Top 15 Benefits & Uses of Holy Basil (Tulsi)

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Dr. Sandesh Krishna Bhosale (BAMS, PGDHA)

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The health benefits of holy basil, also known as tulsi, include oral care, relief from respiratory disorders, fever, asthma, lung disorders, heart diseases, and stress.

What is Holy Basil (Tulsi)?

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) or tulsi is a powerful herb that has been used in Ayurveda and other traditional medical treatments in India for thousands of years. The small holy basil shrub with tiny lavender flowers is considered a sacred plant in India and is often worshipped. It was believed that the holy basil leaves had potent powers to flush out toxins from the body. Even now in India, people have tulsi water (water which has tulsi leaves soaked overnight) or chew on a tulsi leaf to improve overall health. Several health products are available with tulsi extracts to help treat cold, cough, and the flu.

Holy basil is incredibly beneficial for human health, primarily due to the unique composition of its essential oil, containing eugenol, camphor, flavonoids, nerol, and various terpenes. This rich blend of organic compounds delivers a number of health benefits and can help relieve acne, asthma, inflammation, respiratory issues, and lower your chances of heart diseases and atherosclerosis

Holy basil differs from the basil used in Italian dishes or Thai basil used in curries in Southeast Asia. Holy basil or tulsi has a pungent and bitter taste and it is not usually used for cooking. It is however used to make tulsi tea which has adaptogenic properties. 

Watch Video: 7 Amazing Benefits Of Tulsi

Nutrition Facts

Basil, fresh
Serving Size :
Water [g]92.06
Energy [kcal]23
Protein [g]3.15
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.64
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]2.65
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.6
Sugars, total [g]0.3
Calcium, Ca [mg]177
Iron, Fe [mg]3.17
Magnesium, Mg [mg]64
Phosphorus, P [mg]56
Potassium, K [mg]295
Sodium, Na [mg]4
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.81
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]18
Thiamin [mg]0.03
Riboflavin [mg]0.08
Niacin [mg]0.9
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.16
Folate, DFE [µg]68
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]264
Vitamin A, IU [IU]5275
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.8
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]414.8
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.04
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.09
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.39
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Holy Basil Nutrition

Holy basil is highly nutritious and according to USDA it is a good source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. It also contains iron, sodium, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6, A, and K.

Health Benefits of Holy Basil

Let us look at the most powerful health benefits of holy basil or tulsi.

Reduces Fever

The miraculous healing properties of holy basil come mainly from its essential oils and the phytonutrients in it. Holy basil is an excellent antibiotic, germicidal, fungicidal, and disinfectant agent and very effectively protects our body from all sorts of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. This is confirmed in a report by researcher Steven Maimes, principal of SALAM Research in Rochester, New Hampshire.

Fever is mainly caused due to infections from protozoa (malaria), bacteria (typhoid), viruses (flu), and even allergic substances and fungus. Fever is not actually an ailment in itself. It is just a symptom which shows that our body is fighting against less visible infections. The tremendous disinfectant, germicidal, and fungicidal properties of tulsi destroy all those pathogens discussed above and heal the resulting fever. It is an old practice in India to have a decoction of tulsi leaves and flowers in case anyone is suffering from a fever.

Relieves Symptoms of Respiratory Disorders

Tulsi, along with curing viral, bacterial, and fungal infections of the respiratory system, gives miraculous relief from congestion due to the presence of components like camphene, eugenol, and cineole in its essential oils. It is very effective in curing almost all respiratory disorders including bronchitis, both chronic and acute.

Helps with Treatment of Asthma

Tulsi is very beneficial in the treatment of asthma since it relieves congestion and facilitates smoother breathing. The phytonutrients and essential oils, along with the other minerals in it, help cure some of the underlying causes of asthma as well.

Prevents Lung Disorders

The compounds like vitamin C, camphene, eugenol, and cineole present in the essential oils of tulsi not only provide relief from the infections in the lungs but also help clear the lung congestion. Furthermore, they are found to be effective in healing the damages caused to the lungs due to smoking etc.

Close up of tulsi or holy basil leaves

Prevents Heart Diseases

A 2017 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal throws light on the use of tulsi for chronic cardiovascular diseases. Holy basil contains vitamin C and other antioxidants such as eugenol, which protect the heart from the harmful effects of free radicals. Additionally, eugenol is very beneficial in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood.

Reduces Stress

Vitamin C and other antioxidants in holy basil, apart from repairing damages done by free radicals, also minimize the stress caused by these oxidants. A study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine says that tulsi soothes the nerves, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation, and thus reduces stress. Potassium, in Tulsi, also reduces blood pressure-related stress by replacing sodium and loosening the tensed blood vessels.

Mouth Freshener

Tulsi is an excellent mouth freshener and an oral disinfectant and its freshness last for a very long time. Holy basil destroys more than 99% of germs and bacteria in the mouth and this effect can last all day. It also aids in providing relief from mouth ulcers.

Chemopreventive Properties

Tulsi may inhibit the growth of various cancers including oral cancer due to the presence of phytochemicals like eugenol, according to research cited in the Nutrition and Cancer journal. Other studies also support that it may have anticancer potential.

Another study by Dr. Vivek Yadav, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas, throws light on the apoptotic property of ursolic acid present in holy basil.

Dental Care

Holy basil destroys the bacteria that are responsible for dental cavities, plaque, tartar, and bad breath, while also protecting the teeth. It also has astringent properties which make the gums hold the teeth tighter, thereby keeping them from falling. However, tulsi also has certain compounds like mercury, which has rich germicidal properties that can be harmful to the teeth if kept in direct contact for too long. Therefore, it is advised to avoid chewing these leaves. It is actually discussed in holy books and Ayurvedic teachings that chewing these leaves robs them of their holiness. However, it has no harm if you do not chew it or consume its decoction.

Reduces Risk of Kidney Stones

Tulsi, being a detoxifier and a mild diuretic, helps to reduce the uric acid level in the body, which is the main culprit as far as kidney stones are concerned. It also helps clean out the kidneys through increased frequency of urination. Acetic acid and certain components in Tulsi essential oil facilitate dissolution of the stones. Finally, it has pain-killer effects and helps bear the pain from kidney stones as they pass.

Holy basil also helps in protecting liver health. Dr. Beverly Yates, governor appointee to the Naturopathic Medicine Committee for the state of California, in her research on holy basil says, “It offers hepatoprotective effects, including prevention of drug-induced liver damage.”

Skin Care

Try taking a bath with a decoction of holy basil mixed with your bath water, washing your face with it, or simply applying the paste of its leaves on an infected area of the skin in case of skin diseases. You can just consume tulsi leaves and still 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. This property mainly comes from its essential oils, which are highly antibiotic, disinfectant, antibacterial, and antifungal in nature. External application on the skin also removes extra oil from the surface of the skin. Camphene in it gives a soothing and a cooling effect.

Relieves Headache

A headache caused due to a migraine, sinus pressure, cough, and cold or high blood pressure can be effectively controlled by the use of a single tulsi serving. Camphene, eugenol, cineol, carvacrol, and methyl-chavicol, in holy basil, have excellent analgesic, sedative, anti-congestive, and disinfectant properties.

Prevents Premature Aging

Vitamin C and A, phytonutrients, and the essential oils in holy basil are excellent antioxidants and protect the body from nearly all the damages caused by free radicals in the body, which are hazardous byproducts of cellular metabolism that are responsible for a wide swath of diseases, including cancer. In the traditional Indian medicine system called Ayurveda, it is considered as a tonic to retain youthful vigor and avoid premature aging.

Boosts Immunity

Holy basil is so good for boosting up the immune system that it is hard to describe it in words. It protects against nearly all infections from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.

Eye Care

Wash your eyes daily with a few leaves of basil soaked in water and you will be free from conjunctivitis, boils, and many other problems of the eyes which are caused due to viral, bacterial, or fungal infections. It also soothes eye inflammation and reduces stress. Regular consumption can protect your eyes from the damage done by free radicals, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, vision defects, and ophthalmia, due to the high antioxidant content of its essential oils, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Other Benefits

It can protect your body from radiation poisoning and also heal the damages from that sort of condition. It can be given after surgery to help heal wounds quickly and also to protect those areas from infections. It acts as a vaccine against pox if consumed regularly. Being an expectorant is one of the most prized properties of holy basil, making it very efficient in curing cough and cold. It is beneficial in reducing labor pain, destroying rabies germs, treating gastroenteritis, cholera, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rheumatism, nausea, septic, urinary and genital infections, and destroying worms in the stomach. Furthermore, its dried leaves can be mixed with food grains to be used as an insect repellent.

Uses of Holy Basil

  • Holy Basil Tea – You can use holy basil as a relaxant, typically in the form of a tea, but it is also famed as an anti-inflammatory substance. Holy basil tea can be used to clear up congestion and respiratory conditions, while also boosting the strength of your immune system. It can also help stimulate kidney function and detoxify the body.

Where to Buy Holy Basil?

You can buy holy basil in nearly every grocery store and health food store in the world. In fact, basil is grown on every continent and is one of the most common herbs in the world. You can buy holy basil at Walmart, GNC, and Walgreens, just to name a few, as well as any traditional or herbal medicine practitioner. As one of the most useful and versatile herbs available, it is never too hard to find.

How to eat holy basil or tulsi leaves?

You can consume tulsi leaves in various ways, ranging from eating the leaves raw to brewing the dried leaves into a potent tea. Holy basil tea is perhaps the most common and popular use of this herb and can also be made with the dried leaf powder. You simply place 2-3 spoons of the powder in a boiling cup of water and allow it to steep for 5-6 minutes. The flavor is strong, but its health effects are undeniable.

How to Grow Holy Basil?

For those who know they’ll be using a lot of holy basil, they should grow their own. You need a spot that receives sunlight for at least six hours daily and has enough space away from other plants. Avoid overwatering the basil plants and as they develop, try to prune some back so that there are roughly 18 inches between each plant. Removing the matured leaves several times every week is essential to encourage fresh leaf growth.

Historical Significance of Holy Basil (Tulsi) in India

Holy basil, known as tulsi in India, is believed to have endless miraculous and medicinal values and has been worshiped and highly valued in India for thousands of years. It has been an age-old custom in India to worship it two times a day, water it, and light lamps near it in the morning and evening. It was and still is, believed to protect the whole family from evil and bring good luck.

Holy basil or tulsi leaves have also been an essential part of all worship ceremonies since ancient times. These practices are not superstitious as they actually have sufficient scientific reasoning behind them. Keeping in view the ultra-disinfectant and germicidal properties of this legendary herb, wise people devised these customs to bring people into contact with this plant every day, so that they may keep safe from day-to-day infections. In India, it was believed that even going close to a tulsi plant can protect you from many infections. A few leaves dropped in drinking water or food can purify and kill the germs within as well. Even smelling it or keeping it planted in a pot indoors can protect the whole family from infections, cough, cold, and other viral infections. These applications are not at all exaggerated.

Perhaps, you should just find out how amazing it can be for yourself! Protection Status
About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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