Tulsi – An Ayurvedic 'Adaptogen'
Welcome to the fifth installment on the medical practice of Ayurveda, perhaps the oldest documented form of medicine on the planet, and the natural treatments it utilizes. In this article our focus is on "Holy Basil," or Tulsi which has been used for thousands of years in India for emotional and physical ailments.
Though basil is grown on all continents, Tulsi, or holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), is unique to the Indian subcontinent. The plant itself appears as a shrub that grows around 18 inches in height. The variety of the Tulsi plant will dictate its color, appearing from green to purple with small, oval-shaped leaves and lavender flowers. Within these leaves are a rich source of essential oils, including eugenol, nerol, camphor, and a variety of terpenes and flavonoids. The importance of these oils will be understood as you read on.
First of all, Tulsi has strong anti-oxidant properties that improve the body's ability to fight free radical cellular damage. If you have read the past articles in this series, by now you are seeing a pattern in Ayurveda. Amalaki, Ginger, and now Tulsi all share anti-oxidant properties that are known to fight off 'dis-ease' and the toxic effects of aging, and Ayurvedic Medicine is rich with such botanicals.
Think about this for a moment. When was the first time you heard the term "free radicals" or "anti-oxidant"? Maybe ten years ago? These concepts have been popularized in western medicine and nutrition in the last two decades. Medical literature has since focused on the oxidative damage we inflict on our bodies through diet, stress and lifestyle choices. As a consequence, many "anti-aging" products are popularized in the marketplace. Ayurvedic and Eastern Medicine has known for centuries that it is essential to maintain a healthy balance of body and mind, which is a reason why these disciplines have flourished worldwide and are now embraced in the West.
Exactly how the practice of Ayurveda helps in balancing the body, mind and spirit is the key to this article and the title. Within both Western (Allopathic) and Eastern (Ayurveda & Chinese) Medicines, research has discovered there are certain compounds and chemicals that modulate the body's response to stress. Meaning, these compounds actually help the body fight the effects of ongoing stress. I am talking about internal stress, such as an improper diet or persistently negative thoughts, as well as the external stressors, like working at a high-stress, low reward job for example.
Tulsi, like Amalaki described before, is thought to be an 'adaptogen' that can actually assist your mind and body to balance all stress placed upon it. In a manner of speaking, Tulsi has a calming effect on whole person and acts like the Ayurvedic equivalent of an anti-anxiety medication.
Additionally, recent research studies unveil an impressive array of health benefits supporting the traditional uses of Holy Basil. Tulsi has significant respiratory benefits of maintaining the health of the chest and lungs, partially through its anti-inflammatory effects. As we know, the process of inflammation is the cause of many diseases, and Tulsi also aids in prevention of gastric ulcers and in gingival and periodontal disease. Recent research, more so in Eastern Medicine, focuses on the use of Tulsi in prevention and cure in cardiovascular disease, cancer, Arthritis, Diabetes and Dementia. To find specific clinical studies, refer to the PUBMED website where up to date research on all Ayurvedic herbs can be found.
Lastly, what of those aforementioned oils within Holy Basil and their health benefits? Those oils have a specific role in defending against infections from bacteria, viruses and fungi, making Tulsi a widely recognized antiseptic. Another pattern you have likely noticed from this article series on Ayurveda is the vast and differing ailments the natural botanicals treat. This is almost counterintuitive if you have been raised in western culture and with Allopathic Medicine since the rule is often one medication for one disease. If that one medication is ineffective or partially effective, then a second is added and perhaps a third. The botanicals in Ayurveda are versatile and work synergistically, clearly unique aspects of this medical practice.
How does one find Tulsi? Like Ginger and Turmeric described in past articles, Holy Basil and its oils are available in the West, Tulsi is not as ubiquitous as the others. Natural health food stores and Eastern Medicine (Ayurveda & Chinese) clinics are likely to have Tulsi in some forms. One can also grow the plant from seeds if you have the ambition.
Thanks for reading and for more information on Ayurveda and products making their way to the West, follow the link below.
The next article will introduce you to Ayurveda's answer to weight loss and the remarkable fat-burning botanical responsible for this. Until then, enjoy and have a healthy, happy day.
To Your Health And Longevity,
Dr. Kevin Rosi.
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