The predominant cause of global morbidity and mortality is lifestyle-related chronic diseases, many of which can be addressed through Ayurveda with its focus on healthy lifestyle practices and regular consumption of adaptogenic herbs.
Of all the herbs used within Ayurveda, tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn) is preeminent, and scientific research is now confirming its beneficial effects. There is mounting evidence that tulsi can address physical, chemical, metabolic and psychological stress through a unique combination of pharmacological actions.
Tulsi has been found to protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals, and physical stress from prolonged physical exertion, ischemia, physical restraint and exposure to cold and excessive noise.
Tulsi has also been shown to counter metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels, and psychological stress through positive effects on memory and cognitive function and through its anxiolytic and anti-depressant properties.
Tulsi's broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity, which includes activity against a range of human and animal pathogens, suggests it can be used as a hand sanitizer, mouthwash and water purifier as well as in animal rearing, wound healing, the preservation of food stuffs and herbal raw materials and traveler's health.
The use of tulsi provides an example of ancient knowledge offering solutions to modernproblems.
Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is indigenous to the Indian continent and highly revered for its medicinal uses within the Ayurvedic and Siddha medical systems. Many in vitro, animal and human studies attest to tulsi having multiple therapeutic actions including adaptogenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and immunomodulatory effects, yet to date there are no systematic reviews of human research on tulsi's clinical efficacy and safety.
We conducted a comprehensive literature review of human studies that reported on a clinical outcome after ingestion of tulsi. We searched for studies published in books, theses, conference proceedings, and electronic databases including Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, Embase, Medline, PubMed, Science Direct, and Indian Medical databases. A total of 24 studies were identified that reported therapeutic effects on metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, immunity, and neurocognition.
All studies reported favourable clinical outcomes with no studies reporting any significant adverse events. The reviewed studies reinforce traditional uses and suggest tulsi is an effective treatment for lifestyle-related chronic diseases including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and psychological stress. Further studies are required to explore mechanisms of action, clarify the dosage and dose form, and determine the populations most likely to benefit from tulsi's therapeutic effects.