Botanical Name: Ocimum sanctum| Family: Lamiaceae

Common name(s): Holy Basil, Tulsi, Sacred Basil


  • Herbaceous | Zones 10-11 | 20″ tall | Green and red leaves | Purple flower bracts beginning in mid-summer
  • Full sun / some shade | Rich, moist soil | Avoid excessive heat/dryness


Grown as an annual in colder zones. Native to India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, southern China, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Can be direct sown after the last frost or started indoors 6 weeks before planting. Seeds need light for germination and do best when the temperature reaches 65-70°F. Plant at a 1/4 depth and tamp the soil above them. Transplant starts 6″ between plants and 18″ between rows.


Pick leaves throughout the growing season. Leave some plants to flower and wait until the flower bracts start to turn brown to harvest seeds for next year’s plants.


Tea: 1 tsp dried leaf to 8 oz hot water; steep, covered (preserves the volatile oils), 5-10 minutes. Drink 4 oz. up to 3x/day.

Tincture: 1:5 or 1:2. 40-60 drops, up to 3x/day.

External: juice the leaves and apply to stings/bites, cancer sores, and skin diseases, or use as ear drops for infections.

Cautions: Avoid during pregnancy or if trying to get pregnant (may be harmful to embryos and may have an infertility effect). Check with your doctor if on any drugs (it might speed up the elimination of some medications—CYP-450 activity).


Constituents: essential oils (including eugenol, methyl chavicol, methyl eugenol, caryophyllene, carvacol, and linalool), flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin), triterpenes (ursolic acid)

Actions: Adaptogen, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue, immunomodulator, tonic

Uses: ADD/ADHD, allergies/asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, memory/brain fog, respiratory infection, stress. Externally for bites and stings. Neuroprotective and radioprotective.


  • Pungent, sweet, warm


I first planted holy basil from a 4-variety seed pack I got at Strictly Medicinal Seeds. I planted the seeds directly into the soil and was disappointed when none of them germinated. Or so I thought. I eventually discovered, as it grew, that one little plant did take root. And every year I save its seeds for the next year, filling my garden beds with its fragrant medicine. I’m not sure which variety is the one that appeared. I don’t really need to know any more than it is the variety that wanted to stay with me, and it loves it in my garden. And I love it.

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