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The Cultural and Commercial Value of Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum L.): Multidisciplinary Approaches Focusing on Species Authentication



Bhamra, SK;

Heinrich, M;

Johnson, MRD;

Howard, C;

Slater, A;

(2022)

The Cultural and Commercial Value of Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum L.): Multidisciplinary Approaches Focusing on Species Authentication.

Plants
, 11
(22)

p. 3160.

10.3390/plants11223160.

Abstract

Tulsi (Holy basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum L., Lamiaceae), native to Asia, has become globalised as the cultural, cosmetic, and medicinal uses of the herb have been popularised. DNA barcoding, a molecular technique used to identify species based on short regions of DNA, can discriminate between different species and identify contaminants and adulterants. This study aimed to explore the values associated with Tulsi in the United Kingdom (UK) and authenticate samples using DNA barcoding. A mixed methods approach was used, incorporating social research (i.e., structured interviews) and DNA barcoding of Ocimum samples using the ITS and trnH-psbA barcode regions. Interviews revealed the cultural significance of Tulsi: including origins, knowledge exchange, religious connotations, and medicinal uses. With migration, sharing of plants and seeds has been seen as Tulsi plants are widely grown in South Asian (SA) households across the UK. Vouchered Ocimum specimens (n = 33) were obtained to create reference DNA barcodes which were not available in databases. A potential species substitution of O. gratissimum instead of O. tenuiflorum amongst SA participants was uncovered. Commercial samples (n = 47) were difficult to authenticate, potentially due to DNA degradation during manufacturing processes. This study highlights the cultural significance of Tulsi, despite a potential species substitution, the plant holds a prestigious place amongst SA families in the UK. DNA barcoding was a reliable way to authenticate Ocimum species.

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