Botanical Name: Ocimum sanctum, O. tenuiflorum
Common Names: Tulsi (Hindi), tulasi (Hindi), surasa (Sanskrit), sacred basil
Part Used: Herb
Location/Cultivation: Holy basil is found throughout the lowlands of India as well as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, southern China, Thailand, and Malaysia. In India, small patches of it are widely cultivated for daily use. There are at least three types of holy basil. The greenleafed variety sri or rama tulsi is the most common. The second type (Krishna tulsi) bears dark-green to purple leaves; this variety has a stronger taste and smell. The third type (vana tulsi, O. tenuiflorum) is a green-leafed forest variety that often grows wild.
Properties: Adaptogen, antibacterial, antidepressant, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue (promotes the flow of mother’s milk), and immunomodulator
Constituents: Essential oils such as eugenol, carvacol, linalool, caryophylline, and methyleugenol as well as triterpenes such as ursolic acid and flavonoids.
Holy Basil is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae which is native throughout the Old World tropics and widespread as a cultivated plant and an escaped weed. It is an erect multi- branched herb 11 – 23 inches tall with hairy stems and simple opposite green leaves that are strongly scented. Leaves have petioles, and are ovate, up to 2 inches long, usually slightly toothed. Flowers are purplish in elongate racemes in close whorls. There are two main morphotypes cultivated in India—green-leaved (Sri or Lakshmi tulsi) and purple-leaved (Krishna tulsi).
Holy basil is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely known across South Asia as a medicinal plant and an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda, and has an important role within the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving tulsi plants or leaves.
Also known as
Ocimum sanctum, Tulasi (Sanskrit name)
Holy Basil is commonly grown in Hindu homes and it is a sacred plant in the Hindu religion. In fact a Hindu household is considered incomplete if there is not a Tulsi plant in the courtyard. Native to India, it grows wild in Asia and Malaysia, and has a long tradition of use in medicine, where it is considered the most sacred herb in India. Devotees may wear necklaces made of Tulsi seeds because it is written that it is the plant that pleases him the most. It is also written that Tulsi was the incarnation of a princess who fell in love with the Lord Krishna, but had a curse laid upon her by his consort Radha. The Latin name Ocimum sanctum means "sacred fragrant lipped basil" or "the incomparable one". Holy Basil has also been called by many other names including the "Queen of Herbs", "The Elixir of Life", and the "Mother Medicine of Nature". Ayurvedic medicine teaches that Tulsi is classified as a "Rasyana": an herb that nourishes a person's growth to perfect health and promotes long life.
Parts Used - The leaf is generally the only part used in a medicinal capacity.
Typical Preparations - Tulsi is traditionally taken as an herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee. It is currently being studied for its beneficial properties and has been found to be effective for cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, stress, wound healing, the immune system, inflammations, liver support and protection, hypoglycemic conditions, ulcers, digestion, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, radiation poisoning, cataracts, the memory, respiratory system, urinary problems, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions, and it is an antioxidant.
Precautions - Not recommended for use if pregnant, nursing, or are considering becoming pregnant (may have an anti-fertility effect). Do not administer to infants or toddlers. May lower blood sugar, consult a doctor if hypoglycemic (in separate studies, it has also been shown to be beneficial for those with hypoglycemia). Holy Basil has mild blood thinning properties.
Holy basil is sacred to the Hindu god Vishnu and is used in morning prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being. Strings of beads made from the plant’s stems are used in meditation to give clarity and protection. The ancient ayurvedic texts, the Charaka Samhita (appx. 200 BCE) and Sushruta Samhita (400–100 BCE) both mention the use of this herb to treat people with snakebites and scorpion stings.
Holy basil is classified as a rasayana, an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and promotes long life. For perhaps three thousand years, holy basil has been considered one of India’s most powerful herbs. The daily use of this herb is believed to help maintain the balance of the chakras, (energy centers) of the body. It is acclaimed as possessing sattva (energy of purity) and as being capable of bringing on goodness, virtue, and joy in humans. In the Puranas (a sacred Hindu text), everything associated with the plant is holy, including water given to it and the soil in which it grows as well as all its parts, among them leaves, flowers, seed, and roots.