Holy Basil

Light requirements: Full sun is ideal, but plants can grow in part shade.

Planting: Space 8 to 18 inches apart, depending on type. (Read the stick tag that comes with the plant for specific spacing recommendations.)

Soil requirements: Plants grow best in rich, moist but well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Work organic matter into soil before planting to add fertility and improve moisture retention. In containers, use premium quality potting soil.

Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist through the growing season. Add a mulch layer to slow water evaporation from soil. In containers, water whenever the top inch of soil is dry.

Frost-fighting plan: Basil is very frost-tender and damaged by temperatures below 40º F. Use a frost blanket to protect newly planted seedlings from late spring frosts or prolong the fall growing season.

Common issues: Pinch flower buds to keep plants from bolting. Once flowers form, leaf flavor changes. Pests to watch out for: aphids, slugs, Japanese beetles, and earwigs. Fungal diseases sometimes occur in humid climates, and root rot is common in poorly drained soil.

Growing tips: Pinch or prune basil plants as they grow to promote branching and bushiness. Never cut into the woody parts of a stem; plants won’t resprout.

Harvesting: Pick leaves at any point in the growing season. Choose individual leaves, or snip leafy stems to the length you desire.

Storage: Cut basil stems and place in water like a fresh bouquet. They’ll last for weeks, provided you remove any leaves below the water line and change water regularly. Never place basil in the refrigerator; the cold air damages leaves. Preserve basil by freezing or in herbal vinegars.

For more information, visit the Basil page in our How to Grow section.

Ocimum tenuiflorum (Holy Basil) Herb Plant

Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) Herb in 9cm Pot

Holy basil, or tulasī as it is known in its native Asia is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae. It was previously called Ocimum sanctum before being reclassified to Ocimum tenuiflorum.

It is native to the Indian Subcontinent and is widely cultivated throughout the Southeast Asian tropics. It grows to 30–60 cm tall and has hairy stems and simple opposite green or purple leaves that are strongly scented. Leaves have petioles and are ovate, up to 5 cm long, usually slightly toothed. The flowers are purplish in elongate racemes in close whorls.

Herb Usage

Tulasi is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, hence its common name of Holy Basil in fact it has an important role within the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving holy basil plants or leaves. This plant is revered as an elixir of life . It is widely known across the Indian subcontinent as a medicinal plant and is made into a herbal tea which is used in Ayurvedic medicine. It can also be made into an essential oil. The dried leaves have been mixed with stored grains to repel insects for many centuries. It is often used in Thai cooking but is not to be confused with Thai Basil.

Buy Holy Basil Online

Our potted Holy Basil herb plants are generally available to buy online between May and September.

Holy Basil (Krishna Tulsi)

Krishna Tulsi — also known as holy basil — is considered to be a sacred plant in Ayurveda because it has important uses as a medicinal herb.

The purple-tinged Krishna Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) really stands out among the neem trees in our greenhouse. Used in religious ceremonies as well as cooking, tulsi may have medicinal qualities similar to neem but it’s a smaller plant that’s easy to grow in a sunny window.

Several studies indicate that holy basil contains bio-available antioxidants that help prevent damage from environmental toxins like Lindane and arsenic in rats as well as enhanced wound healing. *

A recent clinical study on anxiety confirms the traditional use of tulsi as a calming tea. Other research indicates that tulsi may have immune-boosting properties in mice. *

For more information, visit http://www.donnieyance.com/holy-basil-an-herb-with-incomparable-benefits/ from Donnie Yance, an internationally known master herbalist and nutritionist and author of “Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism.” *

While tulsi can be used in recipes that call for basil, it has a much stronger taste. Most often, it’s used in a tea made pouring boiling water over two teaspoons of fresh tulsi leaves. Allow to cool and then strain off the tea before drinking.

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*Statements on this website and the sites linked from it are provided for educational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The plants sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

IMPORTANT NOTICE TO CUSTOMERS IN ARIZONA, HAWAII AND OVERSEAS: Please contact us before placing an order. Arizona has changed its import rules and requires a $60 phytosanitary statement and shipment to an approved nursery for yet another inspection. Some customers, including those in Canada and the EU, must pay for a $60.00 phytosanitary inspection before trees or living plants can be shipped. Canadian buyers also must purchase an import permit from their government.

The Health Benefits of Holy Basil

Holy basil is also high in anti-oxidants and helps your body detox. Studies show that holy basil can protect your body against toxic chemicals. It may also prevent cancer by reducing the growth of cancerous cells.

Protect against infection and treat wounds

Extracts made from its leaves are thought to boost wound healing speed and strength. Holy basil is:

  • antibacterial
  • antiviral
  • antifungal
  • anti-inflammatory
  • analgesic (a painkiller)

Some people even use holy basil after surgery to heal and protect their wounds. Holy basil increases your wound’s breaking strength, healing time, and contraction. Breaking strength refers to how much pressure or weight a wound can take before it breaks.

Research shows that holy basil may work against infections and wounds, such as:

  • mouth ulcers
  • keloids
  • raised scars
  • acne

Lower your blood sugar

If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, all parts of the holy basil plant can help reduce your blood sugar. Animal and human trials have shown that holy basil can help prevent symptoms of diabetes such as:

  • weight gain
  • hyperinsulinemia, or excess insulin in the blood
  • high cholesterol
  • insulin resistance
  • hypertension

In these studies, rats that received holy basil extract saw a 24 percent decrease in blood sugar after 30 days. Blood sugar in rats that were fed holy basil leaf powder also decreased after a month.

Talk to your doctor before adding holy basil to your diet. If you’re already taking medications to control blood sugar, it may lower your blood sugar levels even more.

Lower your cholesterol

Since holy basil targets metabolic stress, it can also help with weight loss and cholesterol levels. Animal studies saw significant changes in rabbits’ fat molecules when they ate fresh holy basil leaves. They had lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) and higher “good” cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol).

One animal study found that the oil in holy basil (eugenol) lowers stress-induced cholesterol levels. There was a reduction of total cholesterol in the kidney, liver, or heart in rats with and without diabetes after they ate holy basil leaf powder.

Ease inflammation and joint pain

Imagine being able to tackle stress, anxiety, and inflammation with a relaxing cup of tea made with the leaves of holy basil. As an adaptogen with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, holy basil provides all of these benefits. It can even help people with arthritis or fibromyalgia.

Protect your stomach

Holy basil can counteract the effects of stress-induced ulcers. It naturally increases your stomach’s defense by:

  • decreasing stomach acid
  • increasing mucus secretion
  • increasing mucus cells
  • extending life of mucus cells

Many drugs for peptic ulcers have side effects and can cause discomfort in some people. Holy basil may be a preferred alternative. One animal study showed that 200 mg of holy basil extract reduced both the number and index of ulcers significantly in two-thirds of the animals.

SummaryHoly basil has been shown to boost your body’s health in a variety of ways. It can help protect against infection, lower your blood sugar, lower your cholesterol, ease joint pain, and protect your stomach.

Health benefits of basil

Share on PinterestConsuming basil may help reduce oxidative stress.

Basil may provide health benefits in the diet, as herbal medicine, and as an essential oil.

Traditional uses include the treatment of snakebites, colds, and inflammation within nasal passages — a common effect of colds, for example.

Basil provides some macronutrients, such as calcium and vitamin K, as well as a range of antioxidants.

Sweet basil, for example, has a high concentration of the chemical agent eugenol. This gives it a clove-like scent. Lime and lemon basils have high concentrations of limonene, which give them a citrusy scent. Both eugenol and limonene have antioxidant properties.

Reducing oxidative stress

Antioxidants are essential for eliminating free radicals from the body.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that develop as a result of metabolism and other natural processes. They can also form as a result of smoking and some dietary choices.

Antioxidants are compounds that help remove these molecules from the body. If they build up instead, oxidative stress can occur, resulting in cell damage and, possibly, disease.

Scientists have linked cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and other health issues to oxidative stress.

The body produces some antioxidants, but it also needs to absorb some from the diet. Among the many antioxidants in basil are anthocyanins and beta carotene.

Which foods are good sources of antioxidants? Find out here.

Supporting liver health

A 2015 study in rats concluded that antioxidants in a powdered preparation that included tulsi, or holy basil, had a positive impact on liver health. The scientists applied the powder after using a toxin to induce liver injury.

Tulsi — a plant that is very different from the basil in the average Western supermarket — plays a role in Indian traditional medicine.

Fighting cancer

A review published in 2013 looked at whether tulsi, or holy basil, could prevent cancer.

The authors concluded that the phytochemicals in holy basil may help prevent certain types of skin, liver, oral, and lung cancers.

They appeared to do this by increasing antioxidant activity, changing gene expression, triggering cell death, and slowing cell division.

However, the studies in this review were preclinical or performed in animals. Confirming the effects will require further research.

Is there a link between cancer and the diet? Find out here.

Protecting against skin aging

According to research published in 2011, sweet basil has properties that might help protect the skin from some effects of aging.

In the study, the scientists applied a basil extract to laboratory models of skin. The results suggested that including basil extracts in topical skin creams might improve skin hydration and reduce roughness and wrinkling.

While extracts of basil at certain doses may have this effect, consuming basil will not necessarily benefit the skin.

However, the antioxidants in basil and other plant-based foods may have a protective effect if a person consumes them as part of a varied diet.

Learn about foods that can help boost skin health.

Reducing high blood sugar

Some practitioners of traditional medicine commonly recommend basil to help manage blood sugar levels.

A 2019 study in rats found that an extract of sweet basil leaves helped reduce high blood sugar levels. The results also suggested that basil leaves may help treat long-term effects of high blood sugar.

If further investigations confirm these findings, basil extracts could prove useful for people with diabetes.

Which foods are good for people with diabetes? Find out here.

Supporting cardiovascular health

A 2011 review reported on findings that a sweet basil extract briefly reduced high blood pressure, possibly due to the extract’s eugenol content. Eugenol can block calcium channels in the body, lowering high blood pressure.

However, 2 minutes after the researchers used the extract, the blood pressure returned to its high levels.

In another study, 24 healthy volunteers took either a placebo or a capsule containing 300 milligrams (mg) of a dried tulsi leaf extract once a day.

After 4 weeks, those who took the tulsi extract had lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than those who did not. The authors concluded that the extract could help reduce some risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Find foods that may help lower blood pressure here.

Boosting mental health

Mental stress can trigger the production of free radicals in the body.

According to a 2014 review that looked at the role of tulsi in Ayurvedic medicine, the plant contains properties that may help:

  • alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression
  • increase the ability to think and reason
  • prevent age-related memory loss
  • improve stress-related sleep and sex issues

Some studies, the authors report, produced results comparable to those of diazepam and antidepressant drugs.

However, confirming these findings will require more research. Also, consuming tulsi — in a tea, for example — is unlikely to have the same effect as receiving a dosage of an extract.

How may the diet impact depression? Learn more.

Reducing inflammation and swelling

Oxidative stress can lead to inflammation, a factor in various diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

In 2017, researchers analyzed the anti-inflammatory properties of two preparations of sweet basil essential oil.

According to their results, basil oil may help treat various diseases that involve inflammation resulting from oxidative stress.

It is not clear whether eating basil, however, could have the same effect.

Which foods may help manage inflammation? Find out here.

Combatting infection

Various practitioners of traditional medicine have used basil as an antimicrobial agent, and some scientific research supports this use.

In 2013, researchers applied sweet basil oil to various strains of Escherichia coli , or E. coli. The bacteria came from people with respiratory, abdominal, urinary, or skin infections, as well as from hospital equipment. The results showed that the oil was active against these bacteria.

The researchers concluded that certain preparations of basil oil could help treat or prevent some types of infection.

Oregano is another herb that may have health benefits. Learn more here.

What Is Holy Basil?

Tulsi (ocimum sanctum), which is often referred to as holy basil, is a potent herb that has been used in India for thousands of years to treat colds, coughs, and the flu. According to Ayurveda, there are many holy basil benefits, as it promotes purity and lightness in the body, cleansing the respiratory tract of toxins, and relieving digestive gas and bloating. The holy basil leaf offers a rich source of essential oil, containing eugenol, nerol, camphor, and a variety of terpenes and flavonoids. Holy basil oil is a strong antiseptic against many kinds of disease-causing organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

As the name would imply, holy basil has spiritual as well as medicinal significance in Ayurveda. In Hindu mythology, the plant is an incarnation of the goddess Tulsi, offering divine protection. Many Indian families keep a living holy basil plant in their homes, and tend to it with great care and reverence. The plant’s woody stalks are often made into beads used in meditation malas or rosaries.

Although basil is found on every continent, holy basil is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. It is a bushy shrub that grows to about 18 inches in height. Its leaves are oval and serrated, with colors ranging from light green to dark purple, depending on the variety. In the wild, holy basil is an annual, but it can be kept as a perennial by trimming it before it forms seeds. The plant has delicate lavender-colored flowers, and its fruit consists of tiny rust-colored nuts.

The Potential Health Benefits of Holy Basil

Tulsi’s oil has antioxidant properties that help reduce the damaging effects of stress and aging on the body. In addition to helping cope with stress, studies have shown that holy basil oil protects healthy cells from the toxicity of cancer treatment, such as radiation and chemotherapy. Holy basil also has anti-depression properties. Additionally, it has been shown to help people with:

  • Skin problems
  • Asthma
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Heart disease
  • Inflammation
  • Kidney Stones
  • Lung disorders
  • Respiratory disorders

Holy Basil and the Doshas

Holy basil carries the bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes, and generates a warming influence on the physiology. The holy basil leaf is predominantly Kapha-reducing, but it can also be used to pacify Vata and Pitta. It can, however, have a mildly Pitta-aggravating effect in people who are severely overheated.

How to Use Holy Basil

Use holy basil freely in your cooking and in making freshly brewed tea. If you’re making tea, simply cover 2 teaspoons of fresh holy basil with 1 cup of boiling water, and let it steep for about 5 minutes. Strain the leaves before drinking.

To benefit from the health-promoting effects, nibble on a few leaves every day. If you’re taking holy basil for stress relief, try growing your own plant from seeds or cuttings (directions on how to grow your own plant are below).

You can also take holy basil in the form of capsules or supplements. Dosages will depend on your particular health concern. Talk to your health care practitioner to determine what dosage of holy basil supplements would be best for you.

Precaution: Some research suggests that holy basil might have a mild anti-fertility effect, but this type of practice has been limited to rural areas of India. If you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, talk to your health care practitioner before taking medicinal doses or supplements of holy basil.

How to Grow Your Own Holy Basil Plant

Place the seeds between warm, moist paper towels for a day, and then plant them a half-inch below the surface in rich potting soil.

A sprout will start to break through in 10 days. Once the plant reaches a height of about 12 inches, you can 1) pinch back any flowers to keep it from going to seed; or 2) allow the plant to seed and start a new generation.

Holy basil prefers full sunlight and plenty of water.

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

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