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Tulsi, Ginger, Adaptogens, Epigenetics and Evolution

by Prashanti de Jager

cell.jpgThe emerging science of epigenetics, a discipline investigated for a mere 2 decades, describes the ability of a cell to evolve as a function of direct experienced circumstance and not by virtue of actual changes in the DNA. Epigenetic inheritance systems play a role in what has become known as cell memory and cognition, and the real shocker is that these cellular changes are inheritable, hence allowing accelerated evolution of a given blood line and/or species! People can even use these herbs to evolve within their life time, minimizing inherited DNA and optimizing DNA that supports who they really are and want to be. Exciting stuff, and all foretold in ancient myths amongst the Puranic texts.

Epigewhatics? Yeah, I know, there is a little bit of learning curve when articulating this via bioscience jargon, but please stick with it as this is very exciting news.

Epigenetics! Normally we have thought that how we evolve is by how DNA is transcribed and inherited by our children, and that that process is in turn controlled by the DNA itself, as the DNA tenaciously protects itself, its form of life. This theory sounds good to many, especially to those that spend years demolishing their brains with intoxicants, sloth, anxiety or anger, and feel that their DNA, and hence their progeny, will be entirely free of their destructive patterns.

However, in 1986, the Lancet published a seminal paper showing that if a pregnant woman experienced a deficient diet, her child would experience a higher risk of cardiovascular disease as an adult. In other words, parents’ experiences early in their lives, long before they are parents, can change the way their DNA is transcribed and can thus change the traits they pass to their offspring.

Thus the science of epigenetics was born, the science of showing how a person’s experience at the mental, emotional and cellular level can change, alter, morph, and direct how the DNA of that person is passed on into the future! This also includes their own future in the subsequent years to follow. This is why you see some people totally change for better or for worse, in the course of a decade.

For more fascinating insights into the western origins of epigenetics look into the Overkalix study accomplished by Dr. Lars Olov Bygren of the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. I say “western” origins because in many traditional systems of wellness like Yoga and Ayurveda, this has always been a given! This is why the personal responsibility for your own health as a form of your lineage and community’s health is championed in so many cultures rooted in the sustainability innate to deep wellness and positive evolution.

Back to “modern thought.” Darwin’s theory of natural selection, portraying evolution of animals as occurring over “geological time” is part of the story to be sure, but the remaining part, the theory of epigenetics, puts a mass of opportunity and thus responsibility on the shoulders of the individual. Destiny in so many ways is not fated, but chosen! By our dietary and lifestyle choices along with carefully choosing what flavor of thought and emotions we host in our minds, we can significantly alter our wellness for better or for worse.

Of course, seldom will we squeeze milk out of a stone, but maybe once in a while we can turn wine into water: Just maybe we can alter the trajectory of our wellness enough to make a significant difference in the happiness of ourselves, our community, and our future. It seems that several of our favorite high-frequency clarity-invoking metabolic herbs like Tulsi and Ginger, can assist us here with so beautifully deepening our wellbeing.

What herbs have been known to “do” this, to support this quickening of evolution? Vedic science shows that Tulsi, Ginger, Turmeric, Amalaki, Brahmi, Atis, Jatamansi, Jyotishmati, Cinnamon and to some extent Ashwagandha are epigenetic herbs, and in the last decade, western science has confirmed Tulsi and Ginger  can reach all the way into the chromatin of a cell’s nucleus and upregulate the Histone H3, a key player in epigenetics1. Besides these, there are perhaps another two dozen herbs that are strongly epigenetic.

As if this is not interesting enough, it gets really enthralling when you ponder even deeper ramifications of this. Consider:

Variations in individual responses to herbs likely depend on:

  • How the herb was grown and processed
  • That individual’s phenotype (expressions of deep constituion)
  • Interactions among the components of their diet that influence absorption, metabolism, and actual site of action of the herb

And so investigation into what dictates the direction and magnitude of the response of an individual, and the actual and hoped for molecular targets for the micronutrients available in herbs, are based on both genetic and epigenetic events and conditioning. In the case of response to herbs being epigenetic events, note the fascinating fact that herbs themselves can turn these epigenetic events on or off. In other words, long term use of one herb that can upregulate Histone may change one’s ability to be supported by another herb. That bears repeating:

Long term use of one herb that can upregulate Histone may change one’s ability to be supported by that herb or another herb, food, or situation!

This may be one of the mechanisms of what is called Yogavahi herbs like Tulsi that can amplify the potency of other herbs. In the past I always assumed this was simply a function of increases in corresponding enzymatic metabolic factors, but now I will start an inquiry into how many of these Yogavahi medicines like Tulsi, Shilajit, Saffron, Honey and Ghee are actually epigenetic medicines as well.

After so many years, my amazement at the benefits of Tulsi only increases.

So know, we have an incredible opportunity here, and with that comes a great responsibility! It is good if we all can help each other to be as disciplined and knowledgeable about supporting wise daily actions, choices that support the evolution of all of us daily, as it truly is for the benefit, or not, of all beings.

Healthy optimal gene expression is fundamental to wellness. And as much as I am in awe of TulsiGinger and other like-minded herbs to assist us here, truly we cannot give the responsibility of our wellness away to anything outside of us: No doctor, no priest, no herb, no oasis. Rather, in the end, the depth of your wellness depends on the nature of the heart of your spirit as determined by the love that you choose, and the subsequent grace you allow to fill your life’s sails.

Thank you


P.S. If you'd like to take a deeper dive into epigenetics, read my blog entry here.


  1. Shim S, Kim S, Choi DS, Kwon YB, Kwon J.; Effects of [6]-shogaol: Potential roles of HDAC inhibition and HSP70 induction.; Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Aug 16.