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National Poison Centre
Universiti Sains Malaysia
11800 Penang
Tel: +604-657 0099
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Email: prnnet@usm.my

Common Herbs
Ocimum sanctum
Other Name: Asian Basil, Selasih

Ocimum sanctum,is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae. It is an erect, much branched subshrub 30-60cm tall, with simple opposite green or purple leaves that are strongly scented, and hairy stems. Leaves have petioles, and are ovate, up to 5cm long, usually somewhat toothed. Flowers are purplish in elongate racemes in close whorls. Tulsi is native throughout the Old World tropics and widespread as a cultivated plant and an escaped weed. It is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. There are two main morphotypes cultivated in India—green-leaved (Sri or Lakshmi tulsi) and purple-leaved (Krishna tulsi).

It is known across South Asia as a medicinal plant, commonly used in Ayurveda, and has an important role within the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving Tulsi plants or leaves.

There is also a variety of Ocimum tenuiflorum which is used in Thai cuisine, and is referred to as "Thai holy basil", or kha phrao—not be confused with "Thai Basil", which is a variety of Ocimum basilicum.

As an Ayurvedic medicine
Tulsi has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for its diverse healing properties. It is mentioned by Charaka 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 and astringent taste, it is regarded in Ayurveda as a kind of "elixir of life" and believed to promote longevity.

Tulsi’s extracts are used in ayurvedic remedies for common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning, and malaria. Traditionally, tulsi is taken in many forms: as herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee. Essential oil extracted from Karpoora Tulsi is mostly used for medicinal purposes and in herbal cosmetics, and is widely used in skin preparations due to its anti-bacterial activity.

For centuries, the dried leaves of Tulsi have been mixed with stored grains to repel insects. (1-hydroxy-2-methoxy-4-allylbenzene). One study showed Tulsi to be an effective treatment for diabetes by reducing blood glucose levels.The same study showed significant reduction in total cholesterol levels with Tulsi. Another study showed that Tulsi's beneficial effect on blood glucose levels is due to its antioxidant properties. Tulsi also shows some promise for protection from radiation poisoning and cataracts.

   1. Oleanolic acid
   2. Ursolic acid
   3. Rosmarinic acid
   4. Eugenol
   5. Carvacrol
   6. Linalool
   7. β-caryophyllene

Thai cuisine
Holy basil, known as kha phrao in the Thai language is commonly used in Thai food. Thai holy basil (Thai: krapao) should not be confused with horapa, which is normally known as Thai basil, or with Thai lemon basil.

The most well known dish made with this herb is Pad kaphrao—beef, pork or chicken stir fried with Thai holy basil.


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