relieves the discomfort of flatulence, colic etc
Expectorant – promotes the removal of excess mucus from the lungs and air passages
Nervine – tones and strengthens the nervous system
Stimulant – increases functional activity and energy in the body

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Vol 2.2002 lists Tulsi’s uses, including treatment of arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, cold, flu, fever, diabetes & peptic ulcers.  Nowadays it is used to treat head colds, asthma, hiccoughs, coughs, loss of taste, lack of appetite, worm infestation, nerve pain, pleurisy, kidney stones, vomiting & eye disease.

Recent studies of Holy Basil (courtesy of American Botanical Council):

In a 2011 double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, 24 healthy volunteers consumed 300 mg capsules of holy basil leaves (70% ethanolic extract; Dabur Pharmaceutical Ltd., Ghaziabad, India) or placebo on empty stomachs every day for four weeks, followed by a three-week washout period before crossover to the next intervention. The holy basil group had significantly increased levels of IFN-γ, IL-4, and percentages of T-helper cells and natural killer (NK) cells, showing holy basil’s immunomodulatory effects in humans.

Two double-blind pilot studies in 2009 investigated holy basil and four other Ayurvedic herbs for their reputed immune-enhancing effect. The first study included 32 volunteers randomized to two treatment groups of 16 each who consumed three cups daily (over the course of two months) of regular tea or Natural Care tea (Hindustan Unilever Research Center, Bangalore, India), which contains holy basil (0.5%); ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae, 0.5%); licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, Fabaceae, 0.5%); ginger (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae, 1.5%); and cardamom (Elettaria cardmomum, Zingiberaceae, 1.5%). NK cell activity was measured after one and two months of tea consumption. While there were no significant changes in either group at the end of the first month, NK cell activity significantly increased after two months in the Natural Care tea drinkers but not in the regular tea group.

The second study was a larger, double-blind, crossover study in which 110 subjects (60 male, 40 female [sic]) were assigned randomly to two groups. Each group consumed three cups of tea (Natural Care or regular [Camellia sinensis, Theaceae]) per day for two months. NK cell activity was measured before a 15-day washout period when no tea was drunk. The groups then switched to the other tea for another two months, after which NK cell activity was measured again. NK cell activity increased in both groups after two months, but the increase in the Natural Care tea drinking groups was approximately 4.2 times higher, while the NK cell activity in the regular tea group was about 2.9 times higher.

Holy basil was investigated for its effect on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in a 2008 study. The study was conducted on 35 patients suffering from GAD from the outpatient clinics of the J. B. Roy State Ayurvedic Medical College and Hospital in Calcutta, India. Each subject was given 500 mg holy basil (70% ethanol extraction repeated three times, reduced in a rotary evaporator, then freeze-dried and packaged in gelatin capsules; manufacturer not stated) orally twice daily after a meal for 60 days. Baseline score index was 84.42±7.56 at the start, decreased to 68.17±7.84 (-19.2%) at 30 days, and 55.54±7.20 (-34.2%) at 60 days. Stress index at baseline was 95.65±8.42 and decreased to 84.32±9.08 (-11.5%) at 30 days and 68.45±9.60 (-27.5%) at 60 days. Additionally, depression index declined from 66.45±5.68 at baseline to 57.65±5.04 (-13.2%) at 30 days and 45.97±6.27 (30.8%) at 60 days.

A 2001 open, prospective, multicenter clinical study investigated the efficacy of an herbal eye drop containing holy basil on various ophthalmic conditions. Ophthacare®is an aqueous extract of six plants and honey made by Himalaya Drug Co. (Makali, Bangalore, India). Ophthacare comprises 0.60% w/v ajowan seed (Trachyspermum ammi, syn. Carum copticum, Apiaceae); 0.65% w/v belleric myrobalan fruit (Terminalia bellerica, Combretaceae); 1.30% w/v amla (Phyllanthus emblica, syn. Emblica officinalis, Euphorbiaceae); 1.30% w/v turmeric rhizome (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae); 1.30% w/v holy basil leaf; 1.10% w/v damask rose petals (Rosa damascena, Rosaceae); 0.5% w/v camphor crystal (Cinnamomum camphora, Lauraceae); and 3.70% w/v honey. Eye drops were applied at the rate of two drops four times daily for 15 days on 100 patients with acute conjunctivitis (allergic, bacterial, or viral) (n=35), acute dacryocystitis (inflammation of the nasolacrimal sac) (n=20), conjunctival xerosis (dry eye) (n=7), degenerative conditions such as pterygium/pinguecula (n=15), or who were postoperative cataract patients (n=23). Therapeutic responses occurred in most of the patients with the postoperative cataract patients experiencing the most benefit (95%), followed by dacryocystitis patients (88.2%), acute conjunctivitis patients (87.5%), patients with degenerative conditions (76.9%), and conjunctival xerosis patients (66.7%).

In a 1996 randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, 40 type 2 diabetes patients were randomized to consume holy basil leaf tea for four weeks followed by placebo leaf tea for four weeks or the reverse after a five-day run-in period in which they all consumed holy basil leaf tea. The authors concluded that consumption of the holy basil tea resulted in significant reduction in fasting blood sugar and postprandial blood sugar, as well as a moderate reduction in cholesterol. However, the Jadad score for this study was 1 (on a scale of 0 [very poor] to 5 [rigorous]), suggesting lack of adequate design and controls and that further studies are necessary.

A number of clinical studies were reported in the late 1900s, including ones for treatment of bronchial asthma, viral encephalitis, stress-related arterial hypertension, cell-mediated and humoral immune response, and chronic fatigue.  While these studies suggested some positive benefit for the conditions studied, they were all small pilot studies.

More studies of Holy Basil, click or copy & paste the links to read:


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Content within this blog and all our associated literature are for educational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.  Please consult with your Natural Practitioner for a more personalised health consultation or email me (Tanya) your site herbalist at tanya@naturalus.co.nz for any further questions.