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Ocimum sanctum

Ocimum sanctum


Ocimum tenuiflorum

Vernacular Name

Tulsi, kala tulasi, holy basil, krishna tulsai,n-tulsi, basttikum, basilic odorant, tulsi, rayhan, lum, thulasi.


Tulsi is an aromatic plant that is a small shrub growing from 30 to 60 cm tall. It has many branches, hairy stems and strongly scented opposite leaves. The plant produces small purple flowers that grow in tight whorls. This upright herb with its oblong leaves, Tulsi 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. [1]

Origin / Habitat

O. sanctum, or Tulsi, is considered to be a holy herb in India. Thought to be native to south and western Asia and Australia, Tulsi is now primarily cultivated in gardens and temples. It is also considered to be an escaped weed. [1] 

Chemical Constituents

All plant parts except the root contain an oil that is mostly comprised of eugenol. Also contained within the oil is Alpha-pinene, Beta-pinene, camphor, carvacrol, caryophyllene, decylaldehyde, nerol, terpinene, and y-selinene. [1] O. sanctum also contains saponins, tannins, linoleic and linolenic acids. [2]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, flower, root, seeds [1]

Traditional Use

Tulsi is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for upper respiratory disorders. [3] The leaves provide substantial expectorant and cough suppressant characteristics. Often just the juice of the leaf or an infusion such as tea is useful in cough and bronchitis. Additionally, O. sanctum can be used to treat diarrhea, dysentery and dyspepsia. [2] Tulsi pacifies the Vata and Kapha doshas while having a stimulating effect on the Pitta dosha. [3] Its rasa (taste) is characterized as being katu (pungent) and tikta (bitter). [1] 


1.5-2g Powdered seed, 4-12ml leaf infusion, 28-56ml decoction. [2]



In laboratory animal studies, O. sanctum has been reported to help reduce the effects of chronic stress [4][5] [6] promote wound healing, [7][8] lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes, [9][10] slow age-related memory impairment [11] and lower cholesterol. [12] Studies have also shown anti-parasitic, anticonvulsant, antimicrobial and analgesic activity. [13][14][15][16] 

O. sanctum has shown positive effects in both the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems. [17][18][19][20]  In addition, Ocimum sanctum protects against mercury-induced toxicity. [21] The herb may lower sperm count during therapy, which can be reversed when treatment is stopped. [22]

O. sanctum has a reputation for helping to balance the body's stress response as an adaptogen, possibly by normalizing cortisol production in the adrenals. [23] O. sanctum extracts are potent antioxidants, [24] and have been reported in laboratory studies to decrease lipid peroxidation thereby improving cholesterol levels. [25] 

The ursolic acid in O. sanctum has been reported in in vitro studies to reduce COX-2, an inflammatory enzyme. [26][27] Laboratory studies also support the use of O. sanctum in radiation protection, decreasing the oxidative effects of radiation. [28][29] 

The ethanolic extract of O. sanctum was used to treat noise-induced stress in two animal studies. The extract has positive effects in both studies. The brain’s tissue and neurotransmitters were protected during the noise stress. [30][31] 


No documentation.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Interaction with Drugs

Based on pharmacology, this herb alters blood sugar and should therefore not be used by individuals taking diabetes medication as it may alter the dosage. [9][10] 

Not to be used in combination with any prescription drug therapy.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

No documentation.


Traditional use indicates that Tulsi is a uterine stimulant and should therefore not be used by pregnant or nursing women. [3]

Age limitation

Not to be used by children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

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  1)  Western Herbs


  1. Kapoor, LD. CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1990.249.
  2. ANON. The Wealth of India raw materials. Publications and Information Directorate, CSIR. New Delhi. 1948-1976. Available from: . [Accessed on 16 Feb 2010]
  3. Gerson, Scott. National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine. Ocimum sanctum. 1997. Available from [Accessed on 16 February 2009].
  4. Samson, J., Sheela, Devi R., Ravindran, R., and Senthilvelan, M. Biogenic amine changes in brain regions and attenuating action of Ocimum sanctumin noise exposure. Pharmacol.Biochem.Behav. 2006;83(1):67-75.
  5. Archana, R. and Namasivayam, A. Effect of Ocimum sanctum on noise induced changes in neutrophil functions. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;73(1-2):81-85.
  6. Ravindran, R., Rathinasamy, S. D., Samson, J., and 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.
  7. Gupta, S. K., Prakash, J., and Srivastava, S. Validation of traditional claim of Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum Linn. as a medicinal plant. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2002;40(7):765-773.
  8. Udupa, S. L., Shetty, S., Udupa, A. L., and Somayaji, S. N. Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn. on normal and dexamethasone suppressed wound healing. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2006;44(1):49-54.
  9. Gholap S, Kar A. Hypoglycaemic effects of some plant extracts are possibly mediated through inhibition in corticosteroid concentration. Pharmazie. 2004;59(11):876-878.
  10. Narendhirakannan, R. T., Subramanian, S., and Kandaswamy, M. Mineral content of some medicinal plants used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Biol.Trace Elem.Res .2005;103(2):109-115.
  11. Joshi, H. and Parle, M. Evaluation of nootropic potential of Ocimum sanctum Linn. in mice. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2006;44(2):133-136.
  12. Geetha, R. K. and Vasudevan, D. M. Inhibition of lipid peroxidation by botanical extracts of Ocimum sanctum: in vivo and in vitro studies. Life Sci.19-11-2004;76(1):21-28.
  13. Asha, M. K., Prashanth, D., Murali, B., Padmaja, R., and Amit, A. Anthelmintic activity of essential oil of Ocimum sanctum and eugenol. Fitoterapia.2001;72(6):669-670.
  14. Jaggi, R. K., Madaan, R., and 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., and 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. and 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, V. K., Maurya, R., Srivastava, S., Sharma, S., and Palit, G. Evaluation of anti-ulcerogenic and ulcer-healing properties of Ocimum sanctum Linn. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;93(2-3):197-206.
  18. Goel, R. K., Sairam, K., Dorababu, M., Prabha, T., and 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, S. K., Joshi, S., and Arya, D. S. Cardioprotective potential of Ocimum sanctum in isoproterenol induced myocardial infarction in rats. Mol.Cell Biochem. 2001;225(1-):75-83.
  20. Singh, S., Rehan, H. M., and Majumdar, D. K. 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, M. K., Kumar, M., and 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. Ahmed, M., Ahamed, R. N., Aladakatti, R. H., and Ghosesawar, M. G. Reversible anti-fertility effect of benzene extract of Ocimum sanctum leaves on sperm parameters and fructose content in rats. J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2002;13(1):51-59.
  23. Subramanian, M., Chintalwar, G. J., and Chattopadhyay, S. Antioxidant and radioprotective properties of an Ocimum sanctum polysaccharide. Redox.Rep. 2005;10(5):257-264.
  24. Prakash, J. and Gupta, S. K. Chemopreventive activity of Ocimum sanctum seed oil. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;72(1-2):29-34.
  25. Geeta, Vasudevan, D. M., Kedlaya, R., Deepa, S., and 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.
  26. Kelm, M. A., Nair, M. G., Strasburg, G. M., and DeWitt, D. L. Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine. 2000;7(1):7-13.
  27. Singh, S., Malhotra, M., and Majumdar, D. K. Antibacterial activity of Ocimum sanctum L. fixed oil. Indian J Exp.Biol. 2005;43(9):835-837.
  28. Uma, Devi P. Radioprotective, anticarcinogenic and antioxidant properties of the Indian holy basil, Ocimum sanctum (Tulasi). Indian J Exp.Biol. 2001;39(3):185-190.
  29. Subramanian, M., Chintalwar, G. J., and Chattopadhyay, S. Antioxidant and radioprotective properties of an Ocimum sanctum polysaccharide. Redox.Rep. 2005;10(5):257-264.
  30. Samson, J., Sheela, Devi R., Ravindran, R., and Senthilvelan, M. Biogenic amine changes in brain regions and attenuating action of Ocimum sanctumin noise exposure. Pharmacol.Biochem.Behav. 2006;83(1):67-75.
  31. Sembulingam, K., Sembulingam, P., and Namasivayam, A. Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn on the changes in central cholinergic system induced by acute noise stress. J Ethnopharmacol. 1-15-2005;96(3):477-482.

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