• Ann Taylor

Tulsi: Mother Medicine of Nature

Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is an Ayurvedic medicinal herb with a history of thousands of years of use for its adaptogenic (anti-stress) properties. The bioactive constituents of Tulsi have biochemical effects that reduce stress-induced changes in the function of our adrenal gland, which enhances our ability to cope with physical, chemical, biological and emotional stressors without the negative side effects. What are these effects?

  • Disturbed central nervous system, leading to mood disorders, depression, hypertension, heart attacks

  • Reduced immunity, leading to chronic viral infections

  • Greater vulnerability to bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infections

  • Muscular fatigue

  • Adrenal stimulation, which raises blood pressure and heart rate

  • Nervous diarrhoea, from increased intestinal mobility

  • Increased risks of thrombosis due to blood coagulation during stress

  • Increased free radical oxidative damage to cells, thus leading to atherosclerosis, diabetes, cataracts and heart attacks

  • Increased risks of different types of cancer due to radiation exposure, pollution and toxic chemicals.

Singh, Hoette and Miller (2010) write about the history, the science and evidence of therapeutic efficacy of Tulsi for the prevention and treatment of stress disorders because of the way this herb works to

calm the mind; improve both cellular and humeral immunity; enhance stamina and reduce fatigue; lower stress-induced high blood pressure and heart rate; decrease stress-induced intestinal mobility; reduce increased coagulation occurring during stress; protect against radiation, free radical damage, pollution, and bacterial, viral and fungal infections and malignomas; and improve oxygen utilisation” (Singh, Hoette and Miller, 2010, p50)

Tulsi is rich in bioactive fats, carbohydrates and proteins along with phytochemicals and nutrients, including essential oils, vitamins A and C and minerals inclusive of calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, sodium and manganese (Singh, Hoette and Miller, 2010, p5). We benefit best from the full synergistic interactive effects when using whole herbs rather than isolated and concentrated components, as we do when eating wholefoods with minimal processing. The therapeutic benefits of Tulsi have been achieved with the drinking of Tulsi tea or using capsules of dried leaf.

In this time of COVID, let’s for now consider just the immune system benefits of Tulsi as reported by Singh, Hoette and Miller (2010):

Immunomodulatory effects are reported for both cellular and humeral immunity.

  • Tulsi shown to increase the number of T-cells, which are reduced in immune deficiency diseases and with aging-related decline of thymus function. This increase in cell-mediated immune response improves protection against viral infections, stress and malignomas (p36).

  • Tulsi demonstrated in animal studies to stimulate antibody production, i.e. potential to enhance humeral immunity (p40).

  • Tulsi shown to significantly reduce upper respiratory tract infections in children, including colds, sinusitis, allergic and chronic rhinitis, as well as pulmonary tuberculosis (p36).

  • Tulsi used as an effective antiviral agent for prevention and treatment of Swine flu (p37).

  • Tulsi used successfully to treat people infected with a mosquito-borne viral disease, Chikungunya (p38).

  • Tulsi shown to reduce bronchospasms in asthma with a reduction in eosinophils that release histamine involved in allergic reactions, and improved pulmonary function, with less spasmodic attack and breathlessness, enhanced breathing capacity and expectoration (p34).

  • Tulsi could also potentially have a therapeutic role in alleviating hypoxia (impaired oxygenation) experienced as a symptom of serious COVID disease; and reducing the chronic fatigue experienced in the recovery phase from serious COVID disease.

Now, you’re unlikely to find any doctor prescribing Tulsi, but if you want to try it, I found this Australian business providing capsules and loose leaf tea:

Or for starters try it as tea that you should be able to buy from a local health store. I have replaced a second cup of coffee in my day with Tulsi tea, the Organic India brand. It’s my caffeine-free afternoon energiser and/or my pre-sleep calmative – because of its balancing effect on my nervous system.

And in having this beverage habit, I am supporting my immune system function naturally.


Singh N, Hoette Y and Miller R, 2010, "Tulsi The Mother Medicine of Nature", International Institute of Herbal Medicine, Lucknow India.