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Subheshaja(सुभेषज) – Tonic for the Body, Mind and Spirit – Tulsi

“Hi, Aunty, you asked me to come, so, here I am!” called out Preethi as she entered Dr. Radha’s home. 

“Ah, good, come in, sit down,” Dr. Radha invited her and soon brought a plate filled with sweets and savouries. “Here’s something for you to nibble on, while we chat.”

“Wow! Krishna Janmashtami snacks! My favourite!” Preethi said as she unknowingly picked up a small green leaf lying on the food, and kept it aside, preparing to attack the plate with glee.

“Wait a minute, Preethi! Eat that Tulsi leaf first!” laughed Dr. Radha.
“Eeek…I don’t like its spicy-bitter kind of flavour, Aunty!”

“Oh! I think you don’t know the value of Tulsi, Preethi. Do you know that in Ayurveda, it is called the ‘Queen of Herbs’? Almost all parts of this plant – the seeds, leaves, roots, stem and flowers – are filled with healing properties!”

“Really? I only thought it was used during pooja and given to devotees in the temple.”

“Of course, it is used in pooja, and is added into the holy water – tirtha. It just shows that our ancestors were so wise, that they made Tulsi a part of our daily life. Do you know, Preethi, in one study, an extract from Tulsi leaves was shown to remove impurities from water, and act as an antimicrobial?”(1)


“Tulsi has been recommended in Ayurveda for treating a broad range of ailments right from fever, bronchitis and bronchial asthma to diarrhea, insect bites, skin irritation and arthritis. Modern science is only now beginning to understand the entire range of its actions.” (2)

“How is Tulsi capable of all this, Aunty?”

“Tulsi contains many ingredients such as volatile oil, phenolic antioxidants and flavonoids. The main ingredient in the volatile oil is a compound called Eugenol and most of the actions of Tulsi are because of this. Studies have shown that extracts from this herb have anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and anti-lipidemic activity.” (3)

“My mother says that in olden days, every house had a Tulsi plant in the courtyard.”

“Yes, that’s true. And elders in the family would use it to treat all the common little health issues. For cough and cold, fever, stomach pain – they would add Tulsi leaves to other spices and make a kashaya. If someone got a skin problem or suffered insect bites, they would extract juice from the leaves and apply it to the affected area. Going around the Tulsi plant every morning was part of the pooja and helped to calm the mind.”

“Are these benefits proved by science, Aunty?”

“Oh yes, studies show that Tulsi extracts have anti-microbial action against organisms which cause skin and soft tissue infections; they are also very helpful in reducing fever. Researchers have also found evidence that Tulsi has an anti-inflammatory action, it protects the liver because of its antioxidant action and it also heals gastric ulcers.” (4),(5) (6)

“Then Tulsi really is a wonder herb!”

“Our ancestors always considered it as an adaptogen, Preethi. Do you know what this word means?”

“Hmmn…it sounds like the word adapt?”

“Exactly! An adaptogen is a herb that helps the body to adjust and adapt to stress of different types – physical, chemical, emotional, infectious. In Western medicine, there is no such concept, but scientists are now finding that Tulsi has actions that indeed help to combat all such stressors!”

“Stress is mostly because of our mind, right, Aunty?  When I feel stressed, I’m totally nervous, I lose sleep, feel tired, forget to do important things, and generally make a mess of everything! You mean if I chew a few Tulsi leaves, it can help with this stress?”

 “It’s not a joke, Preethi; you’re actually correct in saying this. Several experiments in animals have shown that Tulsi has anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties, that it can improve memory and reduce age-related memory loss. Human studies have also shown that Tulsi reduces anxiety, depression and stress; it also improves sleep and gives relief from tiredness and forgetfulness!” (2)

“Ohkayyy – you’ve convinced me, Aunty! So I guess I better eat that Tulsi leaf first before gobbling the other goodies you’ve made!”


1. Sivaraja, Pavithra. (2012). Effect of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) as a Disinfectant for Water Treatment. Hitek J Bio Sci & Bioengg, 1(1), 1-7  Available online at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259318001_Effect_of_Tulsi_Ocimum_sanctum_as_a_Disinfectant_for_Water_Treatment 

2. Cohen M. M. (2014). Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine5(4), 251–259. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/

3. Verma S. Chemical constituents and pharmacological action of Ocimum sanctum (Indian holy basil-Tulsi). J Phytopharmacol 2016;5(5):205-207. Available online at: http://www.phytopharmajournal.com/Vol5_Issue5_07.pdf

4. Yamani, H. A., Pang, E. C., Mantri, N., & Deighton, M. A. (2016). Antimicrobial Activity of Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) Essential Oil and Their Major Constituents against Three Species of Bacteria. Frontiers in microbiology7, 681. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4868837/

5. Pushpam M, Patric Joshua P, Arumugam P. Effect of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) leaves on pyrexia. World Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences ISSN (Print): 2321-3310; ISSN (Online): 2321-3086 Available online at: https://www.wjpsonline.org/admin/uploads/Bmp8rL.pdf

6. Kamyab A.A., Eshraghian A. Anti-Inflammatory, gastrointestinal and hepatoprotective effects of Ocimum sanctum Linn: an ancient remedy with new application. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2013 Dec;12(6):378-84. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24266685/

Disclaimer: The article is not a medical prescription. It is only for information. The opinion expressed are of the author.

Anusuya Kashi

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