Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Holy Basil - Health Benefits & Uses

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a plant indigenous to India. Worshipped in Hindu homes, this plant has remarkable health benefits giving rise to its name of Tulsi in Sanskrit or "the incomparable one".

Himalaya Holy Basil 
Holy Basil's benefits stem from its properties of being an adaptogenic and aiding the body in adapting to various kinds of stress. It has also been suggested to possess anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antioxidant, antidiabetic, antifungal, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, antiemetic, antispasmodic, anti-congestant properties.

In traditional ayurvedic medicine, Holy Basil has been used in respiratory conditions, bronchitis, bronchial asthma, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, skin diseases, arthritis, eye diseases, fever and insect bites. Its active constituent Eugenol has been considered to be primarlily responsible for its benefial potential.

The following studies reflect some of these benefits.

A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that the leaf extract of Holy Basil administered to rats protected them against mutation causing toxic agents. Lipid and protein oxidation was reduced and antioxidant defenses were raised.

In a 2007 study in the Journal of Natural Products, new compounds from Holy Basil leaf extract were isolated. These along with known compounds were found to reduce stress in rats by normalizing hyperglycemia, plasma corticosterone, plasma creatine kinase, and adrenal hypertrophy.

In a study published in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, a group of oral cancer patients were given radiation along with Holy Basil flavonoids while a second group was given radiation alone. In the group that received the Tulsi flavonoids, a significant reduction in glutathione levels was found. Results suggested that erythrocytes from cancer patients reacted to oxidative stress by raising glutathione levels, while the free radical scavenging effect of Holy Basil kept the glutathione levels low in patients who received the Tulsi flavonoids.

Holy Basil leaves were fed to rabbits for 30 days. Anemic hypoxia was then induced in them chemically. Results showed that the Tulsi leaves inhibited cardiorespiratory changes in response to stress. There was also a decrease in blood sugar level, increase in antioxidants (superoxide dismutase and reduced glutathione). The results suggested that the antistress activity of Holy basil is partially due to its antioxidant properties.

In a study published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacological Therapy, the effects of treatment with holy basil leaves on blood glucose and serum cholesterol levels in humans were shown. Results showed a significant decrease in fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels when holy basil leaves were administered compared to treatment with placebo leaves. Fasting blood glucose fell by 21.0 mg/dl, and postprandial blood glucose fell by 15.8 mg/dl. The lower values of glucose represented reductions of 17.6% and 7.3% in the levels of fasting and postprandial blood glucose, respectively. Urine glucose levels also showed a downward trend. Mean total cholesterol levels showed mild reduction during basil treatment period. Findings suggest that holy basil leaves may be useful as adjunct therapy in mild to moderate NIDDM.

More information on Holy Basil / Tulsi


J Med Food. 2007 Sep;10(3):495-502.
Ocimum sanctum Linn. (Holy Basil) ethanolic leaf extract protects against 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced genotoxicity, oxidative stress, and imbalance in xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes.

J Nat Prod. 2007 Sep;70(9):1410-6. Epub 2007 Sep 13.
Constituents of Ocimum sanctum with antistress activity.

Indian J Clin Biochem. 2005 Jan;20(1):160-4. doi: 10.1007/BF02893064.
Effect of ocimum flavonoids as a radioprotector on the erythrocyte antioxidants in oral cancer.

Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 2007 Jul-Aug;29(6):411-6.
Antistressor activity of Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi) against experimentally induced oxidative stress in rabbits.

Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1996 Sep;34(9):406-9.
Randomized placebo-controlled, single blind trial of holy basil leaves in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2005 Apr;49(2):125-31.
Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: a short review.

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