Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum Benefits, Research, Side Effects

Tulsi, Holy Basil – The plant with an auspicious name has medicinal usage extending from reducing ill effects of radiotherapy of cancer to maintaining Brahmacharya – Celibacy. 

Tulasi Botanical Name–  Ocimum sanctum Linn. , Ocimum tenuiflorum 
Family –LAMIACEAE, Labiatae – Tulasi Kula

Vernacular Names

Hindi name- Tulsi
English name- Indian Basil/ Holy Basil/ Sacred Basil
Telugu and Marathi & Malayalam name- Tulasi
Kannada name- Sri Tulasi

Sanskrit Synonyms

Tulasi, Tulsi – There is no other herb equivalent to this.
Gouri, Nagamata,
Bhutaghni, Bhutapriya, Bhuteshta, Bhutapati, Apetarakshasi,
Gramya – found in every household
Surasa – having good taste, having juice extract
Sulaghni, Subhaga, Sulabha – auspicious
Surabhi, Svadu Gandha – having good scent
Sumanjari, Bahumanjari – having beautiful inflorescence
Pavani, Devadundubhi, Visnuvallabha, Haripriya – beloved by Lord Vishnu, God.

Holy Basil


Bhavaprakasha and Raja Nighantu has reference of two varieties –
Shukla Tulsi – white variety – Ocimum americanum Linn. and
Krishna Tulsi  – Black variety – Ocimum sanctum Linn.
Other types of are also used in the name of Holy Basil – Ocimum basilicum and Ocimum gratissimum

Different vaieties

Holy basil – Tulasi- Ocimum sanctum
Shurby basil – Phaninjaka – Ocimum gratissmum
Sweet basil – Barbari – Ocimum basillicum
Common basil – Sweta tulsi – Oscimum americanum
Camphor basil – Karpura tulasi – Ocimum camphor
Bush basil – Marubaka – Ocimum minimum
Green basil – Kharapuspa – Ocimm pilosum

Indian basil

Major chemical constituents

Bornyl acete, cadinene, camphene, Camphor, Carvacrol, b-Caryophellene, Eugenol, Eugenol, methyl ether, Humelene, Methyl chavicol, Limonene etc.
(Reference: Illustrated Dravyaguna Vijnana, Vol. II, by Dr JLN Shastry)


Perennial herb with a typical aromatic smell
Stem – Erect, branched, slightly woody, solid, branches covered with hairs
Leaf – Simple, opposite, exstipulate, acute, gland dotted, unicostate reticulate venation
Inflorescence – Verticillaster
Flowers – Pedicellate, bracteate, with 5 sepals and 5 petals
Fruit – Schizocarps
Useful parts – Leaves

Medicinal properties

Holy Basil Medicinal  Properties:
Rasa (taste) – Katu (pungent), Tikta (bitter)
Guna (qualities) – Laghu (lightness), Rooksha (dryness), Teekshna – piercing
Vipaka – Katu – Undergoes pungent taste conversion after digestion
Veerya – Ushna – Hot potency

Effect on Tridosha

Vatahara, Kaphahara – balances Vata and Kapha Dosha
Pittavardhini – increases Pitta dosha

Part used, dosage

Part used– Leaf, Root, Seed, flower.
Dosage– Fresh Juice  10-20 ml, Root decoction50-100 ml, Seed powder 3-6 g.

Can this be continued forever?
Long term usage of herbs or Ayurveda products need approval from your Ayurveda doctor. Any herb or medicine, which can be good for short term, might not be ideal to continue forever. Your doctor will be the right person to decide.

Sanskrit verse

Tulasi benefits

Medicinal uses

Ocimum sanctum medicinal uses
Kapha Vinashini – balances Kapha dosha, useful to relieve excess sputum production
Krumidosha, Krumihara – Anti microbial, Tulsi plant is one of the best anti viral herbs of Ayurveda.
Ruchikrut – improves taste, relieves anorexia
Agnivardhini, Vahni Deepani – improves digestion strength
Tuvara – astringent
Tikta – bitter
Hrudya – acts as cardiac tonic, congenial for heart, useful to relieve cholesterol deposition in blood vessels.
Dahavardhini – increases burning sensation
Shwasahara – useful in treatment of asthma and chronic respiratory disorders.
Kasahara – useful in cough and cold
Hidhmahara – useful in repeated hiccups
Vamihara – relieves vomiting
Parshvaruk – relieves pain in flanks
Kushta – useful in skin diseases with pain and itchiness
Visha – anti toxic
Kruchra –relieves difficulty in urination
Ashma – useful in kidney and bladder stones
Druk – useful in infectious eye disorders
Bhutahara – useful in psychiatric disorders
As per Bhavaprakasha, both white and black varieties have similar qualities.

Use in diseases

Indian Basil for urticaria, itching: For itching rashes, tulsi leaves are made into paste and applied over the skin.

For sinusitis and headache:
Basil’s fresh leaves are crushed to extract juice. Two drops of this juice is put into both nostrils on empty stomach. This helps to relieve sinusitis related headache.

Holy Basil leaves contain yellowish green volatile oil, spreads in the air. Hence, patients with Asthma and chronic respiratory tract infections are advised to roam in Tulsi garden. Tulsi leaves contain a chemical called eugenol methyl ether, which destroys bacteria and repels mosquitoes.

Tulasi plant for bad breath problem:
Daurgandhyahara – chewing one or two holy basil leaves daily helps to relieve bad breath issue. This is not only due to its good smell, but it also improves digestion. Low digestion is a strong cause for bad breath.

Tulsi for regular smokers –  Smokers are prone for respiratory disorders and cancer. For both these, Tulsi is ideal. Related: Smoker’s diet

Tulsi for Brahmacharya – Celibacy –
The spiritual benefits of Tulsi are not without any scientific reason. In ancient times, young child -Bramhachari pupils were given a leaf of Tulsi, each day, in the morning, which would help them follow stringent Brahmacharya.
For those with excessive sexual urge and excessive masturbation habits, it is advisable for them to chew and eat a leaf of Tulsi each day, in the morning, before food. Even a small paste of its root is administered for the same purpose.
Those who cannot get fresh Tulsi leaves, can incorporate Tulsi tea. Taking Tulsi capsule for this purpose can be done, but because it increases Pitta, you will need to talk to your Ayurvedic practitioner before doing so.

Probably for this reason only, Tulsi is not advised for married women, but is given as Prasadam for widows (which would enable them to curb materialistic desires.

Tulsi for anxiety and depression

As per the experimental evaluation conducted by Division of Pharmacology, Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, India, ethanol extract of Ocimum sanctum showed diminution in the anxiety response at a dose of 50 mg / kg body weight (Evaluation of ethanol leaf extract of Ocimum sanctum in experimental models of anxiety and depression. Chatterjee M, Verma P, Maurya R, Palit G Pharm Biol. 2011 May; 49(5):477-83.)
Tulsi also improves memory and cognitive functions.

A clinical trial was conducted by Department of Pharmacology, Dr. B.C. Roy Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, Kolkata, Ocimumn sanctum for its role in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Hamilton’s brief psychiatric rating scale (BPRS) and thorough clinical investigations were used to screen the subjects. The study conducted on 35 patients, with plant extract in a fixed dose regime (500 mg/capsule, twice daily, p.o. after meal). revealed that Tulsi significantly (p<0.001) attenuated generalized anxiety disorders and also attenuated its correlated stress and depression. It further significantly (p<0.001) improved the willingness to adjustment and attention in human. – Reference: Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders, Bhattacharyya D, Sur TK, Jana U, Debnath PK Nepal Med Coll J. 2008 Sep; 10(3):176-9.

Tulsi for hoarse voice and laryngitis:
Crush 8-10 Tulsi (basil) leaves and extract their juice. Mix it with 1 spoon honey and take it.
Take 6-8 Basil leaves along with 2 pepper grains and a pinch of rock salt. Chew them and slowly suck the juice.

Tulsi for tinea cruris and ring worm infection: 
Tulsi has anti fungal properties. Take 10 fresh leaves of holy basil and crush to extract juice. Mix a pinch of neem powder or turmeric powder to this and apply over the affected skin area. Do this for 10 days time.

Respiratory support: Tulsi is very effective in the treatment of various respiratory diseases, including chronic and acute bronchitis.
Immunomodulating properties of Tulsi helps against cough. With its antiviral, antibacterial and anti fungal activities, Tulsi helps in the management of respiratory infections. Anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties Tulsi help in the treatment of allergic diseases of the airways.

How to use Tulsi (Holy Basil) for cold and cough in children?

Anti-stress effect: Tulsi increased capacity to cope with stress. Experimental studies show that the extract of Tulsi reduces stress caused by noise.

Antioxidant: Tulasi is a powerful antioxidant.

Immunomodulatory effect: Tulsi extracts stimulate cellular and humoral immunity.

The antimicrobial effect: Tulsi extracts are effective against bacterial strains

Tulsi Tea

An easy way to use Tulsi daily is as follows –
Take tulsi leaves, wash it, dry under sunshade, powder it.
Mix 1 part of Tulsi leaf powder in 10 parts of tea powder.
Use this tea powder to make tea and enjoy. But it is best to avoid adding milk to this Tulsi tea. (find out why, below)
Organic India Tulsi Chai Masala is one such combination

Tulsi herbal tea combinations
Those who are not accustomed to tea, can make a tulsi herbal tea – just with Tulsi and other herbs.
Tulsi with licorice, lemon grass, licorice and ginger is a good combination.

Tulsi Tea benefits:
Any of the above two combinations would carry most of the benefits of Tulsi described above – digestive, immune boosting, good for respiratory health, etc.

Tulsi side effects

Excess use or over-dosage may cause increased burning sensation.
Safe to use in children and during lactation.
Need medical supervision to use during pregnancy.

Effect of Tulsi on hormones and sperm count
An experimental evaluation on male albino rats has revealed decrease in sperm count. Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Leutinizing hormones, with an increase in testosterone levels. (research)

So, do men seeking conception should avoid Tulsi? They may not avoid it totally. They can have, say, Tulsi tea once or twice a week. But men having low sperm count and such other infertility problems may avoid regular use of Tulsi.

High Pitta – People with excessive hunger, burning sensation, bleeding disorders, heavy periods, nasal bleeding, and with Pitta Body type should avoid prolonged use of Tulsi, due to its hot nature.

Tulsi with milk is not ideal:
Milk consumed soon after, or along with Tulsi is a bad food combination. Tulsi being hot and milk being coolant, this combination may cause skin disorders.

Interaction with medicines, supplements

Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.

Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most of the dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.

With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.

Holy Basil – Spirituality

Tulsi is worshipped like mother Goddess in Hinduism. Tulsi Sankeertane – A group of neighborhood devotees go to each other’s homes and perform bhajan (devotional songs) with dance and Holy Basil Pooja in the month of Karthika (october-November).
Apart from spreading mutual bonding and also adds spirituality and celebration to the occasion. An ancient, religious way of netflix and chill 🙂 Watch video in our instagram page

Ayurvedic medicines

Ayurvedic medicines with Tulasi –
Vilwadi Gulika 
Famous antiviral medicine of Ayurveda
Tribhuvan Kirti Ras tablet –
Tulasi leaf juice extract is used to triturate herbs. – Used in treating fever.
Manasamitra Vatakam – Used in depression, lack of sleep, psychiatric disorders
Maha Jwarankush Ras – used in fever
Muktadi Mahanjan – A collyrium – Kajal preparation used in eye disorders
Mukta Panchamrit Ras – used in fever with cold, cough


Phytochemical screening

Tulsi Water

3 – 5 Tulsi leaves are soaked in a small cup of water, filtered and the water is consumed. This Tulsi water contains almost all the benefits explained above, but in a diluted, mild form. 

Tulsi Arka

Arka in ayurveda is a liquid preparation obtained by the distillation of certain liquids or drugs soaked in water using the Arka yantra or any convenient modern distillation apparatus.

Arka is a liquid preparation obtained by the distillation of certain liquids or drugs soaked in water using the Arka yantra or any convenient modern distillation apparatus.

Tulasi arka is useful in cough, cold, dyspnea, hiccups, and also helps with sore throat, bronchitis, bronchial asthma and malaria. Its regular use will increase the immunity of your body naturally.

Mercury controversy

Tulsi is a famous Ayurvedic herb used extensively for its anti-viral, anti-tussive properties against cold, cough, allergies, fever etc. (research)
There is a superstition attached to this holy herb that its leaves should not be chewed.
From an Ayurvedic standpoint, this argument does not hold any ground. Master Sharangdhara describes
पीतो मरिचचूर्णेन तुलसीपत्रजो रस: ।द्रोणपुष्पीरसो वापि निहन्ति विषमज्वरान् ॥
pīto maricacūrṇena tulasīpatrajo rasa: |
droṇapuṣpīraso vāpi nihanti viṣamajvarān ||
Sharangdhara Samhita, Madhyama Khanda, Swarasa chapter. He explains, 6 – 12 ml of juice of Holy Basil mixed with 1 – 3 grams of black pepper powder is very beneficial in the treatment of recurrent fevers. So, if Tulsi can be crushed to prepare juice, why can’t it be chewed and consumed? 
There is a rumor that if Tusli is chewed, mercury will get into the body. This is also not true. If Tulsi or any herb is contaminated with mercury, no matter how you take it, mercury will enter your body. 

Tulsi in Hindu scriptures

Garuda Purana (Dharma Kanda – Preta Kalpa: 38.11): By planting, nurturing, watering and meditating, touching and praising the Tulsi plant, the sins committed by humans in their previous births are destroyed.

Brahmavaivarta Purana (Prakriti Khand: 21.43): At the time of death, the one who drinks water with Tulsi leaves, gets free from all sins and goes to Vishnulok.

Skanda Purana: Yamadootas – messengers of Yama, God of death, do not enter the house where there is a Tulsi garden (and worship is done daily).

Stale or dry flowers and stale or spoiled water are prohibited for worship but Tulsi leaves and Ganga water are not prohibited even if they are stale. (Skanda Purana, Va. Khan. Ma. Ma. 8.9)*

Holy Basil-tree should not be planted on the south side of your house, otherwise you have to suffer Yama-torture. (Bhavishya Purana)

Tulsi planted in the house is beneficial for human beings, bestows wealth and devotion. By seeing Tulsi early in the morning one gets the result of donating gold. (Brahmavivarta Purana, Shri Krishna Janma Khand: 103.62-63)*

Basil-tree should not be planted on the south side of your house, otherwise you have to suffer Yama-torture. (future mythology)*

India’s great scientist Mr. Jagdish Chandra Basu discovered the crescograph plant and proved that like us, trees also have a living being.

Tulsi leaf, flower, fruit, root, branch, bark, stem and soil etc. are all holy. Padma Purana, Answer Section 24.2) Modern science also bows down before its glory by researching Tulsi.

77 thoughts on “Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum Benefits, Research, Side Effects”

  1. Very informative article Dr.! What are the benefits of having the tulsi water(Water in which tulsi leaves are soaked) ?

  2. Hello,

    Wanted to know if combination of several types of Tulsi in form of drops would help my children develop better immunity (against cold/cough/fever and other general infections).

    I have seen a product IMC Shri Tulsi drops with 5 types of Tulsi extracts – Shri Tulsi is extracts of 5 types of tulsi like Shyam Tulsi, Ram Tulsi, Shwet Sursa, Van Tulsi
    And Nimbu Tulsi.

    Would this be more effective than giving just one form of Tulsi? Is this medicine effective in the form of drops?

    Please let me know! 🙂

    Thanks in advance

  3. Your information and knowledge is amazing Dr ji , every page is enlightening with simple uses for day to day health . Thank you very much for sharing with us .

  4. Thanks for so much information.PL also CLEARIFY if Tulsi,leaves,fresh ginger and murwa leaves (Badrinath tulsi ) are boiled in water and water is used for cup of tea Lipton green and some milk as used in tea cup…is benefcial or harmful

    • As per Maharshi Charaka, combining milk with Tulsi is not ideal. Hence, you may skip adding milk to the above combination. Except that, the combination looks quite good.

  5. I wonder if the seeds aphrodisiac effect is proven or if it is mentioned in any ancient text books.
    However, even if it is true, different part of the plant may have different effects. Mango leaves have different effect than fruits. Raw mango is quite opposite to ripe mango, and so on.

  6. Very valuable information Dr. I also wanted to know if is an antioxidant too .. also my father has diabetes and also is a heat patient he is 78 . I gave him a leaf of peppermint today to relieve his gastric problem he felt a little better so i am doing a little reading and trying out a few basic home remedies . Thank you once again for your valuable information.

    • Hi,
      Holy Basil is a proven anti oxidant herb, as per a research paper published in Journal of Medicinal Food in 2007.
      The first link in the research section of the article will lead to you a research paper proving anti oxidant property of Tulsi.

  7. required more such informations regular basis, thanks a lot for the article. Dr.S. Bhattacharya MD(hom).

  8. Sir, Is there any side effects of eating too many rawTulsi leaves for children of 8-9 years or as such any age. I have been giving bunch of raw tulsi leaves whenever he gets cold or cough which he often catches due to his Tonsillitis problem.Please advise.

  9. respected sir,
    i want to know the effects of tulsi leaves on anxiety and foggy brain. do tulsi cures anxiety?

    • Tulsi is very useful in treating anxiety and foggy brain symptoms. It also improves memory and cognitive functions. Within the article on Tulsi, I have included experimental and clinical research reports supporting the claim. The general adult dose of Tulsi for anxiety and depression is – 500 mg Tulsi capsule – once or twice a day after food, along with water.

    • Tulsi leaves+Bramhi leaves + Shankhapuspi Leaves with honey can improve memory. With that yoga and pranayama will give good dividends.

  10. Hi.. I’ve so many tulasi plants in my garden. so I wish to take fresh tulasi leaves as my tea. so can you suggest how many leaves per day? and I boil 6 ,7 tulsi leaves with 1 cup of water and have it daily. Is it fine to do this process? I’m having breathing problem, over weight, skin problems. and mine is heat body.
    pls suggest a good way.. Thank u so much.. Your article is beautiful..

    • Hello madam, The tulsi tea you are doing is good.

      As far as the other symptoms are concerned all are inter related i would suggest you to take a consultation from a Ayurvedic physician for the same.

  11. Dr.Hebbar
    Very much useful information on Tulsi who to use and who to avoid/minimise. Kindly intimate how to use Tulsi for Kidney and Gallbladder stones. Any research has been done on this aspect or only reference from ancient texts?

    • Tulsi as standalone medicine is not commonly used in kidney disordes.
      There are a few remedies explained for Gall bladder using Tulsi. But I am yet to come across a direct reference for this.

  12. Sir, this is the Line of Ayurvedic treatment for Psoriasis:
    • Ghritapana (oral administration of medicated ghee)
    • Vamana (emesis) (According to the need virechana-purgation can also be carried or else both are also recommended one after the other)
    • Shamana Aushadha (medicaments)- Both internal and external medication is carried.
    Would advise you to undergo the above Panchakarma treatment for the same under the supervision of a Ayurvedic Physician

  13. Sir, Please do consult a ayurvedic physician as we are dealing with a kid. Please avoid over the counter medicine.

  14. Madam, For dry cough, the mixture of Tulsi leaves, onion and ginger juice is helpful in managing and controlling the case.

  15. Hello Sir ,
    Can you do a post on Sabza seeds/tukmaria/ sweet basil seeds /falooda seeds ?

    chia seeds are very famous for their high protein and calcium content in the west..
    and sabza seeds are very similar to chia seeds .. what is ayurveda perspective ?


  16. Hello Doctor,

    I want to know, if i mix tulsi powder, Avarampoo (Senna auriculata) powder and Thuthuvalai (Solanum trilobatum) powder and drink everyday, will it cause any harm?


  17. Hi Doctor,

    My son 2.4 yrs old has frequent Cold/cough and wheezing trouble. As advised by few elders/friends, I prepare a mixture boiling Tulasi leaves(handful) with 2 pepper seeds, 1 cardamom, little Ginger in half cup water and make a 5ml syrup. I have been giving it 2 times a day for past 1 week.

    1. Does this help in building kids immunity and prevent from cold/cough?
    2. Does frequent and increased usage of Tulasi will lead to any other problem?
    3. Is it okay to continue with the above , if it is not harmful.

    As i read through your post, i saw increased usage of Tulasi is heat and it also should not be used continuously.


  18. Namasthe Sir,

    Since it appears that Tulasi is having some hormonal properties, is it safe to apply Tulasi oil on the scalp (I made hair oil using coconut oil, curry leaves and Tulasi leaves). Does it cause any side effects mentally.


    • It does not affect any mental aspects in an adverse manner, if oil is applied externally. It, in fact is useful in dandruff and skin issues of the scalp

  19. sir i am using 5 types tulsi extract mix..they wrot on bottle each 10ml contains 0.5ml base materials ;this base materials what?.this any problem for body?im daily using 10drops /give me reply sir pls…….

  20. Hello doctor,
    May I know how to use panchatulasi of hair related problems like hairfall, dandruff etc..

    • Dry it. Grind it to get powder. Mix it with Neelibhringadi taila oil. Make a paste and apply it 15 minutes before hair wash. Do this at least 2 times a week.

  21. Helo sir
    I am PG student. I am planning to do research on effect of sabja seeds on anemia so i would like to know thy cause any side effects or toxicity and it vll also be usefyl if u suggest any article r research papers on this.
    Hope ill get a positive rply from you!!
    Thank you

    • Hi, just search in google – sabja seeds research. You will get many leads.
      A PG student should do the research by herself. You have 1.5 years to finish the research work. Utilize it in proper way.
      Wish you all the best. 🙂

  22. Thanks for sharing your valuable experience with us. Hope it will help our readers to take needed precaution.

  23. As you said tulsi tea is hot . But organic india has a brahmi tulsi tea with 66.66% tulsi and 33% gotu kola (centella asiatica which apparently is cooler ) . Would this tea be not hot due to balancing by brahmi ? Can this mixture of one tea bag a day be taken for how long ? I have mild acidity .

  24. Learnt that tulasi is a pitta- increasing herb. How come a herb which increases pitta have calming effect at the same time? Because high pitta levels motivate a person to do activities and not rest. How are the high pitta and maintaining celibacy linked?
    Thanks in advance.

  25. Dear Sir ,
    as you said above milk is coolant whereas tulsi is hot

    same way I want to ask regarding “GHEE ” , is it hot or cooling in nature for body &
    Does cow and buffalo Ghee have different effects ?

    I have always avoided even bit of excess Ghee in my diet considering it hot (i try to practise celibacy as much possible )

    Thanks !!!

    • Hi, ghee is just very slightly hot.
      Buffalo ghee is harder to digest, when compared to cow ghee.

  26. Hello Doctor ji,
    Is it okay to boil Tulsi? I have heard that this is not okay because it is like boiling Vishnu?
    Thank you,

    • Tulsi is not Vishnu. Tulsi is the Prasada of Vishnu. Tulsi is offered to God Vishnu. Hence, it is perfectly fine to boil Tulsi.
      If someone says not to boil, then we should not also consume Tulsi, because it might be similar to consuming Vishun?!
      Hence this argument is not valid.

  27. If there is one is someone who we should be grateful and see it as a real guru of Ayurveda then you are. Thank you very much for you almost daily speeches. Very educational.

  28. Very informative article!

    Can I combine Tulsi juice with Adulasa juice and take it with honey for sore throat and cough?

  29. Very informative article but Can we chew Tulsi?? because many people say it we shouldn’t chew Tulsi as it contains Mercury which can harm teeth, so how should I take it ???


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