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The Indian healing tradition of Ayurveda draws on ancient wisdom for looking after your skin and hair. One of the core pillars of an Ayurvedic beauty routine is using tried and tested herbs to bring out the best in your skin.
One such herbal skin remedy? Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil.
According to tradition, tulsi may help improve acne, reduce skin inflammation, and increase the speed of hair growth. But what does the research say?
Let’s dive into the facts behind the herb to understand just how your skin can benefit from tulsi.
What is tulsi?
Tulsi or Holy Basil is an aromatic perennial plant that’s native to the Indian subcontinent.
Within Ayurveda, the ancient system of medicine originating in India, the green-leafed plant has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties.
“It’s translated as ‘Holy Basil’ because of its pure energy,” says Vrinda Devani, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, and certified Ayurvedic practitioner. “We say it has ‘sattvic’ energy… that promotes harmony, light, wisdom, and compassion.”
In addition, tulsi is considered to have particular qualities in Ayurveda. These include:
- supports lung health
- supports the flow of prana or life force
- supports circulation
Additionally, tulsi is an adaptogen, which means it helps with:
- stress prevention and recovery
- weight regulation
- mental clarity
- preventing exhaustion and burnout
Devani adds that tulsi is believed to move excess Kapha (water/earth) and Vata (air) dosha. The doshas are the three elemental building blocks of Ayurveda.
Tulsi benefits for skin
While there are limited quality studies on tulsi, some research indicates that tulsi may offer several benefits for skin and hair, including that it:
- fights acne
- supports healthy skin aging
- reduces pigmentation
- soothes skin conditions like eczema
- prevents hair loss or thinning
- prevents dandruff
Tulsi may be beneficial for acne due to its antibacterial properties.
Acne is caused when hair follicles in the skin become blocked and get infected with bacteria. For people with acne-prone skin, using antibacterial ingredients like tulsi may help prevent breakouts.
A 2014 literature review noted that “while no human trials have been published, there is experimental evidence that tulsi may help in the treatment of various human bacterial infections including… acne.” Still, more high quality human studies are needed to confirm this.
Healthy skin aging
One 2019 study highlighted tulsi’s ability to support healthy skin aging. The study found that when applied topically, tulsi provided “potent antioxidant activity.”
Antioxidants are an essential part of caring for aging skin, as they reduce free radical production. Free radicals are known to create oxidative stress. This damages skin cells, causing fine lines and wrinkles.
Thanks to tulsi’s antioxidant properties, it may also help tackle pigmentation. However, there’s no medical evidence to support this.
As mentioned, antioxidants reduce free radical production and combat oxidative stress. This can result in less pigmentation.
Antioxidant-rich ingredients also help combat environmental stressors such as UV rays and pollution, two of the main causes of pigmentation.
Tulsi may also help with dry skin conditions like eczema, although no significant scientific studies have shown this.
Its anti-inflammatory action may reduce irritation, redness, and swelling, soothing flare-ups and itchiness. Still, more research is needed to confirm.
Hair loss or thinning
In Ayurveda, tulsi has been used to prevent hair loss or thinning and improve the thickness of hair. It’s thought that tulsi’s anti-inflammatory components may stimulate the scalp.
One older 2011 study that looked at individuals with alopecia noted improvement with the use of tulsi in aromatherapy. Still, more high quality studies are needed to explore this further.
Tulsi’s antifungal properties may help with dandruff when the cause is fungal, but this has yet to be backed up by rigorous scientific research.
How to use it
There are several ways to use tulsi in your skin care and general health routine depending on your needs. These include:
- facial steam
- face mask
- hair mask
- spot treatment
Using tulsi in skin care products like face masks and spot treatments can be helpful for specific skin concerns. For overall skin health, tea or supplements may be the way to go.
“Taking these herbs orally also supports the entire system,” Devani says.
Ingesting tulsi daily via supplements may improve skin and hair from the inside out.
Article medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP — By Elizabeth Bennett on January 28, 2022 (Healthline).