Ocimum (Basil or Tulsi) is a sacred and much revered plant in India. It is highly glorified in Ayurveda as the “incomparable one” due to its numerous beneficial effects.
Tulsi, or the Holy Basil, is a sacred plant in India and most Indians ritually worship it daily. Most Hindu homes will have the Basil plant growing in the centre of their courtyards. Basil is a branched, erect and fragrant herb attaining a height of 80 – 95 centimeters. Its leaves have either smooth or teethed margin. Flowers are small and reddish-purple in color. Fruits are small and reddish-yellow in color.
The Story Of Tulsi
Two major morphotypes of Basil are found in India, the green-leaved (Lakshmi tulsi) and the purple-leaved (Krishna tulsi). According to Hindu mythology, Tulsi is the divine consort of Lord Vishnu (the Preserver/Protector). According to one legend, Tulsi approached Lord Vishnu’s abode as a destitute woman seeking shelter. Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu’s chief consort did not allow her inside. Tulsi waited patiently in the courtyard for the Lord. Humiliated at the treatment, her feet sprouted roots and her hands sprouted branches and she turned into a fragrant plant. The Lord was very pleased with Tulsi’s devotion and granted her the status of his consort.
Chemical Composition Of Tulsi
Tulsi is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is known as Ocimum sanctum or, more recently, Ocimum tenuiflorum. Another member of this family is Ocimum basilicum or sweet basil which is used as a spice. The leaves and flowers of Basil contain from 0.1 to 0.23 % volatile oil. It also contains aldehydes (15-25%). Apart from this the Basil plant is a virtual chemical factory with compounds like vitamins A and C, calcium, zinc, iron, apigenine, carvacrol, cineol, eugenol, glucoronide etc.
The Health Benefits Of Tulsi
The Atharvaveda has acknowledged the curative properties of Basil and modern scientists have validated these effects by isolating more than 100 chemicals from the Basil plant which have potent medicinal value. The oil of Basil has excellent anti-ulcer activity. It also has anti-inflammatory activity, since it has high concentrations of eugenol which is a known COX-2 inhibitor. The essential oils of Basil and certain other constituents exhibit anti-bacterial activity against Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria. It is also fungicidal in nature.
Basil seeds are known to relieve constipation. The leaf extracts have been found to have potent anti-cancer activity. Experiments on rats indicated that Basil possessed hypoglycemic effect. Thus it may be used to control Type 2 diabetes. Scientists have already validated its anti-thrombotic and anti-epileptic effects. Ocimum is well-known for its protective effect on the respiratory system. No Ayurvedic preparation for treating respiratory tract problems is complete without Tulsi extract.
Basil is anti-pyretic. Juice of Basil leaves brings down fever. Ayurvedic Basil preparations have been shown to reduce hepatitis symptoms. Regular consumption of five to six Basil leaves daily has been shown to treat piles. A mixture of Basil and ginger juice cures stomachaches. Basil is also an effective antacid. Basil is an excellent adaptogen and helps relieve stress-related problems. All these health benefits make Basil a truly wonder plant.