Ocimum tenuiflorum, also known as Holy Basil, tulsi, or tulasī), is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae which is native throughout the Eastern World tropics and widespread as a cultivated plant and an escaped weed. It is an erect, much branched subshrub, 30–60 cm tall with hairy stems and simple, opposite, green leaves that are strongly scented. Leaves have petioles, and are ovate, up to 5 cm long, usually slightly toothed. The flowers are purplish in elongate racemes in close whorls The two main morphotypes cultivated in India and Nepal are green-leaved (Sri or Lakshmi tulsi) and purple-leaved (Krishna tulsi).
Tulsi is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely known across South Asia as a medicinal plant and an herbal tea, commonly used inAyurveda, and has an important role within the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving holy basil plants or leaves.
Tulsi or tulasi is a sacred plant for Hindus and is worshipped by Hindus as the avatar of goddess Lakshmi. Water mixed with the petals is given to the dying to raise their departing souls to heaven.[Tulsi, which is Sanskrit for “the incomparable one”, is most often regarded as a consort of Krishna in the form of Lakshmi.According to the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, tulsi is an expression of Sita.] There are two types of tulsi worshipped in Hinduism: “Rama tulsi” has light green leaves and is larger in size; “Shyama tulsi” has dark green leaves and is important for the worship of Hanuman.Many Hindus have tulsi plants growing in front of or near their home, often in special pots. Traditionally, tulsi is planted in the center of the central courtyard of Hindu houses. It is also frequently grown next to Hanuman temples, especially in Varanasi.
According to Vaishnavas, it is believed in Puranas that during Samudra Manthana when the gods win the ocean-churning against asuras, Lord Vishnu comes up from the ocean with Amrita in hand for the gods. Lord Vishnu sheds happy tears and when the first drop falls in Amrita it forms Tulasi. Which is also a well known reason for Tulasi being very lovable for Lord Krishna.
In the ceremony of Tulsi Vivah, tulsi is ceremonially married to Krishna annually on the eleventh day of the waxing moon or twelfth of the month of Kartika in the lunar calendar. This day also marks the end of the four-month Cāturmāsya period, which is considered inauspicious for weddings and other rituals, so the day inaugurates the annual marriage season in India. The ritual lighting of lamps each evening during Kartika includes the worship of the tulsi plant, which is held to be auspicious for the home. Vaishnavas especially follow the daily worship of tulsi during Kartika.
Vaishnavs traditionally use japa malas made from tulsi stems or roots, which are an important symbol of initiation. Tulsi malas are considered to be auspicious for the wearer, and believed to put them under the protection of Hanuman. They have such a strong association with Vaishnavas, that followers of Hanuman are known as “those who bear the tulasi round the neck”.
The leaves of holy basil, known as kraphao in the Thai language (Thai: กะเพรา), are commonly used in Thai cuisine. Kraphao should not be confused with horapha (Thai: โหระพา), which is normally known as Thai basil, or with Thai lemon basil (maenglak; Thai:แมงลัก).
Tulsi has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for its diverse healing properties. It is mentioned in the Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text. Tulsi is considered to be an adaptogen balancing different processes in the body, and helpful for adapting to stress. Marked by its strong aroma andastringent taste, it is regarded in Ayurveda as a kind of “elixir of life” and believed to promote longevity.[
Tulsi extracts are used in ayurvedic remedies for a variety of ailments. Traditionally, tulsi is taken in many forms: as herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee. Essential oil extracted from Karpooratulsi is mostly used for medicinal purposes and in herbal cosmetics, and is widely used in skin preparations.
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Some of the main chemical constituents of tulasi are: oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, carvacrol, linalool, β-caryophyllene (about 8%),β-elemene (c.11.0%), and germacrene D (about 2%).
A variety of in vitro studies and animal studies have indicated some potential pharmacological properties of Ocimum tenuiflorum or its extracts. Recent studies suggest tulasi may be a COX-2 inhibitor, like many modernpainkillers, due to its high concentration of eugenol. One small study showed it to reduce blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics when combined with hypoglycemic drugs. The same study showed significant reduction in total cholesterol levels with tulasi. Another study showed its beneficial effect on blood glucose levels is due to its antioxidant properties. Tulasi also shows some promise for protection from radiation poisoning and cataracts. It has anti-oxidant properties and can repair cells damaged by exposure to radiation. The fixed oil has demonstrated antihyperlipidemic and cardioprotective effects in rats fed a high fat diet. Experimental studies have shown an alcoholic extract of tulasi modulates immunity, thus promoting immune system function.