Tulsi Health Benefits
What do Scientific Studies Say?

What are the many Tulsi health benefits? Find out why it is called “The Queen of Herbs.”



Tulsi, also called holy basil, is a medicinal herb that occupies an extremely important place in the Ayurvedic tradition.

Revered in India for both religious and practical reasons, it is used in both religious ceremonies and for the treatment of a variety of ailments.

But are tulsi's purported health benefits supported by science?

A growing number of scientific studies say “yes.” Here is a breakdown of what Tulsi can do:

Tulsi Health Benefit #1:
Reduce Stress

Tulsi is widely regarded as an adaptogen, meaning that it helps the body deal more easily with stressful situations.

Stress causes a variety of unwelcome changes in your body, especially if it continues over a long period of time.

The chemistry of your blood changes, and your adrenal system becomes overwhelmed and begins producing too much of a stress hormone called cortisol. Blood sugar and cholesterol may also rise in response to stress.

Tulsi can prevent stress from overwhelming your system, keeping your body chemistry normal.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Bangladesh Society of Physiologist divided rats into 3 groups. Two groups were subject to restraint stress for an hour each day, while a third group remained unstressed.

Of the two groups of rats that were subject to stress, one group was fed tulsi.

The rats who were stressed and not given tulsi had elevated levels of glucose, cholesterol and aminotrasferases (ALT and AST).

The rats that were stressed and fed tulsi had blood levels of these chemicals that were much closer to the unstressed group of rats.

Another 1997 study conducted by Sri Ramachandra Medical College & Research Institute found that rats who were fed tulsi and then exposed to stress-inducing loud noises had blood levels of corticosterone that were almost normal, compared to rats that were exposed to noise and not treated with tulsi.

Finally, in a 2004 Indian study found that not only Tulsi reduces stress, it also increases antioxidants.

Researchers injected rabbits with sodium nitrate to induce oxidative stress. They found that tulsi “blunted the changes in cardiorespiratory (BP, HR, RR) parameters in response to stress.”

Tulsi also helped increase levels of enzymatic (superoxide dismutase) and nonenzymatic (reduced glutathione) antioxidants, and reduced the depletion of these antioxidants after the rabbits were injected with sodium nitrate.

Tulsi Health Benefit #2:
Normalize Blood Sugar

Tulsi can also help normalize blood sugar levels, which means it may be helpful in preventing and treating diabetes.

Lower blood sugar has been observed in both regular and diabetic rats fed tulsi, as well as in rabbits.

A 1997 study conducted by University of Baroda in India concluded that Tulsi can help reduce blood sugar in diabetic rats, amongst its many other benefits:

The results indicated a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar, uronic acid, total amino acids, total cholesterol, triglyceride, phospholipids and total lipids.

In liver, total cholesterol, triglyceride and total lipids were significantly lowered. Total lipids were significantly reduced in kidney. In heart, a significant fall in total cholesterol and phospholipids was observed.

All these observations indicate the hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effect of Tulasi in diabetic rats.

Tulsi Health Benefit #3:
Promote Heart Health

High cholesterol is another common health hazard that tulsi may help fight.

In another 1994 Indian study performed by S.N. Medical College, rabbits fed tulsi along with their food for four weeks showed lower levels of total cholesterol, triglyceride, phospholipid and LDL-cholesterol and higher levels of HDL-cholesterol.

In another 2005 Indian study conducted by the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarth, polyphenols isolated from tulsi were able to “turn off” genes associated with the thickening and hardening of arteries in cultured human cells.

Tulsi Health Benefit #4:
Protect Lung Against Infection

Tulsi has a long history of use against various infections in India. Many plants and essential oils are antibacterial when applied topically, but tulsi is one of the few that has been shown to fight infection when given orally.

A 2009 Indian study conducted by Panjab University found that “dietary supplementation with tulsi and clove oils protects against bacterial colonization of the lungs” in rats exposed to pneumonia.

They concluded “dietary supplementation with tulsi and clove oils protects against bacterial colonization of the lungs”.

Tulsi Health Benefit #5:
Protect Against Inflammation and Arthritis

Tulsi leaves can be drunk as a tea. Tulsi seeds produce oil, which also has many uses.

A 2007 review of tulsi oil by University of Delhi showed that it possessed anti-inflammatory properties, alleviating arthritis and edema in animal studies.

It has also been shown to be effective against mastitis (an inflammation caused by staph infection of the udder) in cows.

To quote the study:

Seeds of Ocimum sanctum L. (Labiatae; popularly known as 'Tulsi' in Hindi and 'Holy Basil' in English) contain a pale yellow colored fixed oil. The oil possesses antiinflammatory activity.

The oil has been found to be effective against formaldehyde or adjuvant induced arthritis and turpentine oil induced joint edema in animals.

The oil contains a-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.

The oil has hypotensive, anticoagulant and immunomodulatory activities.

Antioxidant property of the oil renders metabolic inhibition, chemoprevention and hypolipidaemic activity.

Presence of linolenic acid in the oil imparts antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus.

Tulsi Health Benefit #6:
Protect Against Mouth Ulcers

If you have an ulcer (or have been warned by your doctor that you are in danger of developing one), drinking tulsi regularly may help.

A 2003 study conducted by University College of Medical Sciences in Delhi using rats found that tulsi helped reduce the ulcer index and increased the amount of protective mucous secreted by the digestive system.

Conclusion

Tulsi has a pleasant taste and comes in a wide variety of flavors. It is also caffeine-free. If you are looking for another healthy drink to add to your routine, why not give tulsi a try?

References

Dilruba Siraji, Nadira Islam, Noorzahan Begum, Sultana Ferdousi (2008). Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) on body weight and some biochemical parameters in restraint stressed albino rats. J Bangladesh Soc Physiol.2008 Dec;(3):29-34.

Sembulingam K, Sembulingam P, Nanasivayam A. (1997). Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn on noise induced changes in plasma corticosterone level. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1997;41(2):139-143.

Jyoti Sethi, Sushma Sood, Shashi Seth and Anjana Talwar (2004). Evaluation of hypoglycemic and antioxidant effect of Ocimum sanctum. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. Volume 19, Number 2. July 2004. pp 152-155.

Rai, U. Iyer and U. V. Mani (1997). “Effect of Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum) leaf powder supplementation on blood sugar levels, serum lipids and tissues lipids in diabetic rats.” Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. Volume 50, Number 1. March, 1997. pp 9-16.

Sarkar A, Lavania SC, Pandey DN, Pant MC (1994). Changes in the blood lipid profile after administration of Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi) leaves in the normal albino rabbits. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1994 Oct;38(4):311-2.

Kaul D, Shukla AR, Sikand K, Dhawan V (2005). Effect of herbal polyphenols on atherogenic transcriptome. Mol Cell Biochem. 2005 Oct;278(1-2):177-84.

Saini A, Sharma S, Chhibber S (2009). 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. J Microbiol Immunol Infect. 2009 Apr;42(2):107-13.

Singh S, Taneja M, Majumdar DK (2007). Biological activities of Ocimum sanctum L. fixed oil--an overview. Indian J Exp Biol. 2007 May;45(5):403-12.

Khanna N, Bhatia J (2003). Antinociceptive action of Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi) in mice: possible mechanisms involved. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Oct;88(2-3):293-6.

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