Cancer is one of the most horrifying experiences one can go through. Traditional treatments for cancer such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy has had some good progress but the fear in humankind remains. For many reasons individuals not only rely on such traditional medicines but they also end up trying out some herbal aids as an adjuvant for increased quality of life. Tulsi or Holy Basil also scientifically known as Ocimum santum is an aromatic shrub in the family of basil – Lamiaceae and is one among the many common herbal ingredients which has been known to have numerous medicinal properties. It has achieved titles in Ayurveda such as “Elixir of life”, “Mother of nature”, ‘The incomparable one” and” Queen of herbs”.
There is evidence which backup the belief that Tulsi protects organs and tissues against chemical and physical stress which includes industrial pollutants and prolonged exertion, respectively. It has also proven to counter metabolic stress through normalizing blood glucose level and blood pressure. It has had a positive impact on memory and cognitive function along with anti-depressant and anxiolytic properties. This basically helps individuals with psychological stress. Hundreds of scientific studies (involving in vitro studies in both animals and humans) have revealed many unique combinations of actions with respect to Tulsi; these include Anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, chemo-preventive and radio-preventive. Tulsi helps in cancer prevention by reducing DNA damage and inducing apoptosis in precancerous and cancerous cells. This further reduces the growth of experimental tumors and enhances survival. It also enables the body to transform and eliminate toxic compounds by enhancing the activity of liver detoxification enzymes (cytochrome P450 enzymes). Tulsi leaves possess oil which are volatile and about 71% of it is eugenol and 20% is methyl eugenol along with other components such as carvacrol and sesquiterpine hydrocarbon. Phenolic compounds such as rosmeric acid, cirsilineol, circimarirtin, apigenin and isothymusin are found in the stem and fresh leave of tulsi along with other components such as ursolic acid and orientin.
Apoptosis is one of the main cytotoxic processes involved in cancer prevention and is targeted to enhance the natural anticancer properties of cells in the body. It is a programmed cell death, meaning a series of signaling pathways are involved to get this in action. One of the main organelles which is required to regulate apoptosis is mitochondria. When certain physiological signals trigger apoptosis, a proteolytic cascade is initiated which ultimately results in chromosomal DNA degradation.
Tulsi and its role in preventing many forms of cancers are as follows:
Tulsi in lung cancer:
Studies have shown that Human A549N lung cancer cells when treated with ethanolic extracts of tulsi, induced apoptosis, decreased phosphorylation of survival genes (Akt and ERK), increased the cytochrome c levels and reduced the expression of anti-apoptic protein Bcl-2. On the same lines Luteolin induced G2 phase cell cycle arrest along with apoptosis to suppress the growth and migration in the Human cell lines.
Tulsi in breast cancer:
Migration of breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-435) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells was prevented when they were treated with tulsi extracts. Cell culture studies on these cells have also depicted the effectiveness of tulsi extracts in inhibiting the TPA – induced increase levels of COX-2 and its inhibition towards capillary tube formation along with reducing the number of blood vessels. These results prove that leaves extracts of tulsi possess anti-tumorigenic and anti-angiogenic properties.
Cell culture studies of MCF 7 cells with tulsi extracts (eugenol)demonstrated a dose-time dependent inhibition of growth and proliferation. This depletes the levels of intracellular GSH and increases the level of lipid peroxidation. Luteolin induced apoptosis in various human breast cancer cell lines to regulate the estrogen signaling, cell cycle pathway genes and also to reduce the histone deacetylase activity, cell survival, invasion and tumor growth.
Inhibition of cell growth and induction of apoptosis in SK-BR-3, MDA-MB-453, MCF-7, and HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells were also reported when flavonoid apigenin (a component of tulsi extract) was acted upon them. Apigenin with MDA-MB-453 cells is known to inhibit tumor cell invasion, migration, and proliferation to induce apoptosis.
Tulsi prevents liver carcinogenesis:
Treatment of HepG2, Hep3B, Huh7, HA22T, H22, and SMMC-7721 cells with ursolic acid (another component in tulsi extract) induced apoptosis and cell cytotoxicity. This acid possesses anti-angiogenic effects and decreases the production and expression of VEGF and IL-8, retain GSH level, to decrease ROS and NO levels, and reduce cell invasion and Migration in Hep3B, Huh7 and HA22T cells.
Studies with cultured HepG2 cells have demonstrated that apigenin causes apoptosis and the same effect is mediated by the reactive oxygen species generated by NOX2. Experiments with Huh7 cells have also shown that treatment with apigenin causes a concentration-dependent apoptosis and to inhibit cell proliferation and colony formation. Regarding luteolin, studies have also shown it to induce apoptosis in HepG2 cells and to mediate these effects by triggering the release of cytochrome C, activation of CPP32, and mitochondrial translocation of Bax/Bak.
Tulsi on leukemic cell lines:
The first human immortalized leukoerythroid progenitor leukemic cell lines of myeloid lineage are the K562 cells which are positive for BCR-ABL fusion gene (Philadelphia chromosome). These cell lines just like any other cancerous cell lines have a plethora of aurora kinase resulting in uncontrolled cell division and cancerous growth. Apoptosis plays a major role in regulating these cells via various components such as BCR‐ABL, BCL‐2, p53 gene etc. Apoptosis is triggered by targeting p53 genes which in-turn targets various cyclin‐dependent kinase inhibitors that eventually causes cell differentiation and arresting of G1 phase of cell cycle. Variations in K562 leukemic cells lines is due to the levels of components induced by BCR‐ABL gene and other components that reduces apoptosis. Tyrosine‐kinase inhibitor, one of the landmark drugs, which can induce molecular remission in patients with chronic myelogenous is also procured using these cell lines.
When these cells were treated with varying concentrations of the tulsi extracts, a negative correlation was observed with respect to the surviving cell percentage, meaning, as the concentration of the extracts increased the survival percentage of the cells decreased. The cytotoxic ability was also observed. Collectively all these properties can be linked to various pathways involved in different type of cancers and sarcomas and hence can be useful as an adjuvant in the treatment.
· Consume 2-3 fresh basil leaves early in the morning (preferably empty stomach).
· Having tulsi tea also helps (make sure not to add more than 2-3 leaves).