Tulsi / Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)

Traditional Indications

Tulsi or Holy basil is adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperproliferative, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, cardiotonic, hypoglycaemic, immune stimulant, mucolytic and nervine. Tulsi is an important herb in India’s traditional system of medicine of Ayurveda and is known as one of the world’s most sacred herbs. Tulsi, translates as incomparable one. It is said to elevate the mind, heal the body, and uplift the soul. In Ayurveda Tulsi is classified as a “rasayana,” delineating its MVP (most valuable player) status in the realm of adaptogenic herbs. In India, as an immune stimulant and mucolytic expectorant, Holy Basil is brewed a tea to treat colds and influenza. Holy Basil is considered to be a powerful prophylactic (life-extending) herb (1).


Active constituents include eugenol, rosmarinic acid, apigenin, myretenal, luteolin, β-sitosterol, and carnosic acid prevented chemical-induced skin, liver, oral, and lung cancers and to mediate these effects by increasing the antioxidant activity, altering the gene expressions, inducing apoptosis, and inhibiting angiogenesis and metastasis (2).
Observations clearly indicate Ocimum sanctum extracts possess anticancer activity (3-5). Eugenol in Ocimum sanctum is an effective COX inhibitor thus is a powerful anti-inflammatory (6).

Ocimum sanctum demonstrated hypoglycaemic, hypolipidemic and antioxidant properties on streptozotocin induced diabetes in rats. There was significant reduction in fasting blood glucose, serum lipid profile, lipid peroxidation products, (LPO) and improvement in glucose tolerance. The aqueous extract also decreased LPO formation (thiobarbituric acid reactive substances TBARS) and increased antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPX), glutathione transferase (GT) and one antioxidant reduced glutathione (GSH) in plasma and rat liver, lung, kidney and brain. The decrease in TBARS and increase in GSH, SOD, CAT, GPX, and GT clearly shows the antioxidant property of Ocimum sanctum (7).

Ocimum sanctum is an effective remedy for periodontal disease treatment and prevention where Tulsi demonstrated effective antimicrobial properties (8). Another study indicated Tulsi mouth rinse may prove to be an effective mouthwash owing to its ability in decreasing periodontal indices by reducing plaque accumulation, gingival inflammation and bleeding. Results showed that Ocimum sanctum mouth rinse is equally effective in reducing plaque and gingivitis as chlorhexidine. It has no side effect as compared to chlorhexidine (9).

Tulsi has broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity obviously useful in today’s antibiotic resistant pandemic. A study concluded of the 54 compounds identified in Tulsi three are proposed to be responsible for antimicrobial activity against S. aureus (including MRSA), P. aeruginosa and E. coli; camphor, eucalyptol and eugenol. S. aureus, P. aeruginosa and E. coli are major pathogens causing skin and soft tissue infections, Tulsi essential oil could be a valuable topical antimicrobial agent for management of skin infections caused by these organisms (10). Tulsi has also demonstrated antimicrobial acivity against Shigella species, Salmonella typhi, B.anthracis and P.aeruginosa, M. tuberculosis, Klebsiella, and Proteus mirabulus (11). Ocimum sanctum has demonstrated antimicrobial activity against WHO priority pathogens, Acinetobacter baumannii (carbapenem-resistant), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (carbapenem-resistant) and Klebsiella pneumoniae (carbapenem-resistant) (12).


1. Centre TC. What Is Holy Basil? 2019 [Available from: https://chopra.com/articles/what-is-holy-basil.
2. Baliga MS, Jimmy R, Thilakchand KR, Sunitha V, Bhat NR, Saldanha E, et al. Ocimum sanctum L (Holy Basil or Tulsi) and its phytochemicals in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Nutrition and cancer. 2013;65 Suppl 1:26-35.
3. Karthikeyan K, Gunasekaran P, Ramamurthy N, Govindasamy S. Anticancer Activity of Ocimum Sanctum. Pharmaceutical biology. 1999;37(4):285-90.
4. Shivpuje P, Ammanangi R, Bhat K, Katti S. Effect of Ocimum sanctum on Oral Cancer Cell Line: An in vitro Study. The journal of contemporary dental practice. 2015;16(9):709-14.
5. Magesh Vea. Ocimum sanctum induces apoptosis in A549 lung cancer cells and suppresses the in vivo growth of lewis lung carcinoma cells. Phytotherapy Research. 2009;23(10):1385-91.
6. Pattanayak P, Behera P, Das D, Panda SK. Ocimum sanctum Linn. A reservoir plant for therapeutic applications: An overview. Pharmacognosy reviews. 2010;4(7):95-105.
7. Hussain EH, Jamil K, Rao M. Hypoglycaemic, hypolipidemic and antioxidant properties of tulsi (Ocimum sanctum linn) on streptozotocin induced diabetes in rats. Indian journal of clinical biochemistry : IJCB. 2001;16(2):190-4.
8. Mallikarjun S, Rao A, Rajesh G, Shenoy R, Pai M. Antimicrobial efficacy of Tulsi leaf (Ocimum sanctum) extract on periodontal pathogens: An in vitro study. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. 2016;20(2):145-50.
9. Gupta D, Bhaskar DJ, Gupta RK, Karim B, Jain A, Singh R, et al. A randomized controlled clinical trial of Ocimum sanctum and chlorhexidine mouthwash on dental plaque and gingival inflammation. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine. 2014;5(2):109-16.
10. Yamani HA, Pang EC, Mantri N, Deighton MA. Antimicrobial Activity of Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) Essential Oil and Their Major Constituents against Three Species of Bacteria. Frontiers in microbiology. 2016;7:681-.
11. Eswar P, Devaraj CG, Agarwal P. Anti-microbial Activity of Tulsi {Ocimum Sanctum (Linn.)} Extract on a Periodontal Pathogen in Human Dental Plaque: An Invitro Study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2016;10(3):Zc53-6.
12. A.C. H. Systematic review and meta-analysis of plant-derived antimicrobials in WHO priority pathogens. Int J Complement Alt Med. 2022 Jun;15:122-37.


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