Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a tasty edible herb closely related to sweet basil, but with distinct health benefits as an herbal medicine.
These health benefits of holy basil extend to stress relief, sleep, anxiety, diabetes and many more aspects of health.
Using holy basil is quite easy because it is available in many forms, including holy basil tincture, teas, capsules, and fresh herb forms. In this post, learn about the best holy basil tinctures, teas and supplements on the market and which kind is best for you. Learn about the health benefits of holy basil and how to grow your own.
What is Holy Basil (Tulsi)?
Holy Basil, also commonly referred to as Tulsi, is an Ayruvedic herb that has been used for at least 5000 years, both in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Also revered as the Queen of Herbs and the Elixir of Life, Tulsi is used to treat and prevent illnesses, from influenza to stomach ailments and stress.
Holy basil is an adaptogen herb that helps reduce stress and adapt. However, dosing is important, as higher doses are more effective than low doses according to research.
Symptoms of stress are reduced with Tulsi across several studies, ranging from 30-40 percent improvement in stress symptoms.
Other kinds of adaptogen herbs include gotu kola, rhodiola, ashwagandha, reishi mushrooms, ginseng, and schisandra. These herbs can help balance the body and protect neurons according to research.
Best holy basil supplements
Criteria for the best holy basil supplements for this post include:
- USDA Organic
- Solvent free
- At least 20 high ratings
- Gluten free
- No GMOs
By using organic tulsi that has no solvents, you will have a pure product without contaminants. This will also help assure a safe and potent tulsi product.
Gaia Herbs Holy Basil Leaf USDA organic tincture is a holy basil tincture in a base of organic alcohol. This tincture contains 23 servings per bottle and contains two tincture bottles for a total of 46 servings. Grown at Gaia’s Certified organic farm in North Carolina and from a certified B corporation.
Global Healing Tulsi Tincture is made with only fresh, USDA organic tulsi leaves and its extraction is by cold pressing the holy basil into glass bottles. This is unique to Global Healing Center, as most herb manufacturers use metal mixing containers, which can interact with the compound in herbs in a negative way. The tincture extract is made of mustard seed glycerin rather than alcohol. Using glycerin preserves the plant more effectively than alcohol and is non toxic. A little more expensive than other tulsi products, but well worth it because of the quality. Always free shipping and returns.
Herb Pharm USDA Organic Holy Basil Oil is a large tincture that contains 168 servings in a 4 oz bottle and this tincture is in a base of organic alcohol. Grown in Oregon with the highest standards as a certified B corporation, this tulsi tincture is tested for purity using HPLC methods and is free of heavy metals and contaminants as well.
Organic India Tulsi Tea is an organic tulsi tea that contains 3 kinds of tulsi leaves to support a healthy mood and is relaxing because it is also caffeine free. This is a great value for tea lovers and serves up a pound of dried tulsi leaves. Organic India prides itself on using regenerative agriculture practices by small-sized farms in India and is also LEED Platinum Certified.
Buddha Teas Organic Holy Basil Tea is a kosher tea that contains 18 servings in bleach free tea bags. This tea is a great way to introduce yourself to the benefits of tulsi teas since it is a small package. Both USDA organic and is part of the Trees for Us which is part of the National Forest Foundation. Contains holy basil leaves and no additives.
Organic India Tulsi Herbal Capsules is a holy basil supplement with 90 capsules and a serving size is 3 capsules per day. The company is LEED Platinum Certified, which means it is part of the U.S Green Building Council. With over 800 positive ratings, this product is a great way to supplement tulsi in your diet.
Oregon’s Wild Harvest Holy Basil Organic Herbal Supplement is certified organic by Oregon Tilth and contains 800 mg of holy basil per 2 capsules with a total of 30 servings per bottle. This highly rated supplement is great for taking the edge off of daily stressors and is good for the immune system as well.
Banyan Botanicals USDA Organic Holy Basil Capsules are sustainably sourced and fair trade USDA organic tulsi capsules. Each serving contains 1000 mg of tulsi and the bottle has 45 servings each. Banyan Botanicals is also a certified B corporation and also grows is a leader in growing certified organic Aruvedic herbs.
SVA Organics Tulsi Essential Oil is USDA organic and is a steam distilled therapeutic grade Tulsi oil in a large 1 ounce bottle. Using tulsi essential oil is a great option for skin conditions and for overall relaxing. This is a very concentrated form of holy basil, so a little goes a long way and can be added to skin creams and used in diffusers and for cleaning the home.
Growing Holy Basil
If you want to grow your own tulsi, the process is quite easy. For cold climates, you will want to start the seedlings inside in seedling trays or pots. Moisten the seed starting mix with water. Sprinkle the seeds over the top of the soil, covering with a small amount of the soil, about 1/8 inch.
Keep the soil moist while the seeds germinate. The seedlings should sprout within a week. Continue to water the seedlings thoroughly until they have their second set of leaves. At this point, you can transplant outside if you have a warm climate or transplant to a larger pot if you are growing them inside.
You can find a high quality holy basil seed packet like this one:
Does the Form of Tulsi Matter?
The three most common types of cultivated holy basil are Vana Tulsi (Ocimum gratissimum), Rama Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Krishna Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum). Vana tulsi is thought to be the most beneficial for health, although there is no evidence to support one form of holy basil more than another.
You can often find tulsi with a blend of all three of these tulsi varieties in tea form as well.
Each form of tulsi product has its own advantages and disadvantages. You can find fresh holy basil, tinctures, teas, and supplements on the market as described above. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each form.
Fresh holy basil is great, but is not readily available in most western grocery stores or markets. Luckily you can grow your own tulsi plants much like you would grow sweet basil.
You can buy tulsi seeds here.
Read more about how to grow tulsi at Garden and Happy.
Holy Basil Tincture
Using holy basil tincture has several advantages over other forms of holy basil.
Holy basil tincture benefits are that they are higher potency and effectiveness than the dried herb. Benefits of tinctures also include that the effects on the body tend to be more immediate.
The downside to tulsi tinctures is that some people don’t enjoy the taste of the herb. However, most people learn to like the taste of holy basil over time.
How to make a tincture
Making tinctures is easy.
Simply place fresh tulsi leaves into a base of alcohol, such as vodka, inside of a mason jar or other type of glass jar. You will want to pack as many leaves into the alcohol as you can.
Place a lid on the container and store in a warm, dark place for about 4 to 6 weeks. You can now use about 1 ml per serving as a dose of tulsi tincture or you can buy dropper bottles for ease of using and storing your tincture.
Holy basil tea uses the dried leaves of the herb and forms an infusion. This is great for people who enjoy teas.
However, you have to watch out for the ingredients in teas because some will mix in green or black teas, which are caffeinated. Caffeine will cancel out some of the relaxing effects of holy basil.
Teas tend to contain lower concentrations of the active compounds of herbs than tinctures or capsules, but are great if used regularly.
Holy Basil Supplements
Supplements of tulsi are usually found in capsule form and this is a great option for people who don’t like the taste of holy basil.
However, the downside is that it feels more like taking medicine when it is in capsule form.
Purity and potency can be lost over time in capsules as well.
Still, the best holy basil supplement can be in capsule form because it contains the whole plant, especially if you are willing to take enough of them per day.
Tulsi Essential Oil
Tulsi essential oil is a very concentrated form of holy basil that is used for diffusing or for application on the skin.
Most people use this form of topical application for stress relief or for skin conditions like acne or dandruff.
The disadvantage of the essential oil form is that some people tend to be sensitive to such high concentrations of plant extracts. To be safe, use a very dilute amount on your skin at first to see if you react to it.
As a nutritious herb, tulsi has many potential health benefits and has some research to back up traditional uses as well. Imagine an herb that can both reduce blood sugar in people with diabetes while also reducing stress: that herb is tulsi.
As mentioned previously, holy basil is an adaptogenic herb. Simply put, adaptogens make us more resilient in times of stress. In turn, this may help reduce the aging process, as stress is known to wreak havoc on the body and mind. Adaptogens are also well-known for naturally boosting energy levels and reducing headaches too.
Many research studies find that tulsi helps diabetes symptoms. Here are some examples of how tulsi reduces blood sugar and other complications of diabetes.
- Supplemental tulsi reduced fasting glucose and post-meal glucose levels in a placebo-controlled study of people with type 2 diabetes.
- A review of 14 clinical studies found tulsi beneficial for many aspects of health for people with diabetes, including improved blood pressure, reduced cholesterol levels, and improved blood sugar numbers.
Some research also suggests that tulsi helps weight loss efforts and even supports healthy liver function, all of which support improvements in diabetes. All told, tulsi is great for cardiovascular help and reducing complications of diabetes.
Immune health encompasses many aspects of health. When your immune system works well, you gain vitality and here is an example of how this works:
A review of 5 clinical trials demonstrated immune benefits of tulsi, including reduced fatigue, more energy, improved physical performance, reduced asthma symptoms, increased speed of recovery from viral hepatitis, and improved survival compared to steroids for viral encephalitis.
Traditionally, holy basil is thought to help reduce flu and cold symptoms, headaches, promote healhty digestion, and is even used topically to support skin health and reduce skin infections like ringworm and acne. As you may know, our skin is one of our strongest line of defenses in our immune system.
Containing natural antivirals and other antimicrobial compounds, tulsi also supports a healthy immune response. By helping reduce harmful bacteria and microbes, tulsi helps with dental health as well.
In summary, tulsi helps immune function and is a safe herb to eat.
May reduce cancer risk
Cancer risk is affected by many factors, including genetics as well as the foods and herbs we eat. Preliminary studies show that tulsi may reduce cancer risk, but human studies are needed to confirm these results.
- Holy basil may reduce tissue damage due to radiation damage, which is linked to cancer, according to cell studies.
- Tulsi also may reduce the spread of cancer as shown in a study of pancreatic cancer in mice.
- By selectively helping to kill cancer cells, also known as apoptosis, tulsi may reduce prostate cancer, according to a cell study.
In summary, tulsi seems beneficial in helping ward off cancer, but we need more studies to determine its effects in people.
Reduces Stress and Supports a Healthy Brain
Stress is damaging to all aspects of health and accelerates aging. Tulsi’s claim to fame is that it helps people chill out, so to speak. Research shows this is true because it helps with adrenal health.
For example, most clinical studies shows that tulsi reduces stress and anxiety levels compared to placebo. By helping with stress, tulsi also likely helps people sleep better. This is especially true when using higher doses of tulsi supplements are used compared to low doses.
In summary, holy basil for anxiety is helpful for many people and holy basil for sleep is also likely effective when combined with other healthy lifestyle factors like exercise, whole foods, and meditation.
Tulsi may improve health and healing of bone tissue by increasing bone uptake of minerals like calcium.
For example, a small study found that using tulsi extract of 2.5 grams every 6 hours increased healing time of bone fractures of the mandible compared to controls and also reduced time to normal movement of the jaw.
By increasing nutrients in the diet and reducing inflammation, holy basil may help improving the healing processes in the body.
Like many natural herbs, tulsi may help reduce inflammation, especially when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Many studies find that tulsi reduces inflammation compounds in the body because of its rich antioxidant content. By reducing inflammation, tulsi may help with conditions like arthritis, colitis, and just about every chronic health condition out there.
You can boost your antioxidant intake by using tulsi tinctures, teas, fresh tulsi, and supplements. Another great way to reduce stress and inflammation is CBD oil.
Safety and Dosing
A review paper of 24 clinical studies concluded that holy basil has no adverse effects and no side effects. However, there is a theoretical risk of increased risk of bleeding if you take holy basil with blood thinners. Avoid taking tulsi if you are currently on a blood thinner.
Studies typically use between 250 mg to 10 grams per day in capsule form or extract as tinctures.
Adding tulsi to your diet is a healthy way to support immune function, reduce stress, and may reduce inflammation, cancer, and diabetes as well. You can find great tulsi tinctures, teas, supplements, and essential oils to support your health and well-being.
Make sure to always consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your health routine.
The information on this site is provided as a research resource for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace, diagnose, or provide treatment. Make sure to consult with a qualified health care practitioner any time you make changes to your health routine. Consult your medical care provider before using any herbal medicine.