Holy Basil

Jeff Hamilton

Copyright Organic India. Requested Permission.

Table Of Contents


The Holy Basil is a sacred plant in the Hindu religion and it has been used for the treatment of Ayurvedic medicine. It is believed to treat conditions such as inflammation and heart disease.[1]

Common and Botanical Names

The Holy Basil is known as Tulsi (common name) or as Ocimum tenuiflorum (botanical name).[1]


Tulsi can be found in India, Asia, Europe, and Northern America; even though it does not grow significantly in North America.[3] Tulsi grows in the tropics and warm regions in India.[2] The plant cannot tolerate a cold or cool climate, and it only grows at temperatures ranging from 55 to 60C.


The Holy Basil grows all year around in the tropics but it only grows seasonally in Europe.[4] The seeds are planted during the spring time and the seeds are sensitive to frost. Tulsi grows up 0.5-1 meters high. Tulsi is harvested in the morning after the dew has disappeared. [5]

Pharmacological Effects

The Holy Basil oil has been reported to treat malaria, common colds, headaches, sore throat, stress, bronchitis, kidney stones, eye disorders, fever, teeth disorders, skin disorders, mouth infections, diabetes, and heart disease.[10] [6] It has been shown to have adaptogenic effects and antioxidant properties. It has also been shown to have no adverse effects. [6]

Chemical Structure and Active Ingredient

The main effective ingredient from the leaves of the Holy Basil is 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol).[7] Eucalyptol reduces inflammation and pain by enhancing the circulation of blood to the wounded area. [13] The aromatic compund methyl chavicol (p-allylanisole) and -bisabolene (6-methyl-2-(4-methyl-3-cyclohexen-1-yl)-1,5-heptadiene) are other active ingredients in the tulsi. [7][11][12]

Eucalyptol. Copyright Lavender. Requested Permission.

Synthesis and Isolation

1,8-Cineole (1,3,3-trimethyl-2-oxabicyclo[2.2.2]octane) is a bicyclic ether and a monoterpene.[14][15] It is synthesized by plants to suppress the growth of the same or other species of plants that are nearby.[15] 1,8-Cineole is a chemically unreactive molecule since it has no reactive C-H bonds.[14] Not much is known about the chemistry of this compound except for the cleavage of the ether bridge which produces p-menthane derivatives.14 Most of the derivatives of 1,8-Cineole are made by using a-terpineol or pinol.[15][16]

The 1,8-cineole synthase (CS) is used to catalyze to formation of 1,8-cineole in plants. CS converts (R)-linaloyl PP into the (R)-LDP intermediate by allylic rearrangement. Then (R)-LDP is converted to (R)-a-terpinyl cation by an anti,endo SN cyclization. After the cyclization, a syn addition of water occurs at C7 to produce the (R)-a-terpinyl hydronium ion. Then a proton in the acid solution is attacked by the cyclohexene double bond which causes the cyclication and of the C=C double bond and the hydroxyl group to produce 1,8-cineole.[15]


Miscellaneous Information

Some interesting facts about the Holy Basil.
    Tulsi means the incomparable one. [1]
    It is commonly used for worship in the Hindu Religion.
    Hindus consider the plant as the earth form of the goddess Vrindavani.[8]
    It has been long believed to increase longevity.
    It has been cultivated in India for at least 3,000 years. [9]


1.AyurvedicCure.com: Holy Basil-Tulsi, Retrieved February 27, 2007, from http://www.ayurvediccure.com/tulsi.htm
2. Tulsi-Holy Basil: Media Articles, Retrieved Feb 27, 2007, from http://www.holy-basil.com/30501.html?*session*id*key*=*session*id*val*
3. Floridagardener.com: Can you imagine a garden without basil?..., Retrieved Feb 27, 2007, from http://www.floridagardener.com/misc/YOB.htm
4. Plant Culures: Holy Basil-grow it, Retrieved Feb 27, 2007, from http://www.plantcultures.org.uk/plants/holy_basil_grow_it.html
5. Ohio State University: Growing, Selecting, and using Basil, Retrieved February 27, 2007, from http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1644.html
6. DiabetesHealth: Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum), Retrieved February 27, 2007, from http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read,2006,4349.html
7. Find Articles: Composition of the Essential Oil of Ocimum sanctum, Retrieved February 27, 2007, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4091/is_200503/ai_n13505568
8. Rocky Mountain OILS: Holy Basil Essential Oil, Retrieved February 27, 2007, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4091/is_200503/ai_n13505568
9. redhotcurry.com: Interesting Facts about SOuth Asian Plants, Retrieved February 27, 2007, from http://www.redhotcurry.com/style/garden/plant_cultures_facts.htm
10.AyurvedicCure.com: About: 15 Benefits about the Holy Basil, Retrieved February 27, 2007, from http://hinduism.about.com/od/ayurveda/a/tulsibenefits.htm
11.Flavornet: -bisabolene, Retrieved February 28, 2007, from http://www.flavornet.org/info/495-61-4.html
12.Aromatic Compounds: methyl chavicol, Retrieved February 28, 2007, from http://www.aromaticandallied.com/Methyl%20Chavicol_spec.htm
13.Chemistry.org: 1,8-cineole, Retrieved February 28, 2007, from http://www.chemistry.org/portal/a/c/s/1/acsdisplay.html?DOC=HomeMolecule%5Carchive%5Cmotw_1_8_cineole_arch.html
14.Regiospecific functionalization of the monoterpene ether 1,3,3-trimethyl-2-oxabicyclo[2.2.2]octane (1,8-cineole). Synthesis of the useful bridged .gamma.-lactone 1,3-dimethyl-2-oxabicyclo[2.2.2]octan-3 .fwdarw. 5-olide De Boggiatto, Margarita V., De Heluani, Carola S., De Fenik, Ines J. S., and Catalan, Cesar A. N. J. Org. Chem., 52, 8, 1505 - 1511, 1987, 10.1021/jo00384a023 http://pubs.acs.org/wls/journals/citation2/Citation?mode=DISPLAY&jid=jo00384a023
Syn Stereochemistry of Cyclic Ether Formation in 1,8-Cineole Biosynthesis Catalyzed by Recombinant Synthase from Salvia officinalis Wise, M.L., Urbansky, M., Helms, G.L., Coates, R.M., and Croteau, R. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 124, 29, 8546 - 8547, 2002, 10.1021/ja0265714 http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/article.cgi/jacsat/2002/124/i29/pdf/ja0265714.pdf
Terpene Compounds as Possible Precursors of 1,8-Cineole in Red Grapes and Wines Farina, L., Boido, E., Carrau, F., Versini, G., and Dellacassa, E. J. Agric. Food Chem., 53, 5, 1633 - 1636, 2005, 10.1021/jf040332d http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/article.cgi/jafcau/2005/53/i05/pdf/jf040332d.pdf"
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