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The benefits of tulsi leaves (holy basil) in treating and preventing diseases are well known. This article explores the uses of tulsi leaves and their various health benefits and side effects
Nature is blessed with the gift of healing. It shares some of these with us in the form of wonderful medicinal plants. The holy basil is one such herb. It is appreciated by people around the world and used in various ways.
According to popular belief, the holy basil is said to have originated in India, from where it was first brought to the Middle East. From there, it spread to Europe and then to America.
There are more than 60 known varieties of basil found globally. Belonging to the family Lamiaceae, the scientific name of holy basil is Ocimum tenuiflorum (or Ocimum sanctum).
Besides the holy basil, some of the other familiar and widely-used varieties of basil are:
Data based on USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
While modern science is engaged in research on holy basil, quite a few of its benefits were known to humans even in ancient times.
Throughout the world, various preparations made using holy basil leaves are used by traditional medicine practitioners to cure ailments.
In Chinese traditional medicine, the holy basil is used, among others, for promoting blood circulation and treating stomach spasms and various kidney ailments.
In Ayurveda, holy basil leaf uses range from treating various respiratory ailments to chronic skin conditions. Chewing the leaves of holy basil is also prescribed to purify the blood.
Here are 10 benefits of eating tulsi leaves that you must know:
The holy basil helps in treating asthma and relieves symptoms of respiratory disorders. Tea made using 5 to 7 leaves of holy basil together with ginger, black pepper, cloves and cardamom is effective in providing relief.
Lack of oral hygiene can lead to bacterial growth in the mouth which can induce bad breath or halitosis. Leaves of holy basil have disinfectant properties and act as a mouth freshener. So, chewing them helps in destroying germs and bacteria present in the mouth. They also promote the healing of oral ulcers.
Due to their germicidal and astringent properties, consuming holy basil leaves helps in killing bacteria that cause dental cavities, plaque and tartar. Furthermore, the astringent action helps in tightening the gums around the teeth, thus preventing premature teeth loss.
A study by Mondal et al titled 'Double-blinded randomized controlled trial for immunomodulatory effects of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) leaf extract on healthy volunteers', published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2011 showed that consumption of tulsi leaves extract leads to a significant increase in the levels of immune cells.
Our body is not immune to the adverse effects of pollution. Marc Maurice Cohen's study, 'Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons', published in The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine (2014), shows that holy basil protects our body from damage-causing effects of pesticides, industrial chemicals and heavy metals. It also helps our body eliminate harmful compounds by increasing the activity of liver detoxification enzymes.
Cohen also states in her study that the holy basil helps prevent cancers caused by toxic compounds. It also reduces the growth of tumors and induces the death of precancerous and cancerous cells.
In Ayurveda, a mixture of honey and the juice of holy basil leaves is prescribed to get rid of kidney stones. Also, tulsi helps reduce uric acid levels in the body, thereby preventing the formation of kidney stones.
One of the important holy basil uses is to prevent and treat a number of skin and hair conditions. Tulsi extract has antibacterial properties. When mixed with beauty preparations and applied to the skin and scalp, it helps fight infections and keeps our skin healthy and hair shiny.
During times of stress, our body secretes cortisol, which is also called the stress hormone. However, prolonged elevated cortisol levels are harmful to the body. Consuming holy basil leaves is known to reduce cortisol levels.
Tulsi has essential oils and vitamins A and C. These help ward off the damaging effect of free radicals, which cause aging, by eliminating them.
You don't need to be an expert to grow this magical herb. It can grow well in areas where the weather is warm. Here's how you can plant holy basil at home for your everyday dose of goodness:
Wash the leaves on the plant a day before you decide to pluck them. This is because wet leaves tend to rot. Snip a few stems with a sharp knife, leaving the bottom two or three sets of leaves to let the plant grow.
Discard leaves with bugs and damage. Place the leaves in a thin cloth bag and suspend them in a dry place. Check the leaves every day, and when they have dried, transfer them to a dark-colored container with an airtight lid. You can now use these dry basil leaves in any way you like.
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