Common Name : Tulsi
Plant Parts Used : Leaves, Seeds and Root
The plant, is a shrub reaching a height of 0.5 to 1.5 m. The leaves are 2-4 cms in length. There are several varieties of the plant. However, commonly used one is with dark leaves. The inflorescence is a long spike with tiny purple flowers.
Characteristics and Constituents :
The leaves contain an essential oil which has been studied with gas chromatography. The oil contains eugenol, eugenal, carvacrol, methyl-chavicol, limatrol and caryophylline.
The seeds contain an oil composed of fatty acids and sitosterol. The mucilage is compared of sugars - xylose and polysaccharides.
Actions and Uses :
Antimicrobial activity of the essential oil has been shown against M. tuberculosis and Staph aureus in vitro and other bacteria and fungi. Eugenol and methyleugenol showed a positive activity. Adaptogenic (antistress) activity has been found in mice and rats. The plant increased the physical endurance and prevented stress-induced ulcers. In general pharmacology the aqueous extract showed hypotensive activity and inhibited the smooth muscle contraction induced by acetylcholine, carbachol and histamine. It also potentiated the hexobarbitone sleeping time. Protective action against histamine-induced bronchospasm has been shown in animals.
A tea prepared with the leaves of Tulsi is commonly used in cough,cold,mild indigestion, diminished appetite and malaise.The solid extract of Tulsi, in a dose of 500 mg x 3 for one week, significantly relieved the breathlessness in 20 patients with tropical eosinophilia. There was however no reduction in the eosinophil count in peripheral blood. It is commonly used with black pepper in bronchial asthma. An oil exlacted from Tulsi is used as drops in ear infections. Fungal and bacterial infections of skin are treated with Tulsi juice. The seeds are used as a general tonic.
The fresh leaves are taken as prasad by millions of Indians for many years. The powdered leaves, 5-27 g per day were taken by 120 patients for 3 months. The only side effect was constipation. In animals, with large dose of an extract, antispermatogenic activity has been shown.