Tulsi (Sacred Basil)

by Daisy


My master gardener training this year included sessions at the Memphis Botanic Gardens led by garden employees/experts. At the end of a tour of the new herb garden, the leader shared her favorite if-she-could-only-have-one herb: tulsi, or sacred basil.

Back home, with my copy of Horizon Herbs’ catalog, I wasn’t going to quibble with the president of the local herb society. I got some seeds and planted them, along with plain ol’ Genovese basil, lime, and anise basils, my favorites at the time.

Folks, I have a new favorite. I am smitten with tulsi. I don’t cook with it, i.e., put it in my marinara sauce, but I make tea with it every single day, sometimes all day long, and I don’t know where it has been all my life.

I don’t think I have had a conversation all summer of more than two minutes duration which hasn’t segued, awkwardly, into a proclamation of my adoration for tulsi. I kid you not, I toyed with the idea of giving a handful to the UPS man. I won’t drag you through my entire train of thought, but in the end I decided the chances were slim he had a teapot in his truck.

The deal:

The list of tulsi’s beneficial properties is long and impressive.  Tulsi is used for:

  • combating stress
  • lowering cholesterol and blood sugar
  • reducing the effects of radiation
  • reducing inflammation
  • fighting colds and flu
  • improving energy and endurance
  • promoting healthy skin, hair, teeth & gums

It has even been used to reduce the amount of fluoride in drinking water.

The flavor of the tea made with fresh herbs is mellow and floral, with caramel undertones. Great with or without milk. With the dried herb, the flavor is a bit different, but still very good.  It also comes in pill form, as an extract or tincture, and powdered.

To dry, I lay the branches out on screens until completely dried, then remove the biggest stems, put the leaves in glass jars and store them in the dark.

To make the fresh herb tea, I do it the way I described in this post, which is basically to make an herbal infusion.

The key to keeping this herb from going to seed is to use it; pick daily or almost daily. If you don’t want to use it right away, dry it or give it away. I have a friend from India who always appreciates a few sprigs. It is used in worship and also ayurvedic medicine in her culture.  To show how important it is to keep up with this plant, here is a pic of one of the plants I pick from constantly:


And here is a plant I let go.


Both were planted at the same time and given the same amount of water and the same kind of soil. I kind of forgot about the scraggly one and stopped picking from it for a while and it leaped at the opportunity to sail into maturity and go to seed.

In conclusion, please plant this herb, use it constantly, and share it with others.




Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Cinnamon Vogue October 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Daisy this looks lovely. Your plant certainly looks very healthy. Just bursting with life. I think you should give the UPS man some. 🙂

What I want to know what is the difference between normal Basil and Sacred Basil. Is the taste different? What dishes is it best for? I mix basil and parsley for the perfect toast oven Salmon. It really is quite good but not sure how I would use fresh Basil especially Tulsi. Guess I would have to chop it up into a fine paste.

Daisy October 21, 2013 at 8:02 pm

CV–There are some recipes for cooking with tulsi, but I only use it for tea. The flavor is distinctly different than “regular” basil and it makes such a wonderful tea I suppose I’ve stopped looking for other uses!
Your salmon sounds delicious.

KimH October 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

I read about Tulsi tea several years ago & I was asking a friend from Sri Lanka if he knew what it was.. He ran across some after that & brought me a box of it.. It was very good.. I’ll have to remember to plant some one of these days.. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about it.

DebbieM October 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

We’ve been drinking Tulsi since we first heard of it a couple of years ago. I tried to grow it from seed, but had no success! I will keep trying though because even wholesale from Frontier it costs $40 per pound! We use it with other herbs in tea…it really helps cut or soften the other herb’s stronger/herbaceous flavors….we LOVE it! Even just smelling the dried herb…it has a heavenly, buttery aroma!

Doreen October 23, 2013 at 10:47 am

Well I am fascinated and would love some of those seeds… I wish you were my neighbor. God’s grace, peace, light, and love to you. In Jesus’ service Doreen

Blanca Gonzalez October 23, 2013 at 11:00 am

Where can I get some seeds of tulsi (sacred basil) ?

Bonnie Toney October 23, 2013 at 11:42 am

My tulsi is purple. I make tea with it daily, but to me it has very little taste. I’m wondering if what I have really is tulsi. I just take 12 leaves off in the morning and pour boiling water over it. Sometimes it steeps for hours. Still no taste.

Daisy October 23, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Blanca Gonzalez–I get mine from Horizon Herbs: horizonherbs.com

Daisy October 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Bonnie Toney–Hm. I make it by the pot, about 6 cups, and for that I put what is essentially a bouquet of tulsi. 12 leaves might be enough for a single cup, but not for a whole teapot IMO. There is a variety of tulsi that’s purple. I have seeds for that kind for next spring, but I won’t be able to advise from personal experience until next year about the taste of the purple kind. Anyone?

Tess October 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm

UGH! We have this in our herb bed. My husband just loves the smell of it, but it nauseates me. The thing to know about holy basil (as it’s called around here) is that it will spread like wildfire.

Jane October 23, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Intriguing post and I’d love to try growing some next year and even by seed through the winter. Would you be willing to share some seeds? I love my tea and lately teh P&G brand is my all time favorite but I’m strting to play with tinctures and am interested in the holiopathic qualities f this little gem. Thanks for sharing.

Zone 4- Northern NY State-(near the Canadian border)

Daisy October 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Jane–I would, but–I couldn’t guarantee the purity because I grow several other basils nearby and I think they can cross. This is the first year I’ve grown tulsi, so after next year when I’ve seen what pops up from beneath this year’s crop I’ll be better able to say what happens. Which brings me to why I’ve ordered fresh seed already for next year because I don’t want to run the risk the basil that comes up from this year’s seed isn’t tulsi. I used Horizon Herbs. The only problem with them is they have too many tempting things and you end up getting more seeds than you bargained for.

Barbara June 10, 2014 at 7:54 am

Are Thai Basil and Tulsi the same thing??

Daisy June 10, 2014 at 8:52 am

Barbara–Actually, no, they are different plants. I love them both, though!

almas.nathoo August 17, 2016 at 12:50 pm

It is nice to know that someone is happy with Tulsi plant. In africa you find this plant easily not in canada. I would love to have few seeds if you don’t mind sharing. We are now living in sharing economey so we should help and be happy. If you think you can share some seeds I would love to have Tulsi in my garden too.
almas nathoo

Daisy August 17, 2016 at 1:08 pm

almas nathoo–Almas, go to our Facebook page and pm me your address.

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