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Synopsis – Tulsi (“Holy Basil”) – Ayurvedic Medicinal Herb Used for Thousands of Years

December 10th, 2008 · 4 Comments

Tulso - Holy Basil

OK here is one of my favorite herbs (if not THE favorite).  It smells like BUBBLE GUM for crying out loud!

Tulsi / Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

If you have ever grown this herb, you know what amazing surprises it offers.  When I brush by it, I get this smell of heaven that I have never smelled anywhere else.  Just like all Basil species, the aroma is amazing; Sweet, Dreamy, and smells just like Buble Gum (I know, Im crazy).  But Tulsi/Holy Basil just blows my mind.  Its a proven winner in the garden.  I have never been disappointed in the results from growing this herb.  If you let it seed itself it will come up year after year and surprise you.  I like to make sure there it loads of it in my garden so at the seasons end I can harvest it for tea.  Actually you are supposed to harvest it before it flowers but thats just too soon in my book.  I can never get to it on time.  Maybe Ill try this coming year.  I get my Holy Basil / Tulsi seeds from Seeds of Change.

Waht intrigues me the most about this herb is its multitude of healing properties.  It has been used for thousands of years.  Years back, I was doing research on herbal medicine that has been around a while and came across tulsi tea.  I picked up some literature after I saw and tasted how good it was (and good for you).

The rest of this blog entry I am going to devote to that information.  Its a good reference to come back to from time to time and I will add to it as necessary.



Tulsi, Queen of Herbs, the legendary “Incomparable One” of India, is one of the holiest and most cherished of the many healing and health-giving herbs of the Orient. Tulsi is renowned for its religious and spiritual sanctity, as well as for its central role in the traditional Ayurvedic and Unani systems of holistic health and herbal medicine of the East. An astonishing array of health promoting, disease preventing and life prolonging properties of Tulsi have been described and documented over five millennia and, in the past few decades, many of these benefits have been investigated and verified by modern scientific research. Tulsi is most commonly prepared for consumption as a simple tea, and is often blended with other herbs for various medicinal and culinary purposes. According to ancient Indian legends, the plant came into being as an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Tulsi, and is the favoured herb of the gods Vishnu, Ram and Krishna, as well as being revered by Brahma and Shiva. Tulsi is thought to open the heart and mind, and bestow love, compassion, faith and devotion. The plant is widely incorporated in religious rituals and auspicious ceremonies throughout the subcontinent, and is routinely grown by traditional Hindu families today. Medical, religious and culinary use of Tulsi has also been historically documented in China and the rest of Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Australia.

Tulsi traveled west to Europe along the early trade routes from the Orient. After a period of cultural assimilation, the plant became known to Europeans as “Sacred” or “Holy Basil”, and was hailed as “The King of Herbs” by European herbalists and physicians, as well as cooks. The name Basil is likely derived from Greek words referring to “royalty” or “king.” Holy Basil became routinely included in legends, offerings and worship rituals of many of the Christian churches of Europe – perhaps most noteworthy being the Greek Orthodox Church. The sacred plant was given an especially festive central role in the annual celebration of the birth of St. Basil. Also known as St. Josephwort in parts of Europe, the herb is looked on by many as a gift of Christ.


Tulsi (pronounced “tool-see”) is identified by botanists as Ocimum sanctum or, more recently, Ocimum tenuiflorum (Rama and Krishna Tulsi varieties), and Ocimum gratissimum (Vana Tulsi variety). Belonging to the Lamiaceae/Labiatae mint family, these and other closely related varieties are cousins of the familiar sweet basil cooking herb, Ocimum basilicum. Tulsi is native to tropical Asia, likely having originated in India; the robust Vana Tulsi readily grows wild in many areas of Asia and Africa. Tulsi is a bushy perennial shrub, usually cultivated annually from seed, although it can also be propagated from tip or root cuttings. It is usually planted (or transplanted) immediately when the rainy season begins. In good soil and hot sunny weather, Tulsi may grow to a meter in height and be ready for harvest in a few months. Leaf colour ranges from light green (Vana) to dark purple (Krishna); the tiny flowers range from white to reddish purple.

The leaves of Tulsi are most commonly used for their health benefits, although all parts of the plant, including the roots, stems, flowers and seeds, have significant and differing medicinal and symbolic properties. In addition, Tulsi beads, made from the woody stalks, are commonly strung in necklaces, bracelets, belts and meditation malas or rosaries, which are thought by many to have symbolic spiritual as well as physical protection benefits.

Tulsi Health Benefits:

Holistic Health Promotion.

Enhances general health and well-being,
having positive overall effects on the body
and mind.

Stress Resilience.

Increases the capacity to cope and adapt to changing and challenging environments, and reduces the negative physical and psychological effects of stress (adaptogenic).

Energy and Performance.

Improves stamina and endurance, and increases the body’s efficiency in using oxygen. Enhances protein synthesis and strength.

Anti-Aging Effects.

Helps retain (and regain!) youthful vigour, and slows the biological aging process by reducing the impact of physiological aging factors.


Provides significant antioxidant and free radical scavenging protection. Neutralizes dangerous biochemicals that contribute to premature aging, cancer, and degenerative diseases.

Radiation Protection.

Reduces the cell and tissue damage caused by harmful rays of the sun, TV, computers, X-rays, radiation therapy, high altitude air travel, etc.

Immunity Tune-Up.

Strengthens and modulates the immune system. Reduces allergic histamine, asthmatic and other adverse immune reactions.

Anti-inflammatory Action.

Reduces the painful and dangerous inflammation that plays a key role in various forms of arthritis, cancer and degenerative neurological disorders.

Antibiotic Protection.

Offers significant natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties and is, thereby, helpful in treating many serious systemic diseases, as well as localized infections.

Heart and Vascular Protection.

Lowers dangerous cholesterol and stress-related high blood pressure, protects the heart and blood vessels, and has mild blood thinning qualities, thereby decreasing the likelihood of strokes.

Liver Support.

Generally contributes to healthy liver function, improves the metabolic breakdown and elimination of dangerous chemicals in the blood, and counteracts various liver diseases.

Lung and Bronchial Support.

In addition to contributing generally to respiratory health, Tulsi has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of a variety of serious allergic, inflammatory and infectious disorders affecting the lungs and related tissues.


Contains vitamins C and A, and minerals calcium, zinc and iron, as well as chlorophyll and many other phytonutrients. It also enhances the efficient digestion, absorption and use of nutrients from food and other herbs.

Allopathic Medicine Complement.

Enhances the effectiveness and reduces the negative and often dangerous side effects of many standard modern medical treatments.

And, as if that weren’t enough, among its many other benefits, Tulsi also lowers fevers, reduces nausea, vomiting and cramping, protects against gastric ulcers, lowers dangerous blood sugar levels in diabetics, diminishes “bad breath,” and repels mosquitoes!

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in investigating the traditional health promoting uses of Tulsi. A considerable, rapidly expanding body of modern scientific information is currently available confirming many of the impressive life supporting benefits described in ancient Ayurvedic (“Science of Life”) writings. These key historical documents include the Rigveda (“Book of Eternal Knowledge”), thought to have been written around 5000 BC, the Carak and Susrut Samhita medical texts, circa 2700 to 600 BC, and Nighantu Adarsha, revised in 800 BC.

Renown as a general tonic and vitalizer, “The Elixir of Life”, Tulsi has been traditionally employed in hundreds of different formulations for the treatment of a wide range of disorders, including those of the mouth and throat, lungs, heart, blood, liver, kidney, and the digestive, metabolic and nervous systems. Tulsi is commonly used to treat coughs, colds and flu, head and ear aches, rheumatism and arthritis, malaria, fever, allergies, and various skin diseases, to reduce the toxicity of various poisons, including insect and reptile bites, and to expel intestinal parasites, repel insects, and purify the air.

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Tags: Herbs · Medicinal

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 maria // Dec 19, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Hi, I love your website, I like to Garden but I’m not very good at it. I love to look at garden designs , I came across an on-line store you might be interested in, they have Garden Decor, I shop there alot , there website address is http://shopjulia.net . Thanks for sharing your site…

  • 2 morgan langman // Jul 6, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    were does tulsi grow?
    does it grow in your garden?
    were can you buy a seed?
    can you get seeds?
    is tulsi wild growing?

  • 3 David // Jul 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    You can buy the seed (certified organic) from Seeds of Change or at Mountain Rose Herbs.

    I grow it in the ground with the other types of Basil I have chosen to grow for that year. I put some in pots as well. As far as I am concerned, I cant grow enough of this wonderful herb. By the end of summer, they can get woody when they get big and bush out (so give em some room to grow).

    I start new plants all through the summer as well and toss em in where I can. Easily fits in as one of my favorite medicinal herbs.

    It is native to Old World Tropics, is known for its diverse healing properties and has been mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic text. Find out more about Tulsi (or Ocimum tenuiflorum) from Wikipedia.

    Good Luck to you and come back and tell us about your experiences with Holy Basil.

  • 4 LI gardener // Jun 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    For a local alternative, Union Turnpike in Bellerose/Floral Park area into Glen Oaks has become somewhat of a little India. I picked up several Tulsi plants at a small Indian grocery store on Union Turnpike for about $2.

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