Medicinal plants

Tulsi herb (Indian basil) - ingredients, effects, recipes

Tulsi herb (Indian basil) - ingredients, effects, recipes

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The Indian basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), also known as Tulsi or Tulsi herb, is one of the so-called digestive herbs because it helps against a bloated stomach as well as cramps, inflammation and infections in the area of ​​the gastrointestinal tract. On the other hand, the Tulsi herb is also known as a remedy for stress, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders.

The composition of the ingredients that give the subspecies of basil its special healing properties has long been in the dark. In the meantime, however, more and more laboratory tests are revealing the material mechanisms that give Indian basil its effect, which is even sacred in the country of origin of the herb.

Profile for the Tulsi herb

Scientific name: Ocimum tenuiflorum
Plant family: Lipflower (Lamiaceae)
Popular names: Indian basil, holy basil, royal basil, krapao, tulsi, tulasi
Occurrence: Asia
Application areas:

  • Respiratory diseases,
  • Eye problems,
  • Infections,
  • Metabolic problems,
  • Stress symptoms
  • and indigestion.

Plant parts used: leaves

Herbal portrait

Visually, the Indian basil is more reminiscent of sage than of its Mediterranean counterparts. Because the leaves of the up to one meter high Tulsik herb are notched significantly deeper than those of ordinary basil and, like sage, are rather elongated and finely hairy. The hairy stems also have a light purple color that continues in the leaf veins and sometimes even in the leaves themselves.

The Indian basil got its name unmistakably from its Indian homeland. However, India is not the only Asian country where Ocimum tenuiflorum is native. The natural distribution area extends from south-west and south-east Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and China to the north of Australia. However, the Tulsi herb has a very exceptional position in folk medicine and folk religion, especially in India. Because the herb is considered here as a protective plant of Vishnus. The epithet "Holy Basil" is therefore self-explanatory.

By the way: The fact that the Tulsi herb is also known as Holy Basil even led to the alternative botanical term Ocimum sanctum. However, this is rarely used.

In the forest of Vrindavan, where legends say Vishnu's incarnation Krishna grew up, there are still numerous Tulsi shrubs that are harvested by believers and used for their sacred rites. Tulsikraut also plays an important role in religious life in the rest of the country and neighboring areas of Hindu culture. For example, the holy basil is cultivated next to house entrances or in the courtyard area to protect against evil forces, and the Tulsi herb should not be missing from altarpieces and offerings in honor of Vishnu. On the other hand, Ocimum tenuiflorum is also an old medicinal plant from the healing art of Ayurveda native to South Asia and has been used here for thousands of years in a very versatile way. According to Ayurvedic conviction, Tulsi is one of those rare herbs that can harmoniously balance the three doshas.

The three doshas in Ayurveda

Doshas are the three aspects that determine the individual constitution, the so-called prakriti of a person from birth in the teaching of Ayurveda.

Vata (air / wind)

This dosha is responsible for the physical and psychological movements of the body. To fly like a flag in the wind and, if at all, to touch the ground of the facts, would best describe the character of people with a strong Vata. According to the Ayurvedic view, they are flexible to unsteady, delicately built with an elongated face and have an irregular digestion or an irregular feeling of hunger. Sleep disorders and inner restlessness are also attributed to the Vata type. In addition, with all his hustle and bustle and new ideas, he is often very unreliable. A lot is promised, little is done, but this is due to his forgetfulness rather than bad will.

Pitta (fire / water)

Responsible for the body's biochemical processes, the Pitta type generally has a healthy hunger and good digestion thanks to regulated metabolism. However, it shows a significantly reduced pace compared to the Vata type. However, people with a strong pitta are still active and full of zest for action. They prefer to stay in nature and like to work out energetically. However, their tendency to precision and perfection often gets in their way. This can easily lead to frustration in the social environment as well as to burnout and stress complaints due to chronic overwork.

Kapha (water and earth)

This dosha symbolizes the solid parts of the body, i.e. fingernails, bones and teeth. This is associated with stability in Ayurveda as well as constant to caring attention. All in all, a calm personality that you can always rely on. Challenges are tackled strategically and, although somewhat slower than usual, carefully tackled. The Kapha-type's urge to move, however, is not particularly pronounced due to its constant to stationary character. For this reason, he tends to be overweight when it comes to physique and finds himself in passive melancholy and idleness. Its digestion is also somewhat sluggish, which favors digestive problems. But people with a strong kapha have a healthy sleep and good long-term memory.

According to Ayurvedic teaching, it is an important goal of personality development to maintain one's individual prakriti, i.e. the unique composition of the three doshas in one's own constitution. On the other hand, if one's own prakriti gets out of balance, the state of the vikriti arises, which favors diseases and health problems. Such an imbalance is caused by a number of harmful everyday, social and environmental factors, such as:

  • unhealthy diet,
  • persistent stress,
  • polluted work or living environment,
  • false friends,
  • social pressure
  • and mental problems.

The Tulsi herb in Ayurveda

Given the importance of healthy prakriti for personal health, medicinal plants like Tulsi, which restore the balance of the doshas, ​​are of course a real blessing in Ayurveda. And in fact, the holy basil is said to have healing effects that specifically target health problems associated with the doshas, ​​such as forgetfulness, indigestion or stress symptoms. In addition, the Tulsi herb has a number of other healing properties that are completely independent of the Ayurvedic Dosha philosophy. Overall, the herb is indicated for the following complaints:

  • Respiratory symptoms,
    for example for asthma, cold, flu, sore throat, cough or sore throat.
  • Eye diseases
    for example with night blindness or retinopathy.
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
    for example with flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, cramps, stomach ulcers or gastrointestinal flu.
  • Nervous disorders
    for example in the case of anxiety, burn-out, dementia, depression, inner restlessness or forgetfulness.
  • Systemic diseases
    for example if you have high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems or immune deficiencies.
  • other health complaints
    for example with fever, headache, fatigue, insect bites, tooth or gum disease.

Ingredients and effects

A holistic effect of medicinal herbs is always in the foreground in the Ayurvedic treatment of diseases, because health problems arise from an imbalance in the energy flows. Such disorders can consequently only be remedied if an uninterrupted process in the body system is guaranteed. In this context, the ingredients of the Tulsi herb offer a good basis, because they work specifically at crucial points in the metabolism and cardiovascular system. The following are responsible for the healing properties of the herb:

  • Antioxidants,
  • essential oils,
  • Flavonoids,
  • Saponins
  • and ursolic acid.


Natural substances that protect the body from oxidative stress are described as antioxidants in medicine. This occurs when the metabolism is overwhelmed with the breakdown of harmful substances, so-called free radicals. These include, for example, nitrogen monoxide, chlorine radicals and other pollutants such as those that get into our bodies through chemically pretreated foods, car or industrial exhaust gases. These substances increasingly trigger oxidation processes in the body, which leads to an increased release of reactive oxygen compounds (ROS). This in turn affects the detoxification function of the body cells, which consequently store more pollutants than neutralize them. It is believed that oxidative stress is crucial in the development of diseases such as

  • Alzheimer,
  • Arteriosclerosis,
  • high blood pressure
  • and coronary artery disease

is involved. In addition, free radicals accelerate the aging process of cells and thus increasingly cause wrinkles and organ dysfunction. Antioxidants can actively help to prevent free radicals from oxidizing and to ensure that they are removed from the body. This is how they work

  • hypotensive,
  • detoxifying / purifying
  • vascular strengthening,
  • Strengthening the heart and circulation,
  • nerve-strengthening
  • and cell protecting.

The antioxidants that are specifically contained in the Tulsi herb even have some special skills. It is about Anthocyanins, a special group of plant dyes that have red to blue coloring properties and usually give their color to plants such as blue cornflower or berry fruits such as blackberry, blueberry or aronia. In addition, anthocyanins are also for theirs

  • cholesterol lowering,
  • anti-inflammatory,
  • immune boosting,
  • eyesight improving
  • and digestive

Effect known. Ocimum tenuiflorum is one of the few medicinal herbs that contains not only berries and flowers, but also significant amounts of anthocyanins, which explains some areas of application in the area of ​​systemic diseases.

Interesting: There are studies that indicate that anthocyanins also have an anti-cancer effect. Unfortunately, there is currently not enough research available to actually recommend these antioxidants for cancer treatment. However, a preventive, cell-protective function is quite conceivable, which is why regular consumption of fruits and herbs containing anthocyanins is highly recommended.

Essential oils

Despite the remarkable healing properties of anthocyanins, the most important ingredients in Tulsi herb are completely different plant-specific substances. They form the main components of the essential oil in Indian basil and work against a whole range of diseases, including:

  • Asthma,
  • Colds,
  • Gout,
  • Fungal infections,
  • Rheumatism,
  • Worm infestation
  • and inflammation of the gums and gums,

The ethereal ingredients of the Tulsik herb can, at least in part, also be classified as antioxidants. This applies in particular to Eugenol, which is often used in dentistry because of its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Infectious tooth and gum diseases such as gingivitis, periodontitis or pulpitis therefore respond very well to mouthwashes with Tulsi herb.

The disinfectant and anti-inflammatory properties of the Carvacrol the plant. It not only alleviates inflammatory infections caused by bacteria or fungi, but also works successfully against parasites and insects. Carvacrol is also considered an important drug for rheumatic and metabolic diseases that are based on impaired kidney functionality.

Linalool in Indian basil also covers an area of ​​activity that is very beneficial for the respiratory tract. It has an expectorant effect and thus promotes expectoration in respiratory diseases. Other notable essential additives in the plant are:

  • Apigenin,
  • Bisabolol,
  • Cineol
  • and tarragol.

Important: The actual content of essential ingredients can vary greatly depending on the type of Tulsi!


Plant dyes such as anthocyanins, and also some essential oils that help shape the color and / or taste of the Tulsik herb are included in the higher-level group of flavonoids. What they have in common is not only that they have a particularly high antioxidative potential. Other healing effects, such as a

  • hypoallergenic,
  • antimicrobial,
  • antiviral,
  • anticarcinogenic,
  • anti-inflammatory
  • as well as regulating nervous and cardiovascular systems

Most flavonoids have an effect. In the medical field, they are mainly used for the manufacture of cardiac medications, venous agents and immune-boosting agents. With the flavonoidsOrientin and Vicenin Radiation-protective properties were also found in Tulsikraut, which could be relevant for radiation therapy for cancer as well as for UV protection.

Together with the vegetable tannins in the Tulsi herb, the so-called Tannins, the colors and flavors of the plant belong to the higher-level group of polyphenols. The ingredients of Indian basil are therefore very closely related, which is not uncommon for medicinal herbs, but is also not the rule. This material relationship has a positive effect, among other things, on the well interlocking mechanisms of action of aromas and tannins. The latter especially strengthen the anti-inflammatory and germicidal effect of the Tulsik herb, which explains its good effect in inflammatory and infectious diseases.


When it comes to the healing effects of the Tulsi herb in the digestive tract, the saponins of the plant also play an important role. They are known to improve the absorption of active substances and nutrients in the intestine by increasing the blood flow to the intestinal walls and increasing their permeability. Furthermore, the plant substances act specifically against inflammation in the area of ​​the intestinal wall and stimulate the release of digestive enzymes by activating the corresponding hormones. Overall, saponins

  • cholesterol lowering,
  • intestinal strengthening,
  • circulation-promoting,
  • anti-inflammatory,
  • diuretic,
  • hormone stimulating,
  • secretion-promoting,
  • digestive
  • and cell strengthening

Attributed to properties. The secretion-promoting effect is also useful when it comes to respiratory diseases that are associated with a mucus throat. The cell-strengthening properties, in turn, can result in an improved immune response of the immune cells in infectious diseases. Ultimately, the combination effect of saponins helps with a variety of different diseases and health problems. Which includes:

  • Bronchitis,
  • Cold,
  • Flu,
  • Intestinal inflammation,
  • Stomach cramps,
  • Abdominal influenza,
  • Digestive problems,
  • Cystitis,
  • increased cholesterol,
  • general metabolic disorders
  • and immune deficiency.

Ursolic acid

Another very interesting and very special ingredient of the Tulsik herb is ursolic acid. Not only is it known as an anti-inflammatory agent, it also has positive effects on the blood, for example by lowering cholesterol and sugar levels. Of particular medical importance is the fact that ursolic acid has shown cancer-inhibiting potential in various studies. Together with other anticarcinogenic ingredients of Indian basil such as anthocyanins, the use of Ocimum tenuiflorum in cancer treatment does not appear to be entirely unreasonable.

Tulsi herb against cancer and radiation damage:
Many components of the Ocimum tenuiflorum have an anti-cancer, cell and radiation protective effect. The herb has therefore been discussed for some time as a medicinal plant source for anti-cancer preparations.

Application and dosage

The Ayurvedic-style Tulsi herb is mostly used as a tea or tincture. In its Asian homeland, the herb is also a traditional kitchen spice, which is used together with other Far Eastern herbs such as ginger or cumin to refine dishes. Here, the spicy taste of the herb gives many traditional dishes their classic touch. In particular, recipes from Thai cuisine often cannot do without the characteristic aroma of Indian basil.

Tulsi herb tea and decoction

A tea infusion is most suitable for the internal application of Tulsi. The brew is shown at:

  • slimy neck,
  • To cough,
  • Depressions,
  • Inflammation in the digestive tract,
  • increased blood sugar,
  • High blood pressure,
  • increased cholesterol,
  • Diabetes,
  • Memory problems,
  • Lack of concentration,
  • Immunodeficiency,
  • inner restlessness
  • as well as indigestion.

In addition, a decoction of the plant has a strong invigorating and vitalizing effect, which is why it is an interesting alternative to stimulants such as coffee, black tea or energy drinks. Three specific types of Tulsik herb are usually used to prepare the tea:

  • Rama Tulsi,
  • Krishna Tulsi
  • and Vana Tulsi

Preparation of Tulsi tea:

To make tulsitee, simply take two teaspoons of dried tulsi herb leaves, put them in a cup and pour about 200 milliliters of hot water over them. The brewing time is about ten minutes, then the herbs can be strained and the tea can be drunk in small sips. One to two cups a day, for example, are excellent for a slimy or inflamed throat or for gastrointestinal complaints.

Makeover with Tulsi

A special application of Tulsitee is the so-called Rasayana. Behind this is a special Ayurvedic makeover, in which two cups of tulsitee are drunk daily for a period of three days. The preparation of the tea differs somewhat from the conventional procedure.

Take five to six dried Tulsi leaves to make the Kurtees and soak them in a cup of water for about three hours. Then let the herb water simmer in a saucepan for five to seven minutes. After filtering off the leaves, the rejuvenating tea is drunk hot.

Tulsi decoction for Ayurvedic flu treatment

Ayurveda also knows a special preparation from Tulsi herb for the treatment of flu and colds. Take 40 leaves of the plant (fresh or dried) and bring them to the boil in half a liter of water. After about half of the water has evaporated, filter the leaves and add a pinch of salt to the decoction. The decoction can then be drunk warm three times a day until the respiratory disease has healed.

Tulsi tincture

A tincture from Ocimum tenuiflorum is particularly recommended for external complaints such as problematic skin, dermal cell damage or skin diseases such as wart diseases. Dabbed regularly on the affected skin area, the cell-regenerating and cell-protecting ingredients of the Tulsik herb can unfold directly on site.

In some cases, for example in case of severe stress or persistent fatigue, Tulsitinktur can also be used internally as a tonic. Here, however, very moderate use is important, because tinctures contain highly concentrated amounts of the plant's own ingredients, which can easily cause side effects if overdosed. Unless otherwise prescribed by the doctor or alternative practitioner, please adhere to a dosage of a maximum of three to five drops a day.

Tulsi in the kitchen

As a traditional culinary herb, Tulsi is especially known in Indian, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Like common basil in the Mediterranean, the Indian basil is used here as a spice for typical recipes, including

  • Curry dishes,
  • Fish dishes,
  • Poultry dishes,
  • Vegetable dishes,
  • Pasta dishes,
  • rice dishes
  • and stews.

If you would like to experiment a little here, we recommend combining the Tulsik herb with other traditional spices from the Far East, for example, to create a real Asian taste experience

  • Anise,
  • Chili,
  • Curry,
  • Ginger,
  • Garlic,
  • cumin
  • and coriander.

With them, the sweet and spicy Tulsi aroma, which tastes slightly of anise and pepper, harmonises best.

As with ordinary basil, the aroma and medicinal properties of Indian basil evaporate very quickly when the heat is on. The herb is therefore only added to the dish at the end of the cooking process and should not remain in the saucepan or wok for longer than five minutes.

Our recipe tip: Pad Grapao

Pad Grapao is a Thai cuisine dish that is traditionally prepared with Tulsi herb. Served with rice or a fried egg, it is an integral part of the country's national cuisine and therefore our tip for anyone who wants to try out cooking with Indian basil.

Ingredients (for two people):

  • a bunch of tulsi herb,
  • two chillies,
  • two eggs,
  • two cups of jasmine rice,
  • a clove of garlic,
  • two shallots,
  • 400 g minced pork,
  • a tablespoon of oyster sauce,
  • two tablespoons of fish sauce,
  • two tablespoons of light soy sauce,
  • a tablespoon of dark, sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis),
  • some oil (preferably soybean oil),
  • Wok,
  • Mortar and pestle.

Step 1: Peel and chop the clove of garlic and the two shallots. The chili peppers are also washed, pitted and finely chopped. Then put the garlic, shallots and chilli in a mortar and grind them into a spicy paste. Alternatively, a blender or blender can be used.

2nd step: Clean the tulsi herb under a little running water and then shake it dry. It is important not to turn up the water jet too much so that the leaves do not become mushy. Then pluck the basil leaves from the stems.

3rd step: For the jasmine rice, two cups of water are heated per cup and the rice is then boiled in it. If you have a rice cooker at home, you can also use it.

4th step: While the rice is cooking, the pad grapao is being prepared. To do this, heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok and then add the spice paste. Let the whole thing simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until an aromatic spice and oil mixture is obtained. The minced meat is then fried in it and crushed with a wooden spoon while roasting.

5th step: Once the meat is cooked, add the oyster, fish and soy sauces. The whole thing is then mixed well and allowed to simmer on the stove for a while. Meanwhile, the fried eggs are fried in a separate pan.

6th step: The tulsi leaves are added to the minced meat at the very end. Heat the whole thing again, but make sure that the leaves do not turn black.

7th step: Arrange rice and fried eggs on a large, flat plate, then add the minced meat. Now Pad Grapao is ready to serve!

Side effects

It is recommended not to use the tulsi herb in total for more than six weeks at a time in order to avoid unforeseen side effects.

No side effects have been reported to date, however, as a precaution, people with bleeding disorders, fresh surgical wounds and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised against taking the Tulsic herb. (Ma)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Miriam Adam, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Kim, Eun-Sook; Moon, Aree: "Ursolic acid inhibits the invasive phenotype of SNU-484 human gastric cancer cells", in: Oncology Letters, 9 (2), 2015, NCBI
  • Mondal, Shankar et al .: "Double-blinded randomized controlled trial for immunomodulatory effects of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) Leaf extract on healthy volunteers", in: Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 136 Issue 3, 2011,
  • Chatterjee, Manavi et al .: "Evaluation of ethanol leaf extract of Ocimum sanctum in experimental models of anxiety and depression", Pharmaceutical Biology, Volume 49 Issue 5, 2011, Taylor Francis Online
  • Prakash, Prashanth R; Ramana Gupta, N. Venkata: "Therapeutic uses of Ocimum sanctum Linn (Tulsi) with a note on eugenol and its pharmacological actions: a short review", in: Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 49 (2), 2005, Semantic Scholar
  • Ilg, Petra: Basil - The sacred plant of the Hindus - history, tradition, ingredients, application, recipe part, Haug non-fiction book, 2000
  • Weickel, Martina: Yoga therapy: healing treatments for body, mind and soul, Goldmann Verlag, 2014
  • Cohen, Marc Maurice: "Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons", in: Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 5 (4), 2014, NCBI
  • Baliga, Manjeshwar Shrinath et al .: "Radio protective effects of the Ayurvedic medicinal plant Ocimum sanctum Linn. (Holy Basil): A memoir", in: Journal of Cancer research and Therapeutics, Volume 12 Issue 1, 2016,

Video: Tulsi Tea Recipe Benefits No Side Effects: Holy Basil Tea (July 2022).


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