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Tulsi - Incomparable Queen Of Herbs

by G Ravishankar(more info)

listed in herbal medicine, originally published in issue 108 - February 2005

I was prescribed Mentronidazole, a drug for controlling amoebic diarrhea. I was really amazed to read the pack of the medicine, which contains the following precaution: "Metronidazole is carcinogenic in mice". What does it mean? It may cause side effects to human beings. In spite of such warnings and precautions, allopathic medicines are prescribed. While they do have a faster effect, what about their side effects?

Similarly, many allopathic medicines have several side effects and are contra-indicated in several cases, especially for pregnant women.

Extensive research has demonstrated the efficacy of herbal cure. The quality of herbal medicine is also of utmost importance.

Tulsi – The Healing Touch

Tulsi (basil) is a legendary and incomparable queen of herbs. The juice of Tulsi leaves can be used to bring down fever – extract of Tulsi leaves in fresh water should be given every two to three hours. In between, one can keep giving sips of cold water. In children, it is every effective in bringing down their temperature.

Tulsi is an important constituent of many Ayurvedic cough syrups and expectorants. It helps to mobilize mucus in bronchitis and asthma. Chewing Tulsi leaves relieves colds and flu. For earache, a few drops of the extract, if instilled, relieves the symptoms promptly.

The juice of fresh leaves, flower tops and slender roots is a very good antidote for snake and scorpion bites. Ayurvedic Tulsi preparations have significantly reduced the symptoms of viral hepatitis. In diabetics it helps in lowering the blood sugar level. Its anti-spasmodic property can be utilized to relieve abdominal colic. The extracts are also helpful in digestive disorders. Tulsi leaves have properties similar to the currently available anti-TB drugs, like Streptomycin and Isoniazide.

Oil of Tulsi has been used as a potent anti-malarial drug. It also has mosquito repellent properties. Experimental studies on animals have shown anti-stress activity with Tulsi extract. Tulsi has an anti-fertility effect, reducing the oestrogen hormone levels in females and decreasing the sperm count in men. It is also used to treat ringworm of the skin.

Common Cold and Fever

The leaves of basil are specific for many fevers. During the rainy season, when malaria and dengue fever are widely prevalent, tender leaves, boiled with tea, act as a preventive against these diseases. In case of acute fevers, a decoction of the leaves boiled with powdered cardamom in half a litre of water and mixed with sugar and milk brings down the temperature.

Sore Throat

Water boiled with basil leaves can be taken as a drink in case of a sore throat. This water can also be used to gargle.

Respiratory Disorders

The herb is useful in the treatment of respiratory system disorder. A decoction of the leaves, with honey and ginger, is an effective remedy for bronchitis, asthma, influenza, cough and cold. A decoction of the leaves, cloves and common salt also gives immediate relief in case of influenza. They should be boiled in half a litre of water until only half the water is left and then taken.

Children's Ailments

Common pediatric problems including cough, cold, fever, diarrhoea and vomiting respond favourably to the juice of basil leaves. If pustules of chicken pox delay their appearance, basil leaves taken with saffron will hasten them.

Stress

Basil leaves are regarded as an adaptogen or anti-stress agent. Recent studies have shown that the leaves afford significant protection against stress. Even healthy persons can chew 12 leaves of basil, twice a day, to prevent stress. It purifies blood and helps prevent several common elements.

Mouth Infections

The leaves are quite effective for ulcers and infections in the mouth. A few leaves chewed will cure these conditions.

Insect Bites

The herb is prophylactic or preventive and curative for insect stings or bites. A teaspoonful of the juice of the leaves is taken and repeated after a few hours. Fresh juice must also be applied to the affected parts. A paste of fresh roots is also effective in case of bites from insects and leeches.

Skin disorders

Applied locally, basil juice is beneficial in the treatment of ringworm and other skin diseases. It has also been tried successfully by some naturopaths in the treatment of leucoderma.

Eye Disorders

Basil juice is an effective remedy for sore eyes and night-blindness, which is generally caused by deficiency of vitamin A. Two drops of black basil juice should be put into the eyes daily at bedtime.

Teeth Disorders

The herb is useful in teeth disorders. Its leaves, dried in the sun and powdered, can be used for brushing teeth. It can also be mixed with mustered oil to make a paste and used as toothpaste. This is very good for maintaining dental health, counteracting bad breath and for massaging the gums. It is also useful in pyorrhea and other teeth disorders.

Headaches

Basil makes a good medicine for headache. A decoction of the leaves can be given for this disorder. Pounded leaves mixed with sandalwood paste can also be applied on the forehead for relief from heat and headaches, and for providing coolness in general.

An annual aromatic, softly hairy herb, Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is widely distributed all over India and is invariably found in every Hindu house, where it is considered a sacred and auspicious plant. It has been claimed to be a valuable indigenous medicinal herb against a wide variety of diseases.

Published Clinical Uses

Indian Materia Medica describes the use of the herb in the treatment of ailments like bronchitis, rheumatism, pyrexia (fever) and coryza. Tulsi leaves provide a household remedy for the common cold and cough.

Ayurvedic literature describes the herb as aromatic and a pacifier/normalizer of vitiated and deranged Kapha-Vata doshas and is useful in blood disorders (Raktavikar).

Phytochemical investigations of leaves have shown the presence of flavones, glycosides, gallic acid and its ester, caffeic acid and volatile oil having eugenol (70.5 per cent) as the main component. Studies with seeds have afforded triglycerides and fixed oils having linoleic acid (52.23 per cent) and linolenic acid (16.63 per cent) as major unsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential for human nutrition, and the mixtures are used as dietary supplements.

Stresses (physically, chemically, psychologically or emotionally-induced) have long been considered a major factor, rather a harbinger, of chronic diseases. They are represented as the instigating factor in non-specific chain reactions to stimuli (stressors or stress inducting agents) that disturb the body's normal physiological equilibrium. Stresses place a constant load on homeostatic or adaptive mechanisms often with detrimental effects, affecting resistances to environmental challenges, resulting in ischaemic heart diseases and dermatological problems. Further more, stresses trigger functional disorders such as irritable bowel and chronic fatigue syndromes and insomnia leading to serious afflictions.

Biochemical data have shown that stress produces a significant rise in blood glucose, urea level and generalized increase in plasma enzyme levels (alanine transminase, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) alkaline phosphatase, etc.,). Preliminary studies have indicated that survival time for patients suffering serious disease seems to be prolonged in association with a positive mental state and/or reduced stress conditions.

Pharmacological studies and biological evaluations of Tulsi leaves extracts (aqueous and ethanol) have shown adaptogenic properties, which improve endurance and resistances when tested against a battery of stress-induced conditions indicating non-specific mode of actions.

Leaves and seeds of the herb (extracts and volatile and fixed oils) possess anti-inflammatory and anti-asthmatic activities. Anti-inflammatory activities antagonize initiated inflammatory chemicalmediators.

Anti-asthmatic activity has shown protective effects against histamine and acetylcholine induced bronchospasm, exhibiting antihistaminic and anti-acetylcholine effects in respiratory problems.

The other medicinal values of Tulsi are:

  • Energy and Performance – Improves stamina and endurance and increases the body's efficiency in using oxygen. Enhances protein synthesis and strength;
  • Anti-Ageing Effects – Helps to retain youthful vigour and slows the biological ageing process by reducing the impact of physiological ageing factors;
  • Provides significant antioxidant and free radical scavenging protection. Neutralizes dangerous bio-chemicals that contribute premature ageing, cancer and degenerative diseases;
  • Radiation Protection – Reduces cell and tissue damage caused by harmful rays of the sun, TV, computers, X-rays, radiation therapy, high altitude air travel, etc;
  • Anti-inflammatory Action – Reduces the painful and dangerous inflammation that plays a key role in various forms of arthritis, cancer and degenerative neurological disorders;
  • Antibiotic Protection – Offers significant natural anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and is, thereby, helpful in treating many serious system diseases as well as localized infections;
  • Heart and Vascular Protection – Lowers dangerous cholesterol and stress-related high blood pressure, protects heart and blood vessels and decreases likelihood of strokes;
  • Liver Support – Improves the metabolic breakdown and elimination of dangerous chemicals in the blood and counteracts various liver diseases;
  • Lung and Bronchial Support – Helpful in the treatment of a variety of serious allergic, inflammatory and infectious disorders affecting the lungs and related tissues;
  • Nutrition – Contains Vitamins C and A, and the minerals calcium, zinc and iron, and many other phytonutrients. It also enhances the efficient digestion and absorption and use of nutrients from food and other herbs. We have seen the extensive use of a herbal Tulsi.

Herbal medicine like Tulsi comes as a healing remedy for those suffering from various disorders. However, the cure-rate is slow, as all positive factors are being in-built in a systematic way unlike allopathic medicines, which offer quick, symptomatic relief only. Quality of herbs also plays an important role. The cure-rate also depends on the person and individual food habits and other factors.

Considering the deteriorating effects of certain allopathic medicines, we have at our disposal nature's gift i.e. herbal medicines. However, the quality of herbal medicines also needs to be given due consideration. So, choosing the right combination of herbal medicines is a prudent way to positive health.

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About G Ravishankar

G Ravishankar was associated with a company manufacturing herbal medicines for 11 years, where he gained experience on the invaluable contents of herbal medicines. He and his family members use herbal medicines in their day-to-day life with positive response. Ravishankar may be contacted via Mob: 0091 22 93242 99938; iyer_ravishankar@rediffmail.com

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