Holy Basil; ocimum sanctum


Holy Basil, ocimum sanctum

A complete in-depth look into the herbal ally, Holy Basil.


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Ruling Planet: Mercury

Ruling Element: Earth

Taste: Pungent, Sweet

Energy: Cooling, Grounding, Stimulating, Warming

Dosha Effect: P-, VK+

Tissue State: Depression, Stagnation

Common Name: Holy Basil, Tulsi, Sacred Basil

Family: Lamiaceae

Ayurvedic Name: Surasa

Parts Used: Leaves, Flowering Tops, Roots, Seeds

Native Region: Southern Asia

Ruling Chakra: Heart + Root Chakra

Botanical Description: The leaves growing on Holy Basil grow themselves in opposites, in true mint fashion, and the stems will be square with a slightly hairy aesthetic. Holy Basil produces a long stalk shooting straight up from the middle of its base, producing a tower of awestrucking flowers, of which are irregular. Typically this plant gets up to 3’-4’ tall.

Key Constituents: Flavonoids, Mucilage,Triterpenes, Ursolic Acid, Volatile Oils, and Vitamins A and C.

Actions: Adaptogen, Antibacterial, Anxiolytic, Alterative, Anti-fungal, Antioxidant, Antispasmodic, Carminative, Antidepressant, Emmenagogue, Expectorant, Galactagogue, Immunomodulant, Nervine, Radioprotective, Tonic.

Sustainability + Ethics: No known sustainability factors.

Affininites: Lungs, Heart, Immune System, Nervous System, Blood, Liver, Kidney

Harvesting: In temperate climates, harvest leaves and flowering tops mid-Summer to Fall. For warmer climates, you can harvest year round. Is considered a perennial in native climates, but if grown in a region where frost is an issue, it will be more of an annual plant. However, Holy Basil is known for taking over landscapes with the right conditions.

Uses: Holy Basil, or Tulsi, is one of my very favorite adaptogens and herbs to use in my personal and clinical practice. As a reminder, adaptogens are a class of herbs that allow the body to simply adapt to stressful circumstances and give the body the ability to normalize itself. When speaking of Holy Basil, there are actually 3 different variations: Rama, Vana and Krishna.

  1. Rama (ocimum tenuiflorum), has a cooling energetic with a mild taste. It’s native to India, and the plant can be classified by noticing it’s green foliage, white/purple blossoms and a green/purple stem. Rama is the more sought after variation of Holy Basil, or Tulsi, than the other two described below.

  2. Vana (ocimum gratissimum), is mostly known for its fragrance, and is referred to as the “forest type”. This variation has green stems and leaves, and the blossoms are white.

  3. Krishna (ocimum tenuiflorum), has a very crisp and peppery taste, which shows up with heat. This variation has dark green/purple leaves, stems and blossoms.

Holy Basil is a sacred plant in Indian culture, and you can often find this plant in front of homes, temples and sacred spaces as it represents a Hindu god, Vishnu. Because of its sacredness in India, we can confirm that it is also a wildly sacred medicinal plant in Ayurvedic practices, which has been noted to be used over 5,000 years ago. Additionally in Ayurvedic medicine, Tulsi is classified as a rasayana, an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and promotes long life.

Holy Basil’s antioxidant, neuroprotective, and radio-protective actions are considered protective and anti-aging, however this plants most wildly popular action is its Adaptogenic and Nervine properties. It’s extremely fragrant, which holds true for a lot of plants within the mint family. Because of this, the aroma can be a great medicine to calm the nerves and bring one at rest. Although, it also works as a dual action Nervine for its ability to stimulate and calm the nervous system, depending on the state of the person. Holy Basil regulates the nervous system by its expanding action, removing blocked energy to dispel sluggishness as well as direct restless energy to ease hyperactivity and inability to concentrate.

For those with a cyclical system, due to its stimulating warming action, or its emmenagogue action, Holy Basil gently promotes menstruation for those who bleed suffering from amenorrhea, while its antispasmodic action soothes menstrual cramping and pain. It is also used as a galactagogue to stimulate milk production in those who are nursing, but is contraindicated in those who are pregnant because of the possibility of onsetting contractions.

Holy Basil has the ability to stimulate appetite and digestion, move stagnant food, and relieve flatulence. Like so many of the mint family plants, Holy Basil’s volatile oils produce warming, antispasmodic, and carminative actions to help soothe the digestive system. I try to keep Tulsi within my digestive blend when I can. While it’s not a bitter plant, it makes a great addition to any tummy formula because of the remarkable findings for its support of the G.I tract.

For those with diabetes, Holy Basil is also used to regulate blood sugar. As an Alterative, Holy Basil removes heat and toxins from bloodstream, liver, circulation, and intestines. Holy basil can also support detoxification of toxins stored in body fat such as metals, which is where the Radioprotective action comes into play here.

On a more intuitive connection, Holy Basil allows one to connect to their spirit, and is an ally for those joining the spiritual path no matter what that looks like, for seemingly the first time. It gives a sense of resilience, and allows one to push through when that is the only option. It’s also a heart opener, bringing a sense of deep devotional connection to someone or something emotionally. I have found that when in companionship with Tulsi, I feel incredible ancient energy all around me. The plant brings forth energy that literally fills up the room, as if ancestors have come to join you in communion with this sacred plant. Sometimes I try to listen closely if I am alone, to see if stories or messages come through when drinking its tea. More so, it’s ability to move “stuck” energy within the nervous system allows the person to feel a sense of lightness, which comes to play in times of depression, anxiety, melancholiness and the feeling of having no where else to go. This comes apparent as well through its anxiolytic action. Holy Basil also supports heart health by enhancing healthy circulation via its slight blood thinning and circulatory actions, reducing cardiovascular stress both physically and through its adaptogenic actions. Through this, it’s safe to say Tulsi is a beautiful heart opener and should be kept in any recipe where Rose is present.

Specific Indications:

  • Stagnation, Disconnected, Closed Heart, Ungrateful, Stress, Anxiety, Fever, Memory Loss, Asthma, Congestion, Cold & Flu, Mucus, Appetite Loss, Flatulence, Nausea, Pollution, Radioactive Agents, Itching, Liver Damage, Cholesterol Imbalances.

Safety: Avoid in those who are pregnant as it causes uterine contractions, and for those trying to conceive. Additionally, Holy Basil has been tested to be a blood thinner, so it could impact blood sugar levels. Digestive discomfort could come into play when used in high-doses in a short time span, but is rare. Those with hypoglycemia should use cautiously, as well as folks taking anticoagulant drugs.

Adult Dose:

  • Tincture: 10-30 drops, 3x’s daily.

  • Tea: 4oz’s, 3x’s daily.

Preparations: Tea, Tincture, Poultice, Oxymel, Infused Vinegar + Oil

The Herbarium by the Herbal Academy


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