Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Are the Health Benefits of Raihaan (Holy Basil)


Holy basil, Raihan In Unani Medicine , tulsi, has been used for thousands of years in traditional medical systems throughout the world, but particularly in the ancient Indian medical systems of Siddha, Ayurveda and Unani. The various medical applications claimed in ancient texts are still under review with modern scientific methods, but preliminary findings seem to support many of these claims.


 Identification

Holy basil is known as the "queen of herbs" in India. Botanists identify it as Ocimum sanctum, Ocimum tenuifl orum, and Ocimum gratissimum. The holy basil species belong to the Lamiaceae/Labiatae mint family and are considered cousins of the more familiar sweet basil typically used in making pesto. The leaves of the holy basil varieties range in color from light green to dark purple and the flowers from white to reddish purple. The plants are highly aromatic and possess hints of lemon, cloves, peppermint and licorice along with their own distinct flavors and scents. Holy basil is grown throughout India but is also found in some Arab countries, Malaysia, West Africa and Australia.

Traditional Uses
Holy basil has had applications in the ancient Indian medical system of Unani (Greek medicine),Ayurveda and Siddha, and Roman medicines . The juice of the leaves can relieve inflamed mucous membranes, has stimulant properties and helps expectorate phlegm with coughs, as in bronchitis. It is also used for earache, upper respiratory tract infections and skin infections. Infusions made from the leaves are used in the treatment of gastrointestinal spasmodic conditions in children. The seeds of the plant are given for genitourinary tract illnesses. Today, a decoction brewed from the roots of holy basil is still used in remote regions to induce sweating in the treatment of malarial fevers. Ancient Indian texts also describe its use in the treatment of snakebite and scorpion sting. In short, all parts of the plant have been useful in ancient medical systems.


Research

Two review articles published in the "Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology" in 2005 and 2009 report that most research to date has been in vitro, or an artificial environment outside a living organism, and in animal studies. Very few human studies have been conducted to validate the claims of the various ancient medical systems supporting holy basil's many applications. However, preliminary findings of the numerous studies discussed in the articles appear to support many of the claims.

Holy basil's primary virtue is in helping the body protect itself and recover from various forms of stress; that is, it is a potent adaptogen. It has been found to increase the body's efficient use of oxygen, enhance immune function, reduce inflammation and even protect against radiation damage. Holy basil also has antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal properties and is rich in antioxidants and other nutrients.


Eugenol

The therapeutic benefits of holy basil are purported to be due to eugenol, a chemical compound that comprises a large part of the essential oil of the plant. Eugenol has been found to reduce blood sugar levels, the activity of certain diagnostic clinical enzymes, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and also act as a vasodilator, relaxing the arterial wall in animal tissue studies, according to a review article published in the "Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology" in 2005. These findings encourage further research into holy basil's possible application in the treatment of diabetes, heart and liver disease and high cholesterol.


Warning

The use of holy basil is not meant to be a substitute for conventional medical care for any medical condition or symptom. Those taking prescriptions medications should discuss the use of any herbal therapy with their primary care doctor or specialist beforehand.


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