Sanctum Ocimum L. (family Labiatae), usually referred to in almost all Indian languages as the ‘holy basil’ in English and Tulsi, is a herb mainly native to tropical and subtropical Asia and is now cultivated and naturalized in other tropical areas.

By Mah Rukh, Maria Naqve, Zarfe Ayesha


Tulsi means the ‘incomparable one in the Indian language of Sanskrit and is possibly the most important plant in India, both of religious and medicinal values in Indian culture, true to its meaning.  An upright, tall (30-60 cm) with hairy branches are Ocimum tenuiflorum (chromosome no. 2n = 32). Leaves are ovate, elliptic-oblong obtuse or acute, simple, green or purple, usually slightly toothed with whole or sub-serrate or dentate margins, pubescent on both sides, dotted with tiny glands and thin hairy petioles. The inflorescence has white purple, hermaphrodite, and zygomorphic flowers arranged in near whorls in elongated racemes. Seeds with a shining seed coat that turns mucilaginous on wetting.

Chemical composition

1- Chemotypes

Plants that vary in their chemical constituents are morphologically indistinguishable. The pharmacological activities of O are anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, anti-stress and antipyretic. Tenuiflorum containing methyl eugenol as a major or minor component of essential oil was previously recorded from India and from Thailand. Recently, the O-chemotype. Tenuifl orum containing a higher than normal content of essential oil and rich in methyl eugenol (> 70%) was isolated and formed as a Kanchan (CIM HY-1) variety.

2-Chemical constituents

Survey of the literature has revealed in O. sanctum, the presence of methyl eugenol, ß-caryophyllene methyl eugenol, (E)-caryophyllene, eugenol and, ß-elemene  methyl chavicol, and linalool  from India; ß-bisabolene, 1,8-cineole and methyl chavicol  from Poland; methyl eugenol and isocaryophyllene from Nigeria; eugenol, ßcaryophyllene and caryophyllene oxid from Northeastern Brazil; eugenol, ß-elemene and ß-caryophyllene from Cuba; methyl chavicol, camphor and ß-caryophyllene from Australia.In other species, O. gratissimum is a well known plant used in the Indian herbal medicine. The volatile oil of O. gratissimum contains mostly thymol and eugenol, those are probably responsible for its reported antimicrobial activity. Aqueous extract of leaves contain camphor, 1,8-cineole, limonene, trans-caryophyllene, camphene, 4-terpeneol, myrtenol, αterpineol, endo-borneol and linalool.It also contains flavonoids, tannins, saponins, sterols, carbohydrates, proteins and triterpenoids. It’s essential oil contains oxygenated monoterpenes (95.8 percent), like camphor (64.9 percent ), limonene (8.7 percent ), camphene (6.4 percent ) and (E)-ß-ocimene (3.0 percent ) .

Medicinal uses

Traditional, medicinal and bioactive uses

The leaves are excellent for memory and for sharpening nerves. Holy Basil is excellent at improving the immune system as well. It prevents viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa from almost all kinds of infections. Recent studies have shown that it is also useful for inhibiting HIV and carcinogenic cell development .Ocimum sanctum has been used for various purposes. For example, possible pharmacological activities such as expectorant, analgesic, anticancer, hepatoprotective, hypotensive, hypolipidemic and antistress agent are known to have leaves, flowers, stem, core, seeds etc. In conventional medical procedures, it also plays an important role in the treatment of fever, arthritis, convulsions, bronchitis, etc.

Used as a heart tonic:

 Ocimum sanctum’s preference for rasa dathu (refers to the primary waters of the body    the term rasa means sap, juice, or liquid. Rasa refers specifically to the plasma or non-cellular portion of the blood in the physical body; the lymph and interstitial fluids help to improve drainage through the heart where high vatta (congestion) exists. One of the three doshas in Ayurveda is condensed from the elements of air and space.

Insecticidal activity:

 Insecticidal and larvicidal activity against mosquitoes has also been found to occur with Tulsi    extract and essential oil.

Anti-diabetic potential:

The whole plant’s aqueous decoction reduces the levels of blood sugar and is said to regulate diabetic mellitus. In normal glucose fed to hyperglycaemic and streptozocin-induced diabetic rats, the ethanol extract of tulsi leaves leads to marked decreases in blood sugar.


Tulsi has anti-tuberculosis efficacy as well and prevents the development of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in vitro.

Used the whole plant for diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

Use an essential oil made from the leaves for insect bites malaria and eczema eye diseases.

As an antidote:

In the conventional medical system, tulsi has been prescribed for use as an antidote for dog bite, scorpion bite and insect bite. Anti fertility effect: Ocimum sanctum L leaves.. Kerala’s local women & the ayurvedic doctor have been reported to use Tulsi leaves for the effect of ant fertility. Conclusions Tulsi is a herb that is commonly used in India, has various healing properties and is known to be adaptogenic. Several varieties of tulsi species are available, including three species selected for antimicrobial activity assessment. However, modern drug development methods will investigate bioactivities, clinical pharmacotherapeutic studies, mechanism of action, and safety assessment after proper standardization, and clinical trials. The multidimensional use of Tulsi and the cultivation of this plant in Uttrakhand will be very successful in monitoring migration and providing local people with jobs.

Authors :  Mah Rukh, Maria Naqve, Zarfe Ayesha University of Agriculture Faisalabad