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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Volatile Oils

Tulsi consists of fresh and dried leaves of Ocimum sanctum Linn., belonging to family Labiatae.






Sacred basil, Holy basil.


Biological Source


Tulsi consists of fresh and dried leaves of Ocimum sanctum Linn., belonging to family Labiatae.


Geographical Source


It is a herbaceous, much branched annual plant found throughout India, it is considered as sacred by Hindus. The plant is commonly cultivated in garden and also grown near temples. It is propagated by seeds. Tulsi, nowadays, is cultivated commercially for its volatile oil.




It is much branched small herb and 30 to 75 cm in height. All parts of tulsi are used in medicine, especially fresh and dried leaves. Leaves are oblong, acute with entire or serrate margin, pubescent on both sides and minutely gland-dotted, The leaves are green in colour with aromatic flavour and slightly pungent taste. Flowers are purplish in colour in the form of racemes. Nutlets are subglobose, slightly compressed, pale brown or red in colour. Seeds are reddish-black and subglobose.

                 Ocimum sanctum



Tulsi leaf is dorsiventral. Stomata are of diacytic type, par-ticularly abundant on lower surface. Epidermal cells are wavy walled with thin cuticle. A single layer of elongated palisade cells is present below upper epidermis. Mesophyll consists of four to six layers of spongy parenchymatous cells with intercellular spaces and oil glands. Leaf bears both covering and glandular trichomes; covering trichomes, uniseriate, multicellular and often very long (100–400 μ). Glandular trichomes are sessile with radiate head composed of eight cells with common cuticle forming a bladder, typical labiate type trichomes. A few glandular trichomes with unicellular stalk and a spherical unicellular head also occur. The midrib region shows collenchymatous cells below both upper and lower epidermis. Xylem bundles are arranged in an arc. The phloem is arranged on the dorsal side of xylem.


                          Transverse section of Tulsi leaf

Chemical Constituents


Tulsi leaves contain bright, yellow coloured and pleas-ant volatile oil (0.1 to 0.9%). The oil content of the drug varies depending upon the type, the place of cultivation and season of its collection. The oil is collected by steam distillation method from the leaves and flowering tops. It contains approximately 70% eugenol, carvacrol (3%), and eugenol-methyl-ether (20%). It also contains caryophyl-lin. Seeds contain fixed oil with good drying properties. The plant is also reported to contain alkaloids, glycosides, saponin, tannins, an appreciable amount of vitamin C and traces of maleic, citric, and tartaric acid.





The fresh leaves, its juice and volatile oil are used for various purposes. The oil is antibacterial and insecticidal. The leaves are used as stimulant, aromatic, spasmolytic, and diaphoretic. The juice is used as an antiperiodic and as a constituent of several preparations for skin diseases and also to cure earache. Infusion of the leaves is used as a stomachic. The drug is a good immunomodulatory agent.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Abana, Diabecon, Diakof, Koflet (Himalaya Drug Company), Respinova (Lupin Herbal Laboratory), Amulcure (Aimil Pharmaceuticals), Nomarks (Nyle Herbals), Sualin (Hamdard), and Kofol syrup (Charak Pharma Pvt. Ltd.).


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