Tulsi – characteristics, cultivation and use

tulsi - by GourangaUK

Tulsi is an ancient mystical plant that is referred to as the holy or Indian Basil in its native region. The aromatic plant contains many effective ingredients, which can help with stress, depression, fatigue, asthma or various inflammations. With us, the different types of basil are more known as a spice in southern cuisine and are used to promote digestion and as a substitute for salt.

Profile of tulsi:

Scientific name: Ocimum tenuiflorum

Plant family: mint family (Lamiacea)

Other names: holy basil, tulasi, thulasi

Sowing time / Planting time: May – June

Flowering period: June – September

Harvest time: April – November

Location: sunny

Soil quality: nutrient-rich and loose

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: asthma, influenza infections, cough, fatigue, forgetfulness, fever, flu

Use as aromatic herb: rice noodles, poultry dishes, Asian dishes, fish, hearty salads

Plant characteristics and classification of tulsi

Origin and occurrence of tulsi

The origin of tulsi is to be found on the Indian subcontinent. Their current natural range extends almost completely from Southeast Asia to Southwest Asia. Larger wild stocks can be found in Cambodia, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh and southwestern China.

Tulsi, or Indian basil, is a plant adapted to tropical regions, which can sometimes be found even in the subtropical margins. In mountainous areas it grows at altitudes up to 1,800 m (5,900 ft).

Plant order of Tulsi

The Indian basil is a herbaceous plant belonging to the mint family. It belongs to the genus basil and is next to the common basil or the lemon basil among the better known basil species. Overall, more than 60 species are known within this genus today.

Look and characteristics of Tulsi


The Indian basil is a typical herbaceous and perennial plant, which reaches usually stature heights between 50 and 110 cm (20 and 44 in). Older plants can occasionally lignify, which is why the herb is occasionally counted among the semi-shrubs. Tulsi forms reticular roots, which are usually evenly distributed in all directions. An actual main root is not recognizable.


Compared to the well-known Mediterranean basil, the leaves of tulsi are clearly sawn at the edge, a little darker and a little thinner. Each leaf can be up to 6 cm (2.4 in) long and up to 4 cm (1.6 in) wide. The slightly tapered leaves are provided with fine glandular hairs. The stem of tulsi is growing up, slightly brownish to reddish and mostly hairy. With increasing age, the stems lignify from the base.


During the flowering season, which usually takes place between June and September, the tulsi plants produce flower spikes. On the ears usually sit five to six single lip flowers on a so-called racemes. Each single flower is pentamerous and has usually pink to violet, rarely also white or reddish petals.


For fruit ripening the plant develops nut fruits, that are typical for members of the mint family. Each nut has a brown to almost black color. The shape is like a drop.

Tulsi – cultivation and care

The plant is a secret not only because of its suitability as a kitchen and medicinal herb. Tulsi is an excellent bee pasture and delights many gardeners with their magnificent flowers. However, cultivating the spicy herb is not that easy.


Tulsi is adapted to warm and partly humid areas, which are somewhat similar to the Mediterranean climate. The plant therefore prefers to grow in sunny locations, which may be a bit sheltered from the wind. Full sun locations should be avoided if possible. The soil should be able to store moisture and nutrients well and be permeable. Sandy soils like very loamy soils are critical.


Cultivation from seeds is much heavier than planting with fresh plants. So that seed rearing is a success, temperatures around 20 ° C / 68 ° F are needed. A sowing in the field should therefore happen only in the early summer. But better is a preculture in spring on a sunny windowsill or in the indoor greenhouse. The tulsi seeds need light to germ and should therefore only be slightly pressed in the soil. Until germination, the soil should always be kept moist but not wet. In order not to destroy the first seedlings, a spray gun is recommended for moistening. The germination time can be up to 20 days.

As tulsi is not frost tolerant it should best be cultivated in pots or flowerpots.


Tulsi has a higher nutrient requirement compared to many other herbs. Since the plant grows mainly in buckets, a commercially available herbal fertilizer should be administered every three to four weeks. If compost is available, it can be used as well.


The water requirement of the tulsi is slightly larger than other herbs. The plants or root system should never completely dry out. It can always be re-poured when the surface of the soil has dried. However, too much watering should be avoided to prevent waterlogging.


Tulsi is not frost tolerant and would not survive frost. The buckets should therefore be brought into the house in the autumn and put in a bright warm place.

Diseases and pests

In its natural habitat tulsi is considered a very robust plant. With over-fertilization, too close plant distances or too high water supply, pests such as spider mites, mealybugs or thrips can occur.

Use of Tulsi

Tulsi in the kitchen

The Indian basil is considered to be an excellent spice herb and is used extensively, especially in Southeast Asia. It differs significantly from other types of basil and is characterized by a clove and allimental taste with a clear peppery note.

Tulsi is used today mainly in the Vietnamese and Thai cuisine for seasoning various dishes. The basil variety known as Krapao is indispensable for traditional dishes such as pad krapao gai, a dish made of pork or chicken and rice.

For amateur chefs tulsi can be used for meat dishes, rice noodles, stews or marinated poultry dishes. For seasoning fish dishes, the leaves of the herb can also be used. Tulsi goes very well with ginger, cumin or chilli.

Like the other types of basil, tulsi should not be cooked. It is advisable to pluck the leaves finely and to stir in the dish only after cooking. The leaves should then go for about four to five minutes, so that the aroma can spread well.

In contrast to the Mediterranean basil known to us, the Indian basil can be used dried. Fresh leaves, however, are a little more tasteful and have a slightly more intense peppery aroma.

Tulsi as a medicinal herb

The Indian basil has become known in recent years in Europe and North America. Above all, the invigorating effect of some ingredients makes the aromatic herb a welcome alternative to coffee or green tea. As a medicinal herb, however, tulsi offers many more starting points. The complex spectrum of active ingredients of tulsi leaves is used today especially for mild to moderate mental complaints and in some inflammation.

In Ayurvedic medicine and folk medicine in India, tulsi is considered an excellent herb against all forms of stress. It is even scientifically proven today that tulsi extract can counteract metabolic stress by the blood pressure and blood sugar levels can be normalized. In addition, it is known that the herb can improve memory performance or retention.

A wide range of applications today is the treatment of stress and mild psychological disorders.

Tulsi can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • abdominal pain
  • angina
  • antibiotics
  • arthritis
  • asthma
  • bronchitis
  • colic
  • cramps
  • digestion
  • flu
  • headache
  • hoarseness
  • immune system
  • insect bites
  • laryngitis
  • overexertion
  • pain
  • migraine
  • rheumatism
  • sinus infection
  • skin diseases
  • stomatitis
  • stress
  • tonic

Medicinal properties

  • antiseptic
  • antispasmodic
  • digestive
  • immune system strengthening
  • promote sleep
  • reassuring
  • relaxing
  • relieve stress
  • vermifuge
  • warming

In natural medicine, teas and tinctures are the most commonly used dosage forms.

Preparation of a tulsi tea

  • put 1 teaspoon of dried herb in a tea strainer in ac up
  • dash with boiling hot water.
  • let it steep covered for 10 minutes

1-2 cups a day help with digestive problems, stress and strengthen the immune system.


Mouth rinsing / gargling with the tea helps with mouth sores and hoarseness.

Side effects and application instructions

Basically, the Indian basil is very well tolerated. However, as little is known about long-term use of the herb, it is recommended that you do not consume tulsi for more than six weeks. In acute injuries as well as before and after surgical operations tulsi should not be taken. Some ingredients of the plant may slow down blood clotting and delay wound healing. During pregnancy and lactation, the herb should not be taken for medical applications, since no risk studies were performed.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Tulsi – What to pay attention to?

You can occasionally find fresh plants available in plant trade or online shops. Who wants to plant tulsi and has little experience with the plant, should use finished plants and cultivate them.

If you manage to take care of the plant well, it is still possible to grow seeds. You can buy seeds online.

For use as a medicinal herb dried leaves of Indian basil can be ordered. In addition to the diverse healing properties, tulsi can also be used as a coffee substitute. The prices are not cheap. For 100 grams, the range is currently between 6 and 15 EUR /$, depending on the provider, quality and region of origin.


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