Native to South Asia, tulsi is a member of the basil family, and it looks much like other members of this family. The herb's common name is holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum). Hindus call it Ocimum sanctum. According to one of the Royal Botanic Gardens' websites (kew.org), "Regarded as sacred in Hinduism, Ocimum tenuiflorum has many traditional medicinal uses." Scientists in India regularly conduct research studies about the uses of tulsi; however, for the most part, Western countries do not perform this type of research.
According to diabeteshealth.com, "Researchers have theorized that holy basil (tulsi) leaves may improve pancreatic beta cell function and thus enhance insulin secretion." The website reports that a small research study of patients with type 2 diabetes found blood glucose fasting levels lower in patients who took 2.5 grams of powdered tulsi compared to patients who took a placebo. Diabeteshealth.com reports that drug interactions with tulsi have not been reported; however, some interactions might be possible in "diabetics treated with insulin or insulin secretagogues such as sulfonylureas (glyburide, glipizide, Amaryl), Prandin or Starlix." Because of this, diabetics who might consider using tulsi should check with their physicians first.
Snake and Insect Bites--Traditional Medicine
According to Plantcultures.org, oil from tulsi is a natural antiseptic and natural anti-inflammatory. According to Botanical.com, tulsi effectively treats snake bites, including those of poisonous snakes, when all parts of the plant are either ingested or mixed with other plants to form a paste that is applied to the bite area. Residents of the Asian subcontinent often put tulsi leaves into bowls of water outside their homes and in their bath water to ward off insects, which do not like the smell.
Natural Medicinal Uses
Sidha, Unani and Ayurvedic medicine use tulsi to treat a wide variety of skin conditions, fevers, coughs and internal ailments. Ayurvedic medicine treats bronchitis with a liquid tonic made from tulsi leaves, which Indians mix with cardamom or lemon juice. All three medicinal systems date to ancient times and are based on natural remedies and treatments, primarily based on herbs and plants.
Other Medicinal Uses
Other medicinal uses, supported by studies conducted across the subcontinent, of tulsi include treating asthma, arthritis and heart problems. According to Globinmed.com, "The essential oil (of tulsi) has been found to have antibacterial, anti-yeast and insecticidal action. The seeds and oil have also been found to show mild antibiotic effects."