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Ocimum sanctum


Ocimum sanctum


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Tulsi, kemangin, basil, holy basil, tulasi


Considered a holy herb in India, Ocimum sanctumor Holy basil is known in Ayurvedic medicine as Tulsi. In India, this small annual is cultivated primarily at temples and gardens.[1] O. sanctum is native to south and western Asia, as well as Australia.[2] The upright herb with its oblong leaves is easily identified by its scent, said to resemble the scent of clove. Aside from its medicinal value, O. sanctum, as well as other herbs from the Ocimum genus, are used both fresh and dried for their flavor in cuisine.[2]

The upright, erect herb with its oblong leaves is easily identified by its scent, said to resemble the scent of clove. This small,shrub-like plant grows an average of 50-60cm tall, has hairy stems and produces purple flowers growing in whorls.

Origin / Habitat

O. sanctum is native to south and western Asia, as well as Australia. It is now cultivated for medicinal and spiritual purposes wherever the tropical conditions required for it’s grow can be replicated.

Chemical Constituents

Triterpenic acids including ursolic acid, oleanolic acid



The seed oil contains a-linolenic acid.[3]


Plant Part Used

Leaves and sometimes oil from the seeds

Medicinal Uses





Blood sugar regulation


Cholesterol lowering

Protection from radiation


Most Frequently Reported Uses




Blood sugar regulation



Dosage Range 

400-1000mg per day of a standardized extract in divided dosages (minimum 2 per day with meals).


Most Common Dosage 

500mg standardized extract, three times per day with meals.


Standardization Dosage 

Extracts of O. sanctum are standardized to 1.0-2.5% ursolic acid.

Steam distilled extracts contain a minimum of 40% eugenol and 15% caryophyllene



The anxiolytic properties of O. sanctum have been evident in animal models and now have been demonstrated in a human clinical study. Thirty-five patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were given the herb in capsule form (500mg twice per day) for a period of 60 days. Researchers reported a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms and related depression.[4]


In various animal models, O. sanctum has been reported to help reduce the effects of long-term stress possibly by normalizing cortisol levels.[6],[7],[8] It has also been found to promote healing of laboratory induced wounds[3],[9], lower blood sugar levels in diabetes, type 2, and lower cholesterol.[10],[11],[12] Additional laboratory studies have demonstrated anti-parasitic, anticonvulsant, antimicrobial and analgesic activity.[13],[14],[15],[16]

O. sanctum has shown positive effects in the gastrointestinal system by healing gastric mucosa, further supporting the wound-healing properties noted above and found in traditional usage.[17],[18],[19] Evaluation of the herb in regard to use in cardiovascular health demonstrated a reduction in blood pressure and blood clotting time.[20]

The antioxidant activity of O. sanctum leaf extract and seed oil extract has been noted in various settings and laboratory induced challenges such as mercury toxicity.[21] The leaf extract has demonstrated antioxidant and chemoprotective activity[22], and has been reported in laboratory studies to decrease lipid peroxidation thereby improving cholesterol levels.[23]

The ursolic acid in O. sanctum has been reported in in vitro studies to inhibit cyclooxygenase, an inflammatory enzyme.[24] Laboratory studies also support the use of flavonoids found in Holy basil in providing protective effects against radiation decreasing cellular oxidation.[25]

The ethanolic extract of O. sanctum was used to treat noise-induced stress in two animal models demonstrating positive effects in both studies. Selective brain tissue and neurotransmitters were protected during the artificially induced noise stress tests.[6],[26]


Traditionally, O. sanctum has been used as a blood sugar regulator. This use was supported by a single-blind human study in which patients divided into two groups received either O. sanctum leaves or placebo.  The patients taking the O. sanctum leaves exhibited a significant decrease in both fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels as compared to those in the placebo group.[5]

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Anticoagulant, antiplatelet medications.

Based on pharmacology, may potentiate action of sedative medications.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Not to be used by individuals with bleeding disorders.

O. sanctum is generally reported to be safe when used in recommended dosages.


Due to its use as a uterine stimulant, O. sanctum should not be used by pregnant women.

Age limitation

Not to be used by children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1)  Ayuverda


  1. Kapoor LD. CRC handbook of ayurvedic medicinal plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1990.
  2. Simon JE. Basil. 1995. Available from:  [Accessed on 16 February  2009].
  3. Gupta SK. Validation of traditional claim of Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum Linn. as a medicinal plant. Indian J Exp Biol. Jul 2002;40(7):765-773.
  4. Bhattacharyya D, Sur TK, Jana U, Debnath PK. Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Nepal Med Coll J. Sep 2008;10(3):176-179.
  5. Agrawal P, Rai V, Singh RB. Randomized placebo-controlled, single blind trial of holy basil leaves in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. Sep 1996;34(9):406-409.
  6. Samson J, Sheela DR, Ravindran R, Senthilvelan M. Biogenic amine changes in brain regions and attenuating action of Ocimum sanctumin noise exposure. Pharmacol.Biochem.Behav. 2006;83(1):67-75.
  7. Archana R, Namasivayam A. Effect of Ocimum sanctum on noise induced changes in neutrophil functions. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;73(1-2):81-85.
  8. Ravindran R, Rathinasamy SD, Samson J, Senthilvelan M. Noise-stress-induced brain neurotransmitter changes and the effect of Ocimum sanctum (Linn) treatment in albino rats. J Pharmacol.Sci 2005;98(4):354-360.
  9. Udupa SL, Shetty S, Udupa AL, Somayaji SN. Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn. on normal and dexamethasone suppressed wound healing. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2006;44(1):49-54.
  10. Gholap S, Kar A. Hypoglycaemic effects of some plant extracts are possibly mediated through inhibition in corticosteroid concentration. Pharmazie. 2004;59(11):876-878.
  11. Narendhirakannan RT, Subramanian S, Kandaswamy M. Mineral content of some medicinal plants used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Biol.Trace Elem.Res. 2005;103(2):109-115.
  12. Geetha RK, Vasudevan DM. Inhibition of lipid peroxidation by botanical extracts of Ocimum sanctum: in vivo and in vitro studies. Life Sci. 19 Nov 2004;76(1):21-28.
  13. Asha MK, Prashanth D, Murali B, Padmaja R, Amit A. Anthelmintic activity of essential oil of Ocimum sanctum and eugenol. Fitoterapia. 2001;72(6):669-670.
  14. Jaggi RK, Madaan R, Singh B. Anticonvulsant potential of holy basil, Ocimum sanctum Linn. and its cultures. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2003;41(11):1329-1333.
  15. Shokeen P, Ray K, Bala M, Tandon V. Preliminary studies on activity of Ocimum sanctum, Drynaria quercifolia and Annona squamosa against Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Sex Transm.Dis. 2005;32(2):106-111.
  16. Khanna N, Bhatia J. Antinociceptive action of Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi) in mice: possible mechanisms involved. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003;88(2-3):293-296.
  17. Dharmani P, Kuchibhotla VK, Maurya R, Srivastava S, Sharma S, Palit G. Evaluation of anti-ulcerogenic and ulcer-healing properties of Ocimum sanctum Linn. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;93(2-3):197-206.
  18. Goel RK, Sairam K, Dorababu M, Prabha T, Rao ChV. Effect of standardized extract of Ocimum sanctum Linn. on gastric mucosal offensive and defensive factors. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2005;43(8):715-721.
  19. Sharma M, Kishore K, Gupta SK, Joshi S, Arya DS. Cardioprotective potential of Ocimum sanctum in isoproterenol induced myocardial infarction in rats. Mol.Cell Biochem. 2001;225(1-):75-83.
  20. Singh S, Rehan HM, Majumdar DK. Effect of Ocimum sanctum fixed oil on blood pressure, blood clotting time and pentobarbitone-induced sleeping time. J Ethnopharmacol. 2001;78(2-3):139-143.
  21. Sharma MK, Kumar M, Kumar A. Ocimum sanctum aqueous leaf extract provides protection against mercury induced toxicity in Swiss albino mice. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2002;40(9):1079-1082.
  22. Prakash J, Gupta SK. Chemopreventive activity of Ocimum sanctum seed oil. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;72(1-2):29-34.
  23. Geeta VDM, Kedlaya R, Deepa S, Ballal M. Activity of Ocimum sanctum (the traditional Indian medicinal plant) against the enteric pathogens. Indian J Med Sci. 2001;55(8):434-438, 472.
  24. Kelm MA, Nair MG, Strasburg GM, DeWitt DL. Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine. 2000;7(1):7-13.
  25. Subramanian M, Chintalwar GJ, Chattopadhyay S. Antioxidant and radioprotective properties of an Ocimum sanctum polysaccharide. Redox.Rep. 2005;10(5):257-264.
  26. Sembulingam K, Sembulingam P, Namasivayam A. Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn on the changes in central cholinergic system induced by acute noise stress. J Ethnopharmacol. 15 Jan 2005;96(3):477-482.

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