Every day in Eastern Asia, particularly India, people sit around sipping a lemony smelling tea. This is not only a cultural ritual; it is a health ritual, and it has been going on for more than 3,000 years. The tea is called tulsi, also known as holy basil, and it is a phytochemical, frequently used in the form of tea (or supplement), that helps fight cancer, digestive problems, skin problems, diabetes, headaches, stress, even dental problems. Its lemony smell is fragrant, and its leaves are universally viewed as stress relievers.

Tulsi’s healing power is multifold. As a phytochemical, it is a bioactive compound that is found in plant-based foods that help to fight diseases and adverse health conditions at the genetic level. Because free radical damage (oxidative stress) and chronic inflammation are almost always involved in weakened health, this kind of damage is particularly troublesome because it damages the DNA. The entire purpose of my new book, The Gene Therapy Plan, is to explain, present evidence for, and offer solutions that enhance our very DNA, and for new mothers, that means that remedies now can prevent genetic misfires in the future.

In the case of tulsi, evidence suggests that its powers are far reaching. One-fourth cup of tulsi leaves consists of 31 percent vitamin K, 6 percent vitamin A, as well as vitamin C, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and one small calorie.

Its benefits are multifold as well: Besides being an adaptogen (anti-stress agent), tulsi fights free radicals, induces apoptosis (cell death), helps prevent metastasis and angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth), and is an anti-inflammation agent. In fact, research has shown that tulsi helps protect organs and tissue from industrial pollutants, physical stress due to excessive physical exertion, and adverse effects from chemotherapy and radiation.

Recent Research

As reported in Nutrition and Cancer, researchers focused on the chemopreventive and radioprotective properties of Tulsi and noted that preclinical studies “have shown that Tulsi and some of its phytochemicals eugenol, rosmarinic acid, apegenin, myretenal, tuteolin, -sitosterol, and carnosic acid prevented chemical-induced skin, liver, oral, and lung cancers and to mediate these effects by increasing the antioxidant activity, altering the gene expressions, inducing apoptosis, and inhibiting angiogenesis and metastasis.”

In an earlier study, as reported in the Journal of Medicinal Food, rats were injected with a cancer causing toxin, DMBA, after four different concentrations of holy basil leaf extract were fed to the rats over a five-day period. When cancer symptoms were positively identified, scientists measured “the ability of holy basil to combat cancer.” Outcome: At a dosage of 300 mg per kilogram of body weight, holy basil leaf extract had “significantly reduced the formation of cancerous micronuclei,” and antioxidant and healthy enzymatic activity was increased.

Skin Cancer

We all, no doubt, know that skin cancer can be deadly, not to mention disfiguring. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that more than one out of three new reported cancers is a skin cancer. Each year, more than five million cases of skin cancer are treated in the U.S., and basal cell carcinoma accounts for nearly three million cases in the U.S. each year.

Besides the obvious precautions like staying out of the sun at its peak intensity in the middle of the day, always using sun protection (reapply after being in the water), there are also foods that can help skin disorders such as skin cancers.

I certainly recommend tulsi to my patients (as a tea or as a supplement). Other suggested foods are found in The Gene Therapy Plan.

Nine Go-To Foods for Healthy Skin

In addition to tulsi, please make these foods part of your daily nutrition.

  • Apricots
  • Brazil nuts
  • Green Tea
  • Peas
  • Plums
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Water –eight glasses per day
Axe, Josh, M. D., 10 Benefits of Tulsi – Combats Cancer, Infections & More, http://draxe.com/tulsi.
Baliga, MS, et al, Ocimum sanctum L (Holy Basil or Tulsi) and its phytochemicals in the prevention and treatment of cancer, Nutrition and Cancer. 2013;65 Suppl 1:26-35. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2013.785010. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23682780
Floyd, Robert A., M.D. and John M. Carney, PhD, Free radical damage to protein and DNA: Mechanisms involved and relevant observations on brain undergoing oxidative stress, Article first published online: 8 OCT 2004 DOI: 10.1002/ana.410320706
Manikandan, P. et al., Ocimum sanctum Linn. (Holy Basil) ethanolic leaf extract protects against 7, 12-dimethylbenz (a) anthrace ne-induced genotoxicity, oxidative stress, and imbalance in xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes.” Journal of Medicinal Food, September 2007; 1093): 495-502. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17887944
Muturaman, et al., Ameliorative effects of ocimum sanctum in sciatic nerve transection-induced neuropathy in rats.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, October 2008; 120(1): 56- 62. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18762236
Skin Cancer Foundation, “Skin Cancer Facts,” http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts