Tulsi (Holy Basil)



Tulsi, India’s Queen of Herbs, revered for centuries as a sacred plant and used both medicinally and in worship, is thriving right here in my garden.  Native to India it is traditionally grown in pots in every Indian home and I am just beginning to understand the devotion.  Tulsi is not known as the ‘elixir of life’ for naught.


Western medicine is finally studying this amazing herb for its health-promoting properties.  It contains eugenol (also in cloves), a compound found to stop the growth of cancer cells, along with other cancer-fighting phytochemicals such as apigenin, luteolin, rosmarinic acid, myretenal, beta-sitosterol and carnosic acid.  It’s an “adaptogen”, meaning it strengthens the immune system and reduces stress by helping to regulate the “Hypothalamic-Pituary-Adrenal (HPA) axis” and regulating cortisol secretion…and in its spare time helps to balance blood glucose level.  It may also affect the secretion of other hormones such as serotonin and dopamine that affect our emotions and general well-being.  Oh, and did I mention the anti-inflammatory properties?  It also was used as a bug repellent with stored grains.  

Holy Basil—how true.  


(As with all potent medicinal plants, please read up on the properties if you are pregnant, on medications, or prone to allergies.)  


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I dried the leaves and flowers to enjoy some tea in the upcoming (yeah!) winter months.


There are three main varieties of tulsi used today:

Krishna – Ocimum tenuiflorum has a dark green to purple leaves, stems and blossoms. The Krishna variety makes a delicious tea and is the most potent, being tested highest in concentrations of adaptogenic triterpenoic compounds.  It is named for the blue skinned God Krishna.

Vana – Ocimum gratissimum is the original wild basil or “forest type” with green leaves and stems and white blossoms.  It is very high in eugenol, is a great adaptogen and is known for its fragrance.  Its natural habitat ranges throughout Asia, India and across North Africa and down into East Africa.   

Rama – Ocimum sanctum is the short, annual, heavily flowered plant that was originally introduced to the U.S. as “Holy Basil”.  It is the most common type found in cultivation in the U.S. and is known for its cooling and mellow flavor. The plant has green leaves, white-to-purplish blossoms, and a green or purplish stem. It is cultivated in the Indian plains, as well as private homes and gardens around India.

(Referenced from Mountain Rose Herbs)





The aroma of the fresh blossoms is sweet and distinctive, they make weeding the garden a little less toilsome!



 Tulsi Water

Add sprigs of fresh Holy Basil to your drinking water and let sit for an hour.

Add other fresh herbs like Rosemary, Thyme or Mint to bring in extra deliciousness and medicinal qualities.


Tulsi Ginger Tea

2 cups Boiling Water

2 Tablespoon Tulsi Leaves, dried

1/2 teaspoon Ginger Root, minced or grated

1 teaspoon Coriander Seeds


Steep for a few minutes before straining and enjoying. 


Tulsi Rosemary Tea

2 cups Boiling Water

2 Tablespoons Tulsi Leaves, dried

1 teaspoon Peppermint, dried

1/2 teaspoon Rosemary Leaves, dried

Steep for a few minutes before straining and enjoying. 



How can you get some of this green goodness?

Order Tulsi seeds from Johnny’s Seeds and grow this prolific beauty at home—it does well in pots.

Order the plants or seeds of Tulsi from Strictly Medicinal Seeds.

Order Tulsi tea in bulk or in teabags from Organic India or other online places…or if you’re lucky you can find something in local stores.




Some of the many beauteous names for Tulsi: Ajaka, Albahaca Santa, Bai Gkaprow, Baranda, Basilic Indien, Basilic Sacré, Basilic Sacré Pourpre, Basilic Saint, Brinda, Green Holy Basil, Hot Basil, Indian Basil, Kala Tulsi, Kemangen, Krishna Tulasi, Krishna Tulsi, Manjari, Ocimum sanctum, Ocimum tenuiflorum, Parnasa, Patrapuspha, Rama Tulsi, Red Holy Basil, Sacred Basil, Sacred Purple Basil, Shyama Tulsi, Sri Tulasi, Suvasa Tulasi, Tulasi, Tulsi, Tulsi Patra.



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