A step towards scientific validation of Tulsi?s medicinal properties
N.B. Nair | Indian Science Journal
Lucknow (ISJ) ? Scientists at the state-run Central Institute of Medicinal & Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) have succeeded in whole genome sequencing of Basil or Tulsi (Botanical name: Ocimum sanctum). This is the first time a complete genome sequence of Tulsi, which has been used for thousands of years in traditional systems of medicine in India for its diverse healing properties, has been done.
?The genome sequence will help understand and unravel the secrets of this ?mother of all herbs? and to provide scientific validity to the traditional claims of its utility in diverse medicinal usage,? Dr. Ajit Kumar Shasany, Scientists who lead the research at the Lucknow-based laboratory under Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) told Indian Science Journal.
All parts of Tulsi (dried leaf, dried seed, and dried whole plant) are used in several systems of traditional medicine, including Ayurveda, Greek, Roman, Siddha, and Unani. It is used in the preparations to cure various diseases like bronchitis, bronchial asthma, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, skin diseases, arthritis, painful eye diseases, chronic fever, insect bite etc. It has also been described to possess anti-fertility, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, anti-emetic, anti-spasmodic, analgesic, adaptogenic and diaphoretic actions. Many of the basil oil constituents have found applications as medicinal ingredients, flavors, fragrance, etc.
?Tulsi is a repository of molecules. Hence, if we understand the Tulsi genome, we can understand the pathways of biosynthesis of these molecules,? said Dr. Shasany, explaining the immense medicinal properties of the plant revered by Hindus as the manifestation of Goddess Tulsi, a consort of Lord Vishnu. ?The chloroplast genome map of Tulsi (142,245 bp), is the smallest in the Lamiaceae family. The Tulsi plant has a small genome (386 mb) with 16 chromosomes, where the genes are packed with useful information compared to genomes of other reported plants.?
?Tulsi? is rich in phenylpropanoids, terpenoids and their derivatives, and many of these are implicated for different therapeutic activities. The availability of the genome sequence now opens the possibility to identify genes involved in producing therapeutic molecules and to produce them in vitro. This will also facilitate identification of not yet identified genes involved in the synthesis of important secondary metabolites in this plant. Specific pathway related genes identified or mined in this genome could be used for the production of secondary metabolites following synthetic biology approaches. The development of molecular tools and genomic resources will accelerate molecular breeding and ultimately the utility of basil in medical community.
Based on whole genome sequencing or DNA coding, the CIMAP and several other organisations are now conducting further research to validate the curative properties of different molecules as claimed by Indian traditional systems of medicine, said Dr. Dr. Shasany.
Image courtesy: Dr. Ajit Kumar Shasany