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Tulsi for Immune System Support: One Herb with Proven Benefits

09/20/2021
Conscious Healthy Living, Herbal Secrets
Woman seated on an orange couch on her laptop drinking tulsi for immunity.

One of the most ancient herbs, Tulsi, now has one of the most modern monikers — immunomodulator. The word was coined by scientists to explain a substance’s power to reinforce and support the immune system. But Tulsi, as well as a host of other herbs and plants in the Ayurvedic health and wellness cabinet, has been known to have this ability for thousands of years. Tulsi is a name that comes from Sanskrit, meaning “beyond compare.” That’s why from ancient times to this day, it is a no-brainer to use Tulsi for immune system support.

Tulsi for Immune System Support

In the Journal of Ayurveda Integrative Medicine, Marc Cohen wrote that the predominant cause of poor health is related to lifestyles that make people predisposed to health issues. Many of these complications can be addressed through Ayurveda because of its unique focus on healthy lifestyle practices and regular consumption of adaptogenic herbs. “Of all the herbs used within Ayurveda, Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn) is preeminent, and scientific research is now confirming its beneficial effects.”

Herbalist and author Rosalee de la Forêt described Tulsi as having the ability to strengthen and modulate the immune system. Studies have found that it can detoxify and protect the body from free radicals and defend against environmental stressors. It is also adaptogenic, as mentioned, which means it helps the body adapt and respond to physical and mental stress, which allows the immune system more effectively do its job without interference. Virtually every part of the body may benefit from its multiplicity of actions. 

S.C. Mahapatra, Institute Department of Physiology, AIIMS, New Delhi, wrote that the human immune system is very complex and contains a delicate balance. Any substance, synthetic or biological, that can enhance, suppress, or modulate the immune system, is an immunomodulator. There are several aspects of modern life that tend to suppress the immune system, including diets filled with artificial ingredients and non-foods; environmental, personal, and household toxins; poor water and air quality; insufficient exercise; and mental and emotional stress. For all of these factors, Tulsi is one of Ayurveda’s top choices to support the immune system and help eliminate bodily toxins before it’s too late.

Tulsi tea bags, cups, and stirrers on a wooden platter with leaves behind it.

Tulsi as an Immunomodulator

Out of myriad health-promoting actions on the mind, body, and spirit, Tulsi is a well-known immunomodulator in the world of Ayurvedic healthcare. Naturopathic physician Marisa Marciano, ND, wrote in The Naturopathic Herbalist that immunity is a vital component of the interface between individuals and their world. It is an expression of homeostasis and the relationship between bodily health, emotional well-being, and mental vision and perspective. Many herbs can stimulate immune responses, and these are best described as immune modulators because they facilitate greater immune system flexibility.

Marciano explained that immune modulation denotes any effect an herb has on immune system responsiveness. As an immunomodulating herb, Tulsi potentially contributes to helping the immune system fight malignancies and plays a central role in supporting cells involved in immunological defenses. An immunomodulator most commonly refers to today’s pharmaceutical agents, but back into antiquity, Ayurvedic doctors understood that health and healing occurs through balance. Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, is the queen of immunomodulating herbs. Marc Cohen, School of Health Sciences, RMIT University, Victoria, Australia, calls Tulsi “an herb for all reasons,” simply because its benefits are so varied and useful.

Tulsi is one of Ayurveda’s top choices to build up the immune system and help eliminate bodily toxins.

Woman with brown checkered jacket sitting outside in a camping settig with tulsi tea for immune system support.

Tulsi Cleanses and Relaxes

Tulsi also assists with the body’s internal housekeeping, and its detoxifying action is often attributed to the herb’s high content of phenolic compounds and antioxidant properties. Plant researcher Marc Cohen advises that regular consumption of Tulsi tea may be compared with the regular practice of yoga, which can be considered adaptogenic because it nurtures and nourishes the body-mind-spirit while fostering a sense of relaxation and wellbeing. In contrast, he explains, regular consumption of caffeinated beverages, such black and green tea and coffee, may be compared with more aerobic exercise, which confers health benefits by way of stimulation and activation.

In the Hindu tradition that has been passed down for thousands of years, Tulsi continues to be worshipped as a goddess. Every part of the plant is revered and considered sacred, including the leaves, stem, flower, root, seeds, and oil. Even the surrounding soil in which Tulsi is embedded is special, and has recently been found to nurture beneficial endophytic fungi that colonize healthy and living tissue. Because this wonderful plant is so health-promoting and balancing on many levels, it is considered an aspect of the divine. 

Green wild growing plant of Tulsi for immune support.

How to Consume Tulsi for Immune System Support

There are many ways to consume Tulsi to support immunity, relaxation and overall wellness. One of the most gratifying ways to enjoy Tulsi is as a tea, so that you may be uplifted by its light, floral aroma and feel the relaxing effects almost instantly. While you feel relaxed it is also supporting your immune system behind-the-scenes. As a tea, you can find it as single ingredient or mixed with other flavors for different types of experiences. Another way, for an easy concentrated dose, is via herbal capsules that can be taken daily. You can also take loose Tulsi and infuse it ito butter, ghee or honey to be taken as a paste.