Throughout this report, we will refer to the herb Ocimum sanctum as holy basil (or HB) and if the source was from India we may call it Tulsi. Holy basil is not to be confused with sweet culinary basil (Ocimum basilicum).
Familiar Name: Holy Basil, Sacred Basil
– Latin: Ocimum Sanctum (“sacred fragrant lipped basil”). More recently this species has become known by the name Ocimum Tenuiflorum (“basil with small flowers”) or Ocumum gratissimum (“very grateful basil”).
– Botanical Family: Lamiaceae (mint)
– Hindi: Tulsi
– Sanskrit: Tulasi
Ocimum sanctum is one of roughly 60 species of the genus Ocimum, the basil genus, which consists of aromatic herbs and shrubs indigenous to the tropical regions of Asia, and the Americas. Ocimum sanctum is little known in the Western world but wildly cultivated in India.
At least three types of Tulsi are encountered within cultivation; the green-leafed (Sri or Rama Tulsi) is the most common; the second type (Krishna Tulsi) bears dark green-to-purple leaves; a third type is a forest variety (Vana Tulsi) that often grows wild.
Holy basil has for thousands of years been revered and used in Ayurvedic systems of medicine and is a well-known sacred plant of the Indian subcontinent. Holy basil has largely been overlooked in the West, despite being one of the most esteemed botanicals in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurveda is a system of healing that has its roots in ancient India. Ayur means “life” and Veda “knowledge.” The knowledge contained in Ayurveda deals with the nature and purpose of life and includes health and disease.
Medicinal, religious, and culinary use of holy basil has been documented for centuries in Asia, China, the Middle East, North Africa, and Australia. After the herb was introduced in Europe from the Orient it became known to Christians as sacred or holy basil.