Holy Basil: One Herb for all Health Problems (Ocimum Sanctum)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Common Names

3. Vernacular Names

4. Synonyms

5. Distribution

6. Morphology

7. Types

8. Types

9. Ayurvedic Properties

10. Chemical Constituent

11. Identity, Purity, and Strength

12. Ayurvedic and Pharmacological Actions

13. Health Benefits

14. Therapeutic Uses

15. Official Part Used

16. General Doses

17. Uses of Holy Basil for Daily Life

1. Introduction

Holy basil botanical name is Ocimum tenuiflorum, other common names are Tulsi, Sacred Basil, ocimum sanctum, or Tulasi, it is mainly found in India and is known as a sacred plant. Tulsi is known for its rich aroma and is often used in cooking, teas, and various natural remedies.

In India, people worship the plant, and it is found in Indian houses and temples. The leaves of the plant are mainly used in Ayurveda for medicinal preparation since ancient times, leaves are also used in the worship of God. Holy basil has been known since Vedic times and is regarded as an earthly manifestation of goddess Vrindavani who is said to be dear to Lord Vishnu.

It is such medicinal plant having medicinal properties. In Hindu scriptures Ocimum Sanctum occupies the supreme position among the herbs, so that it is referred to as “Mother.” The ancient works of Padma Purana and Ocimum Sanctum describe Tulsi as a protector of life, accompanying human being from birth to death.

Every part of Ocimum Sanctum is revered and considered sacred. Even soil around the plant is holy, the Padma Purana says that a person who is cremated with Ocimum Sanctum twigs in his funeral pyre gains moksha and a place in Vishnu’s adobe Vaikuntha.

If a Ocimum Sanctum stick is used to burn a lamp for Vishnu, it is like offering the God lakhs of lamps. If one makes a paste of Tulsi leaves and smears it over his body and worships Vishu, it is worth several ordinary pujas and lakhs of Godaan (donation of cows). Water mixed with the Tulsi leaves is given to the dying to raise their departing souls to heaven.

The presence of Ocimum Sanctum plant symbolizes the religious bent of a Hindu family. A Hindu household is considered incomplete if it does not have a Tulsi plant in the courtyard.

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2. Common Names

Family – Lamiaceae

Hindi Name – Tulsi

English Name – Holy Basil

4. Vernacular Names

Assamese - Tulasi

Bengali – Tulasi

Gujrati – Tulasi, Tulsi

Kannada – Tulasi

Malayalam – Tulasi

Marathi – Tulas

Tamil – Tulasi, Thiru

Telugu – Tulasi

Oriya – Tulsi

5. Synonyms

Apetarakshai – It repels evil organism.

Chakrapuspi – Flowers are set densely in a circle.

Kayastha – It maintains body by alleviating many disorders.

Putapatri – The leaves of this plant are regarded as sacred.

Shulaghni – It removes colic pain.

Surabhi – This plant is aromatic; all the parts of this plant have fragrance.

Surasa – Its juice is used to cure many diseases.

Tulasi – The leaves of this plant are regarded as sacred.

6. Distribution

The plant grows all over India up to 2,000 m altitude. It is grown in houses, temples, and gardens. Ocimum Sanctum is native to India, Iran, and now cultivated in Egypt, France, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, US. Basil is naturally found wild in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Basil thrives in warm and temperate climates.

7. Morphology

The plant has many branches, erect, stout, and aromatic herbs, it grows up to the height of 30 to 70 cm and is hairy all over. The leaves of the plant are tender, egg-shaped, and smooth, it has a bitter and pungent taste. Flowers are small purplish or reddish and are in small compact clusters. Fruits are small and yellowish or reddish with seed.

Leaves – Simple, opposite arrangement, 2 to 4 cm long, elliptic-oblong shape, acute apes, entire or serrated margin, pubescent on both sides, minutely gland-dotted, petiole slender, hairy and aromatic.

Flowers – Tiny, purplish, or crimson in elongate racemes in close whorls. Inflorescence is a long spike or 12 to 14 cm in length.

Fruit – Small, smooth nut lets, subglobose or broadly ellipsoid, slightly compressed, pale brown or reddish grey with small black seed.

Holy Basil

Holy Basil Leaves

 holy basil leaf

Holy Basil Flower

holy basil seeds

Holy Basil Seeds

8. Types

There are different varieties and types of holy basil which have been cultivated and used for centuries.

Rama or Light Holy basil – Tulsi plants with green and slightly sweet leaves. Rama Tulsi is regularly used for worshipping and is more common of the three types.

Shyama / Krishna Tulsi – It has purple leaves.

Vana Tulsi – It is a rare and wild plant.

Rama or Light Holy basil

Shyama / Krishna Tulsi

Vana Tulsi

9. Ayurvedic Properties

Rasa (Taste): It has Tikta, Katu in taste.

Virya (Potency): It is ushna in nature (hot).

Vipaka (Post-digestive taste): The post-digestive taste is katu (bitter).

Guna – Laghu, Ruksha

10. Chemical Constituent

The plant is rich in essential oil, methyl chavicol, eugenol, cineol, mucilage, camphene, methyl ether, limonene, carvacrol and many amino acids.

Some most important bioactive phytochemical constituents in plants are alkaloids, flavonoids, phenolics, essential oils, tannins and saponins.

11. Identity, Purity, and Strength

For Leaves

Foreign Matter – Not more than 2%

Total Ash – Not more than 19%

Acid-insoluble ash – Not more than 3%

Alcohol-soluble extractive – Not less than 6%

Water-soluble extractive – Not less than 13%

For Whole Plant

Foreign Matter – Not more than 2%

Total Ash – Not more than 10%

Acid-insoluble ash – Not more than 1.5%

Alcohol-soluble extractive – Not less than 4%

Water-soluble extractive – Not less than 8%

(Source: The Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia of India 1999)

12. Ayurvedic and Pharmacological Actions

Ayurvedic Action

It is appetizer, cardiotonic, relish, pacify vata and kapha, aggravate pitta, remove foul smell.

  • Doshakarma – Kaphavatashamaka, Pittavardhak
  • Dhatukarma – Raktashodhak
  • Malakarma - Swedajanana

Pharmacological Action

Holy Basil has a unique combination of actions that include antimicrobial, mosquito repellent, antidiarrheal, antioxidant, anticataract, anti-inflammatory, chemo preventive, radioprotective, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, antidiabetic, analgesic, antiallergic, memory enhancement, antithyroid, antifertility, adaptogenic, antistress, and anticoagulant activities.

13. Health Benefits

It is beneficial in calculus, asthma, vomiting, hic-cough, cough, worm infestation, skin disease, eye disease, pain in lateral parts. Different parts of plant have been used in Ayurveda to cure various diseases including common cold, cough, headache, flu, asthma, fever, colic pain, sore throat, bronchitis, hepatic disease, malaria, wound, insomnia, arthritis, influenza, digestive disorders, it is also helping the body and mind to encounter different physical, chemical, emotional and infectious stresses and restore physiological and psychological functions.

Seeds are mucilaginous and demulcent and are given in disorders of genitourinary system like burning micturition, dysuria, urinary tract infection. Infusion of leaves is used as a stomachic is gastric and hepatic disorders of children.

The bruised fresh roots, stems, leaves are applied to bites of mosquitoes. Decoction of root is given as a diaphoretic in malarial fevers. The oil extracted from its leaves is reported to possess antibacterial and insecticidal properties and is effective as mosquitoes repellent.

14. Therapeutic Uses

Gout And Gonorrhoea - Take a decoction of holy basil leaf, which is helpful in gout and gonorrhoea. It is also useful in neuralgia.

Earache - A few drops of holy basil fresh leaves in the ear, gives relief from earache and dullness of hearing.

Diarrhoea and Piles - Take 10 grams of holy basil seeds, and be immersed in cold water for 3-5 minutes, take this mixture with sugar, help to treat diarrhoea, piles, cough, kidney disorder, and fever.

Gums and Teeth - Take 5 grams of powder of dried leaves and mix with mustard oil to make a fine paste. Massage gently on gums and teeth.

Stress - Chew 12 leaves of holy basil twice a day, helps to prevent stress.

Sore Throat - Take 10-12 holy basil leaves or 5 grams of basil powder, mix with water, and boiled it. Mix ¼ tsp of salt and use this water to gargle, gives relief from sore throat.

Skin Problems - Take fresh juice of holy basil leaf and apply it to the affected skin area, giving relief from ringworm, eczema, and other skin problems.

Cough & Cold - Make a decoction of leaves with honey and ginger, it is helpful in asthma, influenza, cough, and cold.

Eyes Problem - Two drops of black basil leaves should be put into the eyes daily at bedtime.

Malaria, and Dengue - Make a holy basil leaf decoction with half a Liter of water mixed with powdered cardamom, rock sugar, and milk. It helps to give relief from malaria, and dengue.

Urinary Tract - Holy basil leaves juice with honey taken for 6 months and expels stones via the urinary tract.

Conjunctivitis – Juice of Tulsi mixed with honey is used.

Urticaria – External application of juice of Tulsi is an excellent remedy of urticaria.

Postpartum Pain – Juice of leaves of black Tulsi mixed with honey is given wine to remove postpartum pain.

Common Cold – Tea prepared by adding four to five leaves of Tulsi, black pepper and ginger is taken twice daily to relieve the symptoms of common cold, rhinitsis, cough and respiratory infections. Chewing Tulsi leaves daily gives relief in cold, flu and fever.

15. Official Part Used

Bark and leaf

16. Doses

Powder – 1 to 3 g

Juice – 5 to 10 ml

17. Uses of Holy Basil for Daily Life

Tulsi Tea

Simply steep fresh or dried holy basil leaves in hot water for a few minutes to make a fragrant and refreshing herbal tea. You can enjoy it plain or add honey, lemon, or other herbs for added flavor.

Tulsi Infused Water

Add a few fresh holy basil leaves to a pitcher of water and let it infuse overnight in the refrigerator. This infused water provides a subtle basil flavour and offers hydration.

Tulsi Tincture or Extract

Holy basil extracts are available in tincture or liquid form, you can add a few drops of tulsi extract to your water, juice, or tea.

Tulsi in Cooking

Holy basil can be used as a culinary herb in various dishes. Add chopped fresh holy basil leaves to salads, soups, stir-fries, pasta sauces, or curries to infuse them with its aromatic flavour.

Tulsi Essential Oil

Dilute holy basil essential oil with carrier oil, such as coconut or almond oil, and apply it topically for aromatherapy or massage.

Tulsi Skincare

Skincare products containing Tulsi extract or essential oil can help soothe and nourish the skin, making it a beneficial ingredient in creams, lotions, and serums.


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