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Ayurvedic Herbs A-Z

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Ayurvedic Medicine




Latin -- Ocimum sanctum Linn.
Sanskrit -- Tulasi
Hindi -- Kala Tulasi
English -- Holy Basil

Family: Labiatae

Vernacular names: Sanskrit - Tulasi - Tulssi - Surasa - Krishnamul - Vishnu-priya; Hindi - Kala-tulasi; English - Holy basil; Unani - Tulsi; Bengali - Krishna tulasai; Tamil - Thulasi

Part Used: leaves, seeds, root

Traditional Ayurvedic Uses:

Tulasi is one of the most sacred plants in India, and many worship this plant daily as a means of cultivating their own consciousness through the power of devotion.

Tulasi gives Sattwa, or positively and healing power. It is said to open the heart and mind, increase the sense of spiritual love, and to enhance devotion, faith, compassion and clarity. It also helps to develop pure awareness.

Tulasi helps to enhance the quality of Rasa Dhatu (nutrient plasma), Rakta Dhatu (blood), Majja Dhatu (bone marrow and nerves) as well as Shukra Dhatu (reproductive fluids).

LUNGS: Tulsi clears kapha and mucus from the lungs and upper respiratory tract. It is also used in fevers and 'flu' to encourage sweating and therefore bring the temperature down. Used in asthma, bronchitis, rhinitis and other respiratory allergies Tulsi specifically increases prana and the vital life-force. Its pungency and penetrating nature clears the dampness and toxic ama that can cause chest infections and fevers. Its prabhava or special power is to be used in all fevers regardless of their 'cause'.2

GIT: Helps to move vata through the intestines and calms a fermentive digestive tract. It moves apanavayu downwards. It also increases the appetite and is a good aromatic stimulant to the digestion.

NERVES: Used as a mild nervine for heightening awareness and mental clarity. A tea of the leaves is also used for tension headaches from high vata and from congestion headaches from excess kapha.

Contraindications: In respiratory infections with high pitta without other cooling herbs.

Combinations are Best

The experts at Ayurveda do not recommend the use of single herbs for self-care due to several important reasons:

  1. Single herbs often have unwanted effects over time, which can be canceled by herbs in proper combination.
  2. Herbs in combination are much more powerful.
  3. Good formulas address all co-factors to a health goal for much greater effectiveness.
  4. Expert combinations include herbs that increase assimilation and effective potency of the other ingredients.
  5. Herbs have different effects according to dose, and when mixed with other herbs.

Ayurvedic Energetics:
Rasa: pungent, bitter
Veerya: heating
Vipaka: pungent
Guna: light, sharp, dry

Ayurvedic Action:
Jwarahara- alleviates fevers, Svedala- diaphoretic, Swasakasahara-benefits breathing and alleviates coughing, Deepana- enkindles the digestive fire, Hrdaya- specific affinity for the heart, Kushta- alleviates skin disorders, Krcchraghna- alleviates dysuria. (Charaka, Bhavaprakasha)

Doshas: Vata-, Kapha -, Pitta+

Pharmacological Action: demulcent, expectorant, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic, anthelminthic

Clinical Research: The ethanolic extract of the leaves exhibited a hypoglycemic effect in rats and an antispasmodic effect in isolated guinea pig ileum. Tulsi extract was administered to 20 patients with shortness of breath secondary to tropical eosinophia in an oral dosage of 500 mg TID and an improvement in breathing was noted. The aqueous extract showed a hypotensive effect on anesthetised dogs and cats and negative inotropic and chronotropic activity (reduces the force and rate, respectively) on rabbit's heart. Antibacterial activity has been shown against Staphlococcus aureus and Mycoplasma tuberculosis in vitro as well as against several other species of pathogens including fungi. The plant has had general adaptogenic effects in mice and rats and has been shown to protect against stress-induced ulcers. It has also shown to be protective against histamine-induced bronchospasm in animals.

Traditional Uses: The leaf infusion or fresh leaf juice is commonly used in cough, mild upper respiratory infections, bronchospasm, stress-related skin disorders and indigestion. It is combined with ginger and maricha (black pepper) in bronchial asthma. It is given with honey in bronchitis and cough. The leaf juice is taken internally and also applied directly on cutaneous lesions in ringworm. The essential oil has been used in ear infections. The seeds are considered a general nutritious tonic.

Indications: bronchospasm, cough, indigestion, catarrh

Formulations and Dosage:
fresh leaf juice: 15-20 ml with honey tid
leaf infusion: 2-3 oz tid

1 Paranjpe
2 Tillotson

Sharma, GP, Sachitra Ayurveda, Apr., 665, 1983 as reported in Selected
Med Plants of India, Chemexcil, Bombay, 225-227, 1992. Singh, TJ, Dasgupta, P, Khan, SY, and Mishra, KC, Preliminary
pharmacological investigations of Ocimum sanctum, Ind J Pharm., 32, 92, 1970.
Bhat, JV and Broker R, Action of some plant extracts on pathogenic staphlococci, J Sci Ind Res Sect. B, 12, 540, 1953.

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