Religion Wiki
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Ocimum
Species: O. tenuiflorum
Binomial name
Ocimum tenuiflorum

Ocimum sanctum

Ocimum tenuiflorum (also tulsi, tulasī) is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae. It is an erect, much branched subshrub 30-60 cm tall with hairy stems and simple opposite green leaves that are strongly scented. Leaves have petioles, and are ovate, up to 5 cm long, usually slightly toothed. Flowers are purplish in elongate racemes in close whorls.[1] There are two main morphotypes cultivated in India—green-leaved (Sri or Lakshmi tulsi) and purple-leaved (Krishna tulsi).[2] There is also a variety of Ocimum tenuiflorum which is used in Thai cuisine, and is referred to as Thai holy basil, or kha phrao (กะเพรา)[3]—not be confused with "Thai Basil", which is a variety of Ocimum basilicum.

Tulsi is native throughout the Old World tropics and widespread as a cultivated plant and an escaped weed.[4] It is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely known across South Asia as a medicinal plant and an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda, and has an important role within the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving Tulsi plants or leaves.

In Ayurveda

Tulsi flowers.

Tulsi has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for its diverse healing properties. It is mentioned by Charaka in the Charaka Samhita,[5] an ancient Ayurvedic text. Tulsi is considered to be an adaptogen,[6] balancing different processes in the body, and helpful for adapting to stress.[7] Marked by its strong aroma and astringent taste, it is regarded in Ayurveda as a kind of "elixir of life" and believed to promote longevity.[8]

Tulsi's extracts are used in ayurvedic remedies for common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning, and malaria. Traditionally, tulsi is taken in many forms: as herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee. Essential oil extracted from Karpoora Tulsi is mostly used for medicinal purposes and in herbal cosmetics, and is widely used in skin preparations due to its anti-bacterial activity. For centuries, the dried leaves of Tulsi have been mixed with stored grains to repel insects.[9]

Recent studies suggest that Tulsi may be a COX-2 inhibitor, like many modern painkillers, due to its high concentration of eugenol (1-hydroxy-2-methoxy-4-allylbenzene).[10][11] One study showed Tulsi to be an effective treatment for diabetes by reducing blood glucose levels.[12] The same study showed significant reduction in total cholesterol levels with Tulsi. Another study showed that Tulsi's beneficial effect on blood glucose levels is due to its antioxidant properties.[13] Tulsi also shows some promise for protection from radiation poisoning[14] and cataracts.[15]

Some of the main chemical constituents of Tulsi are: Oleanolic acid, Ursolic acid, Rosmarinic acid, Eugenol, Carvacrol, Linalool, and β-caryophyllene.[6]

Thai cuisine

Closeup of Tulsi leaves.

The leaves of holy basil, known as kaphrao in the Thai language (กะเพรา), are commonly used in Thai food.[16][17] Thai holy basil (Thai: kaphrao / กะเพรา) should not be confused with horapha (Thai: โหระพา), which is normally known as Thai basil,[16][17] or with Thai lemon basil (Thai: แมงลัก).

The best-known dish made with this herb is Phad kaphrao (Thai: ผัดกะเพรา)—beef, pork or chicken stir fried with Thai holy basil.

In Hinduism

Tulsi and gooseberry plants.

Tulsi, which is Sanskrit for "the incomparable one", is worshiped throughout India, most often regarded as a consort of Vishnu in the form of Mahalakshmi.[18][19] There are two types of Tulsi worshiped in Hinduism—"Rama Tulsi" has light green leaves and is larger in size; "Krishna Tulsi" has dark green leaves and is important for the worship of Vishnu.[20] Many Hindus have tulsi plants growing in front of or near their home, often in special Tulsi pots. It is also frequently grown next to Vishnu temples, especially in Varanasi.[21]

In the ceremony of Tulsi Vivah, Tulsi is ceremonially married to Vishnu annually on the eleventh bright day or twelfth of the month of Kartika in the lunisolar calendar. That day also marks the end of the four month cāturmāsya period, which is considered inauspicious for weddings and other rituals, and so the day inaugurates the annual marriage season in India. The ritual lighting of lamps each evening during Kartika includes the worship of the Tulsi plant, which is considered auspicious for the home. Vaishnavas especially follow the daily worship of Tulsi during Kartika.[22]

Vaishnavas traditionally use japa malas made from tulsi stems or roots, which are an important symbol of initiation. Tulsi malas are considered to be auspicious for the wearer, and believed to put them under the protection of Vishnu or Krishna. They have such a strong association with Vaishnavas, that followers of Vishnu have long been called "those who bear the tulasi round the neck".[19]


See also

  • List of basil cultivars
  • Jalandhara


  1. Warrier, P K (1995). Indian Medicinal Plants. Orient Longman. p. 168. 
  2. Kothari, S K; Bhattacharya, A K, et al. (November/December 2005). "Volatile Constituents in Oil from Different Plant Parts of Methyl Eugenol-Rich Ocimum tenuiflorum L.f. (syn. O. sanctum L.) Grown in South India". Journal of Essential Oil Research: JEOR. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  3. Staples, ibid.
  4. Staples, George; Michael S. Kristiansen (1999). Ethnic Culinary Herbs. University of Hawaii Press. p. 73. ISBN 9780824820947. 
  5. NIIR Board, National Institute of Industrial Research (India) (2004). Compendium of Medicinal Plants. 2004. National Institute of Industrial Research. p. 320. ISBN 9788186623800. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Kuhn, Merrily; David Winston (2007). Winston & Kuhn's Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 260. ISBN 9781582554624. 
  7. Botanical Pathways article with clinical trials details
  8. Puri, Harbans Singh (2002). Rasayana: Ayurvedic Herbs for Longevity and Rejuvenation. CRC Press. pp. 272–280. ISBN 9780415284899. 
  9. Biswas, N. P.; Biswas, A. K.. "Evaluation of some leaf dusts as grain protectant against rice weevil Sitophilus oryzae (Linn.).". Environment and Ecology (Vol. 23) ((No. 3) 2005): pp. 485–488. 
  10. Indian J Exp Biol. 1999 Mar;37(3):248-52.
  11. Prakash P, Gupta N. Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: a short review.
  12. Effect of Ocimum sanctum Leaf Powder on Blood Lipoproteins, Glycated Proteins and Total Amino Acids in Patients with Non-insulin-dependent Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine. V. RAI MSC, U. V. MANI MSC PHD FICN AND U. M. IYER MSC PHD. Volume 7, Number 2 / June 1, 1997. p. 113 - 118
  13. Evaluation of Hypoglycemic and Antioxidant Effect of Ocimum Sanctum,. Jyoti Sethi, Sushma Sood, Shashi Seth, and Anjana Talwar. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, 2004, 19 (2) 152-155.
  14. Devi, P. Uma; Ganasoundari, A.. Modulation of glutathione and antioxidant enzymes by Ocimum sanctum and its role in protection against radiation injury. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, v.37, n.3, 1999. March,:262-268.
  15. Sharma, P; Kulshreshtha, S; Sharma, A L. Anti-cataract activity of Ocimum sanctum on experimental cataract. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, v.30, n.1, 1998:16-20
  16. 16.0 16.1 Adventures in Thai Cooking and Travel
  17. 17.0 17.1 Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages
  18. Claus, Peter J.; Sarah Diamond, Margaret Ann Mills (2003). South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 619. ISBN 9780415939195. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Simoons, Frederick J. (1998). Plants of life, plants of death. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 7–40. ISBN 9780299159047. 
  20. Chatterjee, Gautam (2001). Sacred Hindu Symbols. Abhinav Publications. pp. 93. ISBN 9788170173977. 
  21. Simoons, pp. 17-18.
  22. Flood, Gavin D. (2001). The Blackwell companion to Hinduism. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 331. ISBN 9780631215356. 

External links