TULASI (Ocimum Sanctum)
Tulasi is perhaps the most sacred plant of India nest to kamala – the lotus. Particularly, the leaves of Tulasi are used to worship Visnu. It is interesting to note that the plants sacred to Sankara, Ganesha and Visnu are bilva, durva and tulasi, which alleviate vata, pitta and kapha doshas, respectively. There are innumerable references of Tulasi in Indian mythology. The ancient Ayurvedic scriptures have mentioned the plant in the management of several diseases. The plant is supposed to have a purifying influence by liberating ozone and also is said to repel the mosquitoes. Thus, in many parts of India, the plant is grown in the courtyard, traditionally and worshipped daily as a necessary ritual for family will-being. Ayurvedic texts categorise it as kasaghna – alleviates cough, svedala – induces sweating, ajirna nasaka – mitigates indigestion and agnimandya nasaka – alleviates anorexia (Bhavaprakas)
The plant grows all over India up to 2000 meters height. It is grown in houses, temples and gardens. An erectannual grows 0.5-1.5 meters in height and has red or purple quadrangular branches. The leaves are opposite, about 2-4 cm long, margins entire or toothed, hairy on both the surfaces, dotted with minute glands and are aromatic. The flowers tiny, purple and inflorescence is a long spike or 12-14 cm in length. The fruits are small, smooth nut lets, reddish grey in color.
Botanically, Tulasi is known as Ocimum sanctum and it belongs to family Lamiaceae. The leaves contain an essential oil, which contains eugenol, eugenal, carvacrol, methylchavicol, limatrol and caryophylline. The seeds contain oil composed of fatty acids and sitosterol. The roots contain sitosterol and three triterpenes A, B, and C. The leaves also contain a steroid ursolic acid and n-triacontanol. Eugenol (70.5), its methyl ether (4.8), nerol (6.4), caryophyllene (7.5), terpinen –4-(0.4), decylaldehyde (0.2), selinene (0.4), pinene (0.4), camphene (2.0) and a-pinene (3.5%) identified in essential oil by GC.
Tulasi is pungent and bitter in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It alleviates kapha and vata doshas, but slightly aggravates the pitta dosha. It possesses light and dry attributes. On the contrary the seeds are oily and slimy in attributes and have a cold potency. Tulasi is a stimulant, aromatic herb and effectively reduces the fever.(Bhavaprakash)
The seeds, leaves and the roots of Tulasi have great medicinal value. It is used both, internally as well as externally. Tulasi has mild antiseptic, analgesic properties and it relieves the swellings also. Hence, it beneficial, externally, in various skin diseases. The paste of leaves works well, with marica powder, when applied topically in ringworm infestations. The dressing with the pulp of its leaves effectively controls the infections and hastens the healing of chronic infected wounds. The leaves when chewed mitigate the infections of the gums. Instillation of fresh juice of the leaves into ears is an effective domestic medicament for ear aches. The massage with the leaves juice improves the circulation beneath the skin and augments the sensation in the skin. In the headache due to sinusitis, the instillation of juice in the nose facilitates the secretions of kapha and relieves the headache. The dried powder of the leaves can be inhaled, like a snuff, for the same purpose.
Internally, Tulasi is used on many occasions, as a vehicle or an adjuvant. It enhances the bioavailability of the medicine or acts synergistically, respectively. It is also used in number of Ayurvedic proparations for bhavana, to potentate their effects, namely in Tribhuvana kurti, Caturbhuja rasa etc. Tulsi is salutary to increase the appetite and improve digestion. It has a mild laxative as well as vermicidal action, hence is rewarding in worm infestations. It is a good blood purifier and is helpful in the diseases of the blood and heart. A tea prepared with the leaves of Tulasi is a common domestic remedy for cold, cough, milk indigestion, diminished appetite and malaise.
Tulasi has specified actions on the respiratory system-pranavaha srotasa. It effectively liquefies the phlegm due to its hot and sharp attributes. It gives excellent results in cough due to kapha, allergic bronchitis, asthma and eosinophilia. Combined with honey, the juice works well to control the hiccup. In tubercular cough, Tulasi is also beneficial. It is an effective panacea for fever, especially of kapha type, while given with honey and marica fruit powder. In such conditions it effectively controls colds and reduces pain. Tulasi juice works as amapacana, meaning it digests and destroys ama – the toxins.
The seeds of tulasi being cool and sweet along with its slimy-(picchila) attribite, are beneficial in dysuria. The khira or pudding, prepared from the seeds, is useful to boost the energy in debility, especially due to pitta dosha. In diarrhea associated with bleeding, the seeds soaked overnight in water to which a teaspoon of sugar is added, and taken in the morning.