Tulsi, also known as holy basil or Ocimum tenuiflorum by its scientific name, is an herb native to India and grown throughout areas of southeast Asia. The aromatic sub-shrub grows between 30 to 60 cm tall and features green oval leaves. Tulsi has been used for religious and culinary purposes as well as medical applications. The leaves, stems, and seeds of the plant are used as is the essential oil derived from its leaves. Tulsi is also commonly brewed into an herbal tea.1
Tulsi Uses and Health Benefits
Tulsi is known for its antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s said to stimulate the nerves to sharpen memory, reduce phlegm in the respiratory tract, and strengthen the stomach. Tulsi may also have an effect on blood sugar levels, which can help control type 2 diabetes.1,2
Among tulsi uses, studies have shown that it can inhibit constriction of bronchial airway passages to reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. It even has beneficial effects on tooth and gum health and can be used to treat bad breath or to cure canker sores.1,2,3 Tulsi can help regulate stress levels and has therefore been recommended for managing stress associated with bulimia nervosa, post-traumatic stress disorder, and hypoglycemia.4, 5, 6 It’s also recommended for patients undergoing radiation therapy or those with pancreatitis.7, 8 Other possible tulsi uses include for:
- Schizophrenia - Holy basil, or tulsi, is said to help relieve anxiety, depression, and stress as well as balance hormone levels. These tulsi benefits may also help in reducing schizophrenia symptoms.
- Skin Rash - Tulsi has long been used for treating skin rashes and inflammation caused by plants like poison ivy and poison oak.
- Kidney Cancer (Renal Cell Carcinoma) - Not only does tulsi contain antioxidants that protect cells from damage to reduce the risk of cancer, but the herb helps strengthen kidney function.
Tulsi Side Effects and Precautions
Tulsi is generally considered safe. However, it’s best to only use it for short periods of time as long-term tulsi side effects are unknown. Tulsi may increase the risk of bleeding. Do not take tulsi if you are taking other blood thinning medications or if you plan to have surgery.1, 4 Tulsi may affect fertility and should therefore not be taken by women who are pregnant, nursing, or plan to become pregnant.9 Talk to your doctor before attempting to self-medicate with tulsi if you have a serious medical condition such as diabetes.