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Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea

Wikipedia: Ocimum_tenuiflorum | Teaviews: holy-basil-tea 
Updated: Mar. 30, 2014 

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Table of contents:
About Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea | Varieties of Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea | Best (Top-Rated) Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea

About Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea

A green tulsi plant against a dark background, showing opposite leavesA tulsi plant of the green-leafed variety. Photo by kamath_ln, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Tulsi tea, also called holy basil tea, is an herbal tea made from the tulsi or holy basil plant, Ocimum tenuiflorum, sometimes named Ocimum sanctum, a close relative of sweet basil.

Tulsi is important in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, and the plant also has spiritual significance in Hinduism. The leaf is used both as a seasoning and in herbal tea, both on its own and in blends.

Tulsi is usually classified into two varieties, Rama tulsi, which has green leaves, and Krishna Tulsi, with red or purple leaves. Each of these varieties is named for a Hindu avatar, Krishna, and Rama. Another variety of this species is also used as a seasoning in Thai food; this variety is called Thai holy basil or kha phrao (กะเพรา), and is not the same species as the usual "Thai basil" which is a variety of the sweet basil plant Ocimum basilicum.

A purple or red tulsi plantA tulsi plant of the red/purple-leafed variety. Public domain photo.
Yet another species of basil, African basil, Ocimum gratissimum, is sometimes called vana tulsi. Although sometimes described as a third variety of "holy basil" or "tulsi", Vana tulsi is more closely related to African basil and the (non-native) "wild" basil of Hawaii.

Tulsi is easy to grow and has requirements similar to sweet basil; it likes sun, and can be grown as a perennial in tropical climates and an annual in colder climates.

Medicinal uses and health benefits

Tulsi has been studied for a wide variety of health uses and purposes; although the research is young and some of it is not fully conclusive, there is evidence that the plant has a wide variety of potential health benefits. Many aspects of its traditional use in Ayurvedic medicine are starting to be validated by studies on rats and mice, and a few on humans. Herbalists classify tulsi as an adaptogen, an herb that is non-toxic and safe for general use, and that has a normalizing effect on physiology. There are, however, a few potential concerns with the use of this particular plant.

Molecular diagram of EugenolEugenol is one of the many active chemical constituents of Ocimum tenuiflorum. Eugenol is also present in cloves, which explains the clove-like aroma of tulsi leaf.
In vitro studies have found evidence that extract of the seed and leaf of tulsi has antiviral properties[1], and stimulates the immune system.[2] A study on rats found that it can protect against liver damage caused by a toxic chemical.[3] A study on mice found an extract of the herb inhibited the progression of breast cancer.[4] In vivo studies on lung cancer cells found that tulsi can induce cell death and suppress the growth of cancer cells.[5] A study on rabbits found that tulsi prevented damage caused by stress, partly due to its antioxidant content.[6]

Holy basil has been used to treat depression and anxiety. A recent human clinical study found that the plant extract had significant effects at treating both depression and generalized anxiety disorders.[7] The plant has also been found in studies on mice to have nootropic properties, aiding memory and preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.[8] There is also evidence from studies on rats that the plant can significantly lower blood sugar, both in normal and diabetic rats, justifying its traditional use for treating diabetes. An alcohol extract of holy basil was compared to the drug Tolbutamide, and showed about 70-90% of the same blood-sugar-lowering effect as this drug.[9]

Side effects, health risks, and cautions

A young tulsi plant growing in exposed soilThe purity of the soil in which tulsi is grown is important as the holy basil plant can absorb and concentrate chromium to harmful levels. Photo by Adityamadhav83, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Most of the potential side-effects of tulsi are not acute effects but rather, long-term points of caution that might not be immediately apparent to casual herbal tea drinkers. The Ocimum tenuiflorum plant is able to grow in areas with a high concentration of chromium, which would normally harm most plants; because it tolerates high levels of chromium, it can accumulate the metal in its leaves to potentially toxic levels.

Chromium can damage the liver and kidneys. Tulsi grown in polluted areas is thus not safe for human consumption.[10] You can avoid this problem by buying organic tulsi and being familiar with the source of the herb, or by growing your own herb in soil that you are familiar with.

When dealing with the pure plant itself, when contamination is not an issue, the main side-effect associated with tulsi is that it functions as a blood thinner. There is some evidence that tulsi can slow blood clotting, with an effect comparable to that of aspirin;[11] it should be used with caution in situations where slowed blood clotting could be harmful, such as before surgery or childbirth, or in people who are taking prescription blood thinning medications such as the drug Warfarin.

This effect is relatively common among other herbs; chamomile is another herb with similar properties.

References:

1. M. Shynu, M. Saini, B. Sharma, L.K. Gupta, P.K. Gupta, Ocimum tenuiflorum possesses antiviral activity against bovine herpes virus–1, Indian Journal of Virology, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2006.


2. M. Shynu, Gupta Praveen, Sharma Bhaskar, Saini Mohini, Immunomodulatory potential of Ocimum tenuiflorum extracts in bovine peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro, Journal of Immunology and Immunopathology Vol. 9, No. 1&2, 2007.


3. R.R. Chattopadhyay, S.K. Sarkar, S. Ganguly, C. Medda, T.K. Basu, Hepatoprotective activity of Ocimum sanctum leaf extract against paracetamol induced hepatic damage in rats, Indian Journal of Pharmacology, Vol. 24, No. 3, 1992.


4. Pratima Nangia-Makker, Larry Tait, Victor Hogan, Fred Miller and Avraham Raz, Inhibition of breast cancer progression by a medicinal herb Ocimum sanctum, Proceedings of the American Association of Cancer Research, Vol. 47, 2006.


5. Venkataraman Magesh et. al., Ocimum sanctum induces apoptosis in A549 lung cancer cells and suppresses the in vivo growth of lewis lung carcinoma cells, Phytotherapy Research, Vol. 23, No. 10, 2009.


6. J. Sethi, S. Singh, S. Sood, A. Talwar, S. Seth, Antistressor activity of Ocimum Sanctum (Tulsi) against experimentaly induced oxidative stress in rabbits, Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol, Vol. 29, No. 6, 2007.


7. D. Bhattacharyya et. al., Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Nepal Med Coll J., Sep. 2008, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 176-9.


8. Hanumanthachar Joshi, Milind Parle, Evaluation of nootropic potential of Ocimum sanctum Linn. in mice, Indian-J-Exp-Biol., Feb. 2006, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp.133-6.


9. RR. Chattopadhyay, Hypoglycemic effect of Ocimum sanctum leaf extract in normal and streptozotocin diabetic rats., Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, Vol. 31, No. 11, pp. 891-3, Nov. 1993.


10. Rai Vartika; Vajpayee Poornima; Shri Nath Singh; Mehrotra Shanta, Effect of chromium accumulation on photosynthetic pigments, oxidative stress defense system, nitrate reduction, proline level and eugenol content of Ocimum tenuiflorum L., Plant science, Vol. 167, No. 5, 2004.


11. Surender Singh, H. M. S. Rehan, D. K. Majumdar, Effect of Ocimum sanctum fixed oil on blood pressure, blood clotting time and pentobarbitone-induced sleeping time, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Vol. 78, No. 2-3, 2001.


Varieties, Kinds, or Types of Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea

Vana TulsiVana Tulsi

Best Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea

The notion of the "best" Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea is subjective, because different people have different tastes. We present the most often-rated and highest-rated teas in this category, and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

Most Often-Rated Teas

Picture of Original Tulsi Tea

Original Tulsi Tea

Brand:Organic India
Style:Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea
Region:India
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
Leaf:Teabag
43
7 Ratings
Picture of BH02: Holy Basil Purple Leaf

BH02: Holy Basil Purple Leaf

Brand:Upton Tea Imports
Style:Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea
Region:India
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
Leaf:Loose
98
5 Ratings
Picture of BH03: Wild Forest Holy Basil Organic

BH03: Wild Forest Holy Basil Organic

Brand:Upton Tea Imports
Style:Vana Tulsi
Region:India
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
2 Ratings
Picture of Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Brand:Shanti Tea
Style:Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea
Region:India
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
Leaf:Loose
2 Ratings
Picture of Holy Basil, Rama (Tulsi)

Holy Basil, Rama (Tulsi)

Brand:Mountain Rose Herbs
Style:Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea
Region:United States of America
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
Leaf:Loose
2 Ratings

Top-Rated Teas

Picture of BH02: Holy Basil Purple Leaf

BH02: Holy Basil Purple Leaf

Brand:Upton Tea Imports
Style:Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea
Region:India
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
Leaf:Loose
98
5 Ratings
Picture of Original Tulsi Tea

Original Tulsi Tea

Brand:Organic India
Style:Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea
Region:India
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
Leaf:Teabag
43
7 Ratings

Browse All Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea (20)Brands of Tulsi / Holy Basil Tea