The incomparable one
By Nirupama Deshpande
‘Holy basil’, scientifically known as ‘Ocimum tenuiflorum’ and better know to us as ‘tulsi’ has a rich history dating back to ancient India about 3000 years ago. ‘Tulasi’ in Sanskrit literally means ‘the incomparable one’, and isa member of the mint family. Though closely related to sweet basil that is frequently used in cooking, holy basil has been valued for centuries because of its benefits for the mind, body and spirit. Tulsi is mentioned in the Rig Vedic texts dating back to 1500 BC, and is an important symbol in Hindu religious tradition. Tulsi has been one of India’s most important healing plants and according to Ayurveda, the herb also has effect on spiritual aspects facilitating expanded states of awareness. It is considered an ‘elixir of life’ that promotes longevity and relaxation, or a ‘rasayana’ – a herb that nourishes growth to perfect physical and spiritual health. Today, the tulsi plant is classified as an adaptogen, a unique class of healing plants that help balance, restore and protect the body. An adaptogen helps you respond to any influence or stressor, normalizing your physiological functions. Tulsi has been used to treat common colds, headaches, stomach complaints, inflammation, heart disease, poisoning, and malaria. Its dried leaves are used as an insect repellent, its essential oil is used in cosmetics, cooking and in herbal teas. Scientific evidence proves that tulsi is indeed effective, and consumed mostly in supplement form or as tulsi tea, it is used to treat the following conditions
Research shows that it can radically and speedily improve anxiety and depression, and reduce physical and emotional stress. Holy basil has been clinically trialled in treating generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and results indicated that the herb significantly improved anxiety, stress, depression and attention span in subjects, with the greatest improvements occurring at the completion of 60 days of treatment.Research has shown that holy basil decreases the amount of cortisol released during stress, without the adverse side-effects of prescription medications.
Widely used for skincare, a team of researchers from Thailand tested tulsi’s antimicrobial capability and discovered that a 3.0% concentration of holy basil oil is most effective against bacteria that cause acne. Use a decoction of holy basil mixed with bathwater, wash your face with it, or simply applying the paste of its leaves to an infected area of the skin, in case of skin diseases. Or just consume tulsi leaves to keep your skin free from infections.
Adding holy basil to their diet could help people with type 2 diabetes to help control blood sugar levels, as research indicates. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology published a study proving that the extract of holy basil leaves were found to decrease glucose by more than 36% in normal rats and by 18% in diabetes-induced rats.
Hormones and Thyroid
Multiple scientific studies have found that supplementation with holy basil decrease stress hormone levels, corticosterone in particular. Lower levels of corticosterone are associated with improved mental clarity and memory and long-term, can reduce the risk of age-related mental disorders. This ‘stress hormone’ has far-reaching effects on the body and can play havoc on learning, memory, lowered immune function, bone density, weight gain and heart disease. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands, during bouts of emotional or physical stress; but adaptogens like tulsi help reduce the biochemical developments of stress by balancing cortisol levels. For instance, tulsi can help balance blood glucose levels indirectly by regulating cortisol secretion. Tulsi may also impact the secretion of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate mood and mental well-being.Tulsi should be taken in supplement/capsules form or consumed through drinking a cup of tulsi tea daily. Women should exercise caution if pregnant or trying to fall pregnant as the herb affects hormone levels.