Holy Basil

 Holy Basil, also known in Ayruvedic tradition as Tulsi, and formally named Ocimum sanctum, is an indigenous plant in India and Southeast Asia. Numerous ancient systems of medicine value this plant for its medicinal properties, including Ayurveda, Greek, Roman, Siddha and Unani1.

Holy Basil, Ocimum sanctum, should not be confused with Sweet Basil, Ocimum basilicum, which is commonly used for culinary purposes.

In India, Holy Basil’s name of Tulsi translates to “incomparable one” and is considered sacred anywhere it is grown2.  It is the most sacred plant in the Hindu religion.  Holy Basil is an important part of religious ceremonies. Like a number of other medicinal herbs from other parts of the world, it is thought to provide protection for homeswhere it is cultivated. The smell of the plant is effective in keeping away insects that typically spread disease, such as mosquitoes andflies.

In the United States of America, Holy Basil has been granted “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) status by the FDA.  Holy Basil is valued for its versatility in helping to restore health where imbalance is the cause of illness.

 

ACTIVE CONSTITUENTS

 Numerous constituents of Holy Basil have been identified; they include: eugenol 4,5, cinnamyl acetate 5, and beta-elemene 5. Extraction of the fresh leaves and stems of Ocimum sanctum yielded the following compounds: cirsilineol, cirsimaritin, isothymusin, isothymonin, apigenin, rosmarinic acid, and appreciable quantities of eugenol 6.  Polysaccharides have been found 7, along with flavonoids, including orientin and vicenin 8. Holy Basil also includes trace levels of zinc and other minerals 9, ursoloic acid 10,11, and at least five fatty acids (stearic, palmitic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids) 12.

 

MECHANISM OF ACTION

 Holy Basil has numerous mechanisms of action. Its beneficial effects are found across quite a few categories of medicinal activities, including anti-stress, anti-lipidemic, anti- diabetic and glycemic lowering properties. For the scope of this research review, this paper will focus on specific properties. The constituent eugenol (1-hydroxy-2-methoxy- 4-allylbenzene) is thought to be of particular benefit 4, as demonstrated in numerous applications.