Ocimum tenuiflorum, commonly known as holy basil, tulsi or tulasi, is an aromatic perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and widespread as a cultivated plant throughout the Southeast Asian tropics.
The plant is widely used in Ayurvedic and folk medicine, often as an herbal tea for a variety of ailments, and is considered sacred in Hinduism. It is considered an agricultural weed and an invasive species in some areas outside its native range.
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2 - 4 feet
1 - 2 feet
6 - 7.5
Holy Basil Nutrient Composition
Regarded as the queen of herbs, holy basil contains nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. It is a great source of minerals like iron, zinc, manganese, calcium, and phosphorus. The holy basil leaf is loaded with vitamin C and other fat-soluble vitamins A and K. Active compounds in basil leaves include ursolic acid, linalool, carvacrol, rosmarinic acid, lutein, estragole, and zeaxanthin.
Types of Holy Basil
Holy basil or Tulsi is one of the most highly-valued houseplants in India, where four varieties of this plant are found. Its varieties have different Sanskrit names like Rama Tulsi, Kapoor Tulsi, Amrita Tulsi, Krishna Tulsi, and Vana Tulsi.
This plant has completely green leaves that emit a powerful fragrance and have a cooling taste. It can tolerate cold winters and sunlight, but it needs better fertilization and more water compared to other varieties. It is found mostly in China, Nepal, and some parts of India like Bihar and Bengal.
It is a purple-leafed holy basil plant whose leaves have a crisp texture and a peppery taste. At first, its leaves remain green, but later they turn into a mottled purple color. This plant is grown in the Indian plains and temperate gardens.
It is the most widely cultivated variety you will find in the United States. It is a shorter-growing annual variety that bolts quickly with profuse flowers and a mild flavor compared to other varieties. Due to the number of flowers, this variety is an excellent food source for pollinators but the least attractive for medicinal uses. If planning to bring your plant indoors, seek out one of the other varieties.
Amrita Tulsi is an aromatic plant named after its place of origin, Amritapuri in southern India. Like all other holy basil species, it has some unique characteristics. This plant can grow in complete sunlight and is extremely tolerant of harsh weather. It looks like a combination of Rama and Krishna holy basil as this plant has green leaves but a purple stem.
Also known as forest type holy basil, Vana Tulsi is a wild plant found in East Africa, Sri Lanka, and India. This plant, with hairy leaves and a strong aroma, can grow up to 2 m in height. Its leaves and stem are green in color but the blossoms are whitish.
Propagation and Planting
Sow seeds outdoors in late spring or early summer, when the temperature range around 60-70 degrees F (15-21 C). For an earlier start in spring, sow the seeds indoors in a greenhouse or on a warm, sunny windowsill.
Place the tulsi seeds on top of the soil, and tamp them for good soil to seed contact, cover the seeds with barely 1/4 inch layer of compost or soil. Mist the seeds with sprayer and place them where they receive warmth, bright shade, and some part morning sun. Keep the soil constantly moist until the germination occurs, which will take around 1-2 weeks.
When the seedlings have grown two or three sets of true leaves, transplant them carefully in individual containers or outdoors, taking care not to disturb the roots.
Note - As holy basil is a warm climate herb, you can sow its seeds year-round in tropical areas except peak summer.
Growing Holy Basil
Requirements for growing holy basil are very similar to sweet basil. Although, it’s just more drought and heat tolerant.
Tulsi grows well in loamy and fertile soil with good drainage. You can plant it in slightly acidic, neutral to slightly alkaline soil pH, level around 6 to 7.5 is optimal.
Holy basil thrives in full sun but grows in partial shade too, at least four hours of sunlight a day is required for the best growth.
Water the plant when the top one inch of soil is dry, but in summer, keep the soil slightly moist. Do not water during rain. Reduce watering by the winter to prevent diseases.
Tulsi Plant Care
It is important to pinch tops of the holy basil plant when they are forming four or six pairs of leaves, this will make the plant grow bushier. Even the flower buds need to be removed when they appear. It grows more lush and full when seed production is prevented.
It is also important to remove the faded, wilted or discolored leaves to encourage the growth of new and vigorous foliage. Regular removal of old leaves and flower buds keep the plant healthy.
Apply balanced liquid fertilizer once in four weeks but reduce the fertilization after the growing season. Replacing the top two-inch layer of soil with compost every year or in six months is also beneficial.
Prune Tulsi as needed throughout the year to control its size and promote bushier and more compact growth. Remove no more than half of the growth of stem while pruning.
Move Tulsi plant indoors in the winter if you live below USDA zone 10, place the plant near a bright sunny window, where the temperature is kept above 50 F (10 C). Move the plant again outside after all the dangers of frost are passed.
Harvesting Holy Basil
Reap the aromatic leaves of the Tulsi plant throughout the growing season. Once the plant reaches 8 inches in height, take a pair of scissors and, depending on the needs, cut large single leaves or cut the whole branch. Use fresh leaves on the same day harvest because they fade quickly.
Store the holy basil harvest for future use by drying out the leaves in a warm shady place. Collect branches in a basket and place them on a dry place away from sunlight and toss the stem 2-3 times every day until leaves become crispy and collapse when crush it. Its seeds are also edible and can be stored to add in teas.
Pests, Diseases and Their Controls
Pests and their controls:
1. Leaf rollers: Caterpillars feed themselves on leaves, buds and crops. They seal the surface of leaves and make them roll or fold.
Control: To control leaf roller, spray with 300ml Quinalphos in 150 ltr water per acre.
2. Tulsi lace wing: Nymphs feed on leaves and leave excreta which is are not good for leaves. In initial stages leaves get curls and then whole plant gets dried.
Control: To control lace wings, spray with Azadirachtin 10,000 ppm conc.@5ml/Ltr of water.
Diseases and their controls:
1. Powdery Mildew: Fungus that produces powder on leaves and affects wide range of plant.
Control: To get rid of this disease, spray with mancozeb@4gm/ltr of water.
2. Seedling blight: It is a fungal infection that causes seed or seedling to die.
Control: To control seedling blight, do managed phyto-sanitary method.
3. Root rot: The roots of the plant get rot because of poor drainage system. it is also get prevent by managed Phytosanitary method.
Control: Seedling blight and Root rot both are also prevented by drenching the nursery beds with Bavistin @1%.
Benefits of Holy Basil
Natural Immunity Booster:
Tulsi is rich in Vitamin C and zinc. It thus acts as a natural immunity booster and keeps infections at bay. It has immense anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties which protect us from a variety of infections. Tulsi leaves extract increases the T helper cells and natural killer cells activity, boosting the immune system.
Reduces Fever (antipyretic) & Pain(analgesic):
Tulsi has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties which help to fight infections, thus reducing fever. The fresh juice of Tulsi taken with black pepper powder cures periodic fevers. Tulsi leaves boiled with powdered cardamom (elaichi) in half a litre of water and mixed with sugar and milk, are also effective in reducing temperature.
Eugenol, a terpene with pain-relieving properties found in Tulsi reduces aches in the body.
Reduces Cold, Cough & Other Respiratory Disorders:
Camphene, cineole and eugenol present in Tulsi help reduce cold and congestion in the chest.
Juice of Tulsi leaves mixed with honey and ginger is effective in bronchitis, asthma, influenza, cough and cold.
Reduces Stress & Blood Pressure:
Tulsi contains compounds Ocimumosides A and B. These compounds reduce stress and balance the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain. The anti-inflammatory properties of Tulsi reduce inflammation and blood pressure.
Phytochemicals present in Tulsi have strong antioxidant properties. Thus, they help in protecting us from skin, liver, oral and lung cancers.
Good for Heart Health:
Tulsi has a profound effect on the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases by lowering blood lipid content, suppressing ischemia and stroke, reducing hypertension and also due to its higher antioxidant properties.
Good for Diabetes Patients:
Extract of Tulsi leaves has shown to lower blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 Diabetes.
Useful in Kidney stones & Gouty Arthritis:
Tulsi detoxifies the body and has diuretic properties. It decreases the level of uric acid in the body, which is the main reason why kidney stones are formed. Reduction in uric acid levels also provides relief to patients suffering from Gout.
Useful in Gastrointestinal Disorders:
Tulsi leaves help to cure indigestion and loss of appetite. They are also used for the treatment of flatulence and bloating.
Good for Skin & Hair:
Tulsi helps clear out the skin of blemishes and acne. It is rich in antioxidants and that helps it to prevent premature ageing. Tulsi also strengthens our hair roots, thus preventing hair loss.
The antifungal properties of Tulsi prevent the development of fungus and dandruff.
Acts as an Insect Repellent:
For centuries, the dried Tulsi leaves have been mixed with stored grains to repel insects.
Insect Bites & Blood Purification:
Apart from simply repelling insects, the extracts of Tulsi leaves can also be applied to insect bites and stings to ease the pain. They also reduce swelling or resultant irritation to a great extent. Moreover, daily consumption of Tulsi also helps to purify the blood.
Oral and Dental Health:
Tulsi has often been used in herbal toothpaste and that is simply because of its amazing teeth and gum strengthening properties. Moreover, it can act on mouth ulcers and therefore provide comprehensive oral health care.
Treatment of Eczema:
Tulsi is also available commercially in the form of ingestible pills and topical ointments. These can be used for the treatment of skin conditions like eczema. They also provide long-lasting relief from itching and irritation.
Reduces Stress & Fatigue:
Consuming a tulsi drink after a tiring day at work can be revitalising and help to relieve stress and fatigue. Similarly, a tulsi drink during prolonged hours of study can also help to enhance concentration for students.
The herbaceous plant, holy basil is used across numerous industries due to its taste profile and nutrient content.
Its leaves are considered as a natural food preservative and mixed with food items for longer freshness.
Holy Basil Tea: You can use holy basil as a relaxant, typically in the form of a tea. The tea also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Holy basil tea can be used to clear up congestion and respiratory conditions, while also boosting the strength of your immune system. It is often used to detoxify the body.
Skincare: A skincare regime is beneficial with holy basil. Apply the paste of its leaves on an infected area if there’s a skin disease. You can also consume Tulsi leaves and manage to keep your skin free from all infections. Rubbing holy basil leaves or its extracted oil on the body keeps mosquitoes and other insects away. It helps cure skin disorders both internally and externally, without any side effects. Moreover, in Ayurveda, holy basil leaves are considered a tonic to retain youthful vigor and avoid premature aging.
Eye care: To use, soak some basil leaves in water for about a couple of hours and then use this water to wash your eyes.
Holy basil powder is used in tablets, capsules, and also consumed as a supplement.
It is added to many cosmetics, including moisturizers, toners, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, toothpaste, mouthwash, and perfumes.