Radioprotective Effects of Holy Basil (Tulsi): Herbal Protection Against Radiation Sickness

Can Tulsi Tea REALLY Protect Against Radiation Sickness?

As the consequences of Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami continue to unfold exposure to radiation from damaged nuclear plants remains one of the greatest concerns for those living near the area. Even as far away as the United States, where the increase in radiation exposure related to Japan’s damaged nuclear plants has been slight, there has been a run on radioprotective iodine tablets and the limited remaining supplies have sold at grossly elevated prices.

tulsi-tea-webYet despite the world’s current concern for the possible effects of accidental radiation exposure, there has been no mention of the well documented radioprotective effects of Holy Basil, which is also known in its native India as Tulsi. Tulsi is venerated in India as one of the most sacred herbs and has been used there for thousands of years as a principle herb of the Ayurvedic tradition. More recently, there have been scientific studies of the herb’s many beneficial effects, including its efficacy as a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that protects the body against the effects of exposure to radiation.

There are actually three different varieties of basil that are all referred to in India as “Holy” Basil. The best known is identified by botanists as Ocimum sanctum. This species includes a variety with green leaves, known as Sri or Rama basil as well as a variety with dark, greenish-purple leaves known as Shyama or Krishna basil. The third variety is Ocimum gratissimum, which is locally known as Vanu basil. All three varieties were evaluated as aqueous extracts (tea) in animal studies in 1986 and were shown to have significant antiradiation effects. The results of these studies were presented at the Indian Science Congress in Jaipur in 1986 (Jogetia, G.C., Devi, U. Singhatgeri, M.K., and Kohli, R.P. Radiation modifying effects of Ocimum sanctum on mouse survival. Proc. Ind. Sci. Cong., Jaipur. 1986, pp 20).

A later study in 1997 examined bone marrow stem cell survival and chromosome aberration in mice exposed to gamma radiation and subsequently given extract of Ocimum basilicum. The results again showed radioprotective effects in the treated mice and were attributed to two flavonoids found in Holy Basil, orientin and vicenin. Both compounds were shown to protect treated mice against death from radiation-induced Gastrointestinal Syndrome and Bone Marrow Syndrome (Ganasoundari, A., Zare, S.M., and Devi, P.U. Modification of bone marrow radiosensitivity by medicinal plant extracts. Brit. J. Radiol. , 1997, 70(834): 599-602.).

All varieties of Tulsi have a remarkable range of therapeutic medicinal effects in addition to their radioprotective effects. Tulsi is one of a class of valuable medicinal plants referred to by herbalists as adaptogens. An adaptogen is an herb that aids the body in adapting to and healing the effects of stress on the body. As such, it has beneficial effects for immune system function and a variety of stress related illnesses. In addition, this herb has antiviral and anticancer effects, anticoagulant effects, helps to regulate cholesterol and blood sugar, and protects the liver. For a very informative discussion of the full range of Tulsi’s effects see the book Tulsi: The Mother Medicine of Nature by Dr. Narendra Singh and Dr. Yamuna Hoette with Dr. Ralph Miller, 2002, International Edition).

PLEASE NOTE: This article deals with the herb Basil and not the Essential Oil of Basil, which was not evaluated in the research presented here.

*This information is provided for educational interest and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

Copyright © 2011 Joie Power, Ph.D. / The Aromatherapy School | All Rights Reserved

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