Getting to Know Herbs: Holy Basil

in gardening •  5 months ago

Holy basil is an exceptional tonic and adaptogenic herb. It can help you focus and increase your concentration. It can be mixed with other herbs in cooking or with other teas like green tea. As an infusion for tea, chai latte or as a tincture, it is very pleasant tasting.

Photo by @krnel

The scientific name is Ocimum tenuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum. THe most common name is Holy Basil, but also Tulasi (sometimes spelled Thulasi) or Tulsi. Other names include 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, Tulsi Patra.

Photo by @krnel

The above is the purple variety, compared to the first image with the greener variety. The stem is purple and some leaves turn people as well.

Key Points

  • native to India
  • very pleasant taste, especially in teas
  • religious use in India
  • used to treat stress and improve focus and concentration


Looking at the DNA of various biogeographical isolates, the origin of Holy Basil is North Central India.

The name Tusli/Tulasi comes from the Sanskrit Surasa, meaning the incomparable one. Tulsi is a sacred plant to the Hindu. The leaves play an important part if the worship of Vishnu, Krishan and Rama.

Where is it found?

Holy basil is native to India and has spread to other parts of Asia. It's also found in Australia, West Africa and the Middle East. It was never introduced to North America, but can be found in Puerto Rico. This doesn't meant you can't grow it yourself in North America thoughj, as many people do.

What's it used for?

In India it's used for religious and traditional Ayurvedic medicinal purposes. In Thailand, it's called Thai holy basil and used in Thai cuisine. It's different from Thai basil which has smaller leaves.

In Ayurvedic medicine it's an adaptogen to counter stress and anxiety. Medicine is made from the leaves, stem and seeds. It's thought to decrease inflammation as well.

As a herb spice in foods, it's used in stir fries and spicy soups due to the peppery taste.

Are there any risks?

Not really, but if you're trying to become pregnant, animals studies have shown taking it orally has reduced the the chance of a fertilized egg attaching to the uterus. Those breast feeding may also choose to avoid it, but it's not known to be a danger.

It might also lower blood sugar levels, so those with type 2 diabetes might need to adjust insulin or antidiabetic drug use. Holy basil might also lower thyroxine levels and be an issue for those with hypothyroidism.


Previous posts on Getting to Know Herbs:
Sweet Annie | Globe Artichoke | Butterfly Weed / Pleurisy Root | Joe-Pye Weed / Gravel Root | Valerian | Malva/Mallow | Boneset | Elecampane | Lungwort | Cramp Bark | Motherwort | Common Plantain | Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) | Black Cohosh | Common Bearberry | Mahonia Mountain Grape (Oregon Grape) | Blue Cohosh | Goldenseal

Thank you for your time and attention. Peace.

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Medicinal properties of this plant are remarkable. It can be found in every Hindu family in India. I also have this plant in my garden. As I am not a religious person, I don't think it is holy but I like the property of this little plant.


To me the taste alone and using it in cooking and even herbal tea is a "holy" experience. LOL


Yeah, not holy, but a good herb anyways ;) hehe

Not really, but if you're trying to become pregnant, animals studies have shown taking it orally has reduced the the chance of a fertilized egg attaching to the uterus.

Picturing any of your followers who are players deciding to take their dates to Indian restaurants now, lol.

Interesting fact about the blood sugars. That has become such an epidemic problem now with them adding fructose corn syrup to damn near everything.


LOL. Yeah eat some holy basil and keep that sugar level down ;) Worth a try maybe ;)

does it taste like regular basil?


It's sweeter smell that's for sure.


To me it has it's own unique taste and hard to describe. A bit stronger taste than regular basil.

I could see a database of herbes being cross-referenced by uses. Interesting the religious uses for this. Thanks for educating us @krnel


Try it my friend...I use to grow it on island.


You're welcome ;)

@krnel no doubt you shared an amazing post. but let me know how does it taste like when we mix it with our food.


It tastes fine. My partner made a pesto from some we gathered last week.

Thanks for your detailed info about purple basil. I like the smell of basil, especially on pasta recipes.

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Yes it smells good, this one smells even sweeter than regular basil ;)

Ahhh, my favorite basil!!


Yeah? Why? Not Thai basil? I grew some Thai and regular basil this year on my balcony in apartment. The holy basil we got from the collective gardening we joined this year.

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excelent article! good bless you



It is initially from India and is utilized in Ayurvedic prescription as an "adaptogen" to counter life's burdens. It is viewed as a consecrated plant by the Hindus and is frequently planted around Hindu altars. The Hindu name for holy basil, Tulsi, signifies "the unique one." ... holy basil is connected to the skin for ringworm.

Thanks for such a good information. I also write an article on the same. Below are the links if you would like to see. Thanks again.

Thanks for sharing! I must say I didn't know about it before...

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