Skip to main content

Ocimum tenuiflorum is closely related to culinary basil (Ocimum basilicum), but differs in being a short-lived perennial with smaller flowers. Commonly known as holy basil or tulsi and tulasi in South Asia, it is an important sacred plant in Hinduism and, as with many plant species used in Asia, the religious uses are often linked with the medicinal uses. Historically, holy basil was frequently grown in large vessels in the courtyards of Hindu forts and temples to cleanse the body. One of the plant's synonyms, Ocimum sanctum, reflects this religious connection.

[FTEA]

Lamiaceae (Labiatae), A.J. Paton, G. Bramley, O. Ryding, R.M. Polhill, Y.B. Harvey, M. Iwarsson, F. Willis, P.B. Phillipson, K. Balkwill, C.W. Lukhoba, D.F. Otieno, & R.M. Harley. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2009

Type
Lectotype, see Paton, loc. cit. (1992): cultivated in Sweden, Uppsala, Linnean Herbarium 749.13 (LINN!, lecto.)
Habit
Aromatic herb or woody herb to 1 m tall
Stem
Stems erect, branched, woody at base; indumentum of patent hairs
Leaves
Leaves petiolate; blade broadly elliptical, 1.5–3.3 × 1.1–2 cm, serrate, apex obtuse, base cuneate, with an indumentum of short, appressed hairs; petiole 7–15 mm long
Inflorescences
Inflorescence lax; pedicels in fruit 3–4 mm long, spreading
Calyx
Calyx 1(–3 in fruit) mm long; throat open and glabrous
Corolla
Corolla pink or white, 3 mm long; tube ± parallel-sided
Stamens
Posterior stamens ciliate, cilia concentrated on one side of the filament near base
Fruits
Nutlets brown, ovoid, ± 1 mm long, producing small amounts of mucilage when wet.
Ecology
Degraded bushland; 20 m
Conservation
Least concern (LC); widespread
Distribution
Range: Cultivated in Tanzania and probably throughout East Africa, native in India and Malaysia. Used for making tea Flora districts: K7

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Holy basil is an important medicinal and religious plant closely related to the basil we use for cooking.

Ocimum tenuiflorum is closely related to culinary basil (Ocimum basilicum), but differs in being a short-lived perennial with smaller flowers. Commonly known as holy basil or tulsi and tulasi in South Asia, it is an important sacred plant in Hinduism and, as with many plant species used in Asia, the religious uses are often linked with the medicinal uses. Historically, holy basil was frequently grown in large vessels in the courtyards of Hindu forts and temples to cleanse the body. One of the plant's synonyms, Ocimum sanctum, reflects this religious connection.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Native to tropical and subtropical Asia, and cultivated and naturalised in other tropical areas.

Description

Holy basil is an aromatic, perennial herb up to 1 m tall, sometimes purplish in colour. The leaves are elliptic (narrow oval) in shape. The fruits have four small brown nutlets, which, unlike basil, do not produce a lot of mucilage when wet.

Uses

Regarded as sacred in Hinduism, Ocimum tenuiflorum has many traditional medicinal uses. A mixture of leaves and seeds, with black pepper ( Piper nigrum ) is given to pregnant women suffering from malaria. Fresh flowers are used to treat coughs and colds. The plant has shown promise in clinical trials in alleviating hepatic dysfunction, and is an ingredient of pills and ointment to cure eczema. The essential oil from some populations of holy basil contains high levels of eugenol. In traditional Thai medicine, the leaf or whole plant is used to alleviate nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and flatulence. Alcohol extracts from the plant heal peptic ulcers.

The leaf extract is effective in checking the spread of the fungal pathogens Pyricularia oryzae and Rhizoctonia solani , which cause blast disease and sheath blight disease of rice. Antibacterial activity and deterrent against the larvae of root knot nematode ( Meloidogyne incognita ) have been reported, and the oil is a mosquito repellent.

Ocimum tenuiflorum is used as a major flavouring ingredient in Thai cuisine. Because it is regarded as sacred in Hinduism, it is used to make rosaries - the woody stems are used to make the beads.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank:  One

Germination testing: Successful

Cultivation

A native of South Asia, it can be grown in pots in the UK, but is not frost-hardy.

Ecology
Cultivated
Conservation
Least Concern
Hazards

Applications to the skin can cause reactions in sensitive people.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Naturalizada y adventicia en Colombia; Alt. 0 - 1500 m.; Islas Caribeñas, Llanura del Caribe, Pacífico, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Valle del Cauca, Valle del Magdalena.
Habit
Hierba, subarbusto
Conservation
No Evaluada

>

[KSP]
Use
Food, medicinal.

Native to:

Andaman Is., Assam, Bangladesh, Borneo, Cambodia, China South-Central, China Southeast, East Himalaya, Hainan, India, Jawa, Laos, Lesser Sunda Is., Malaya, Maluku, Marianas, Myanmar, Nepal, New Guinea, Nicobar Is., Pakistan, Philippines, Queensland, Solomon Is., South China Sea, Sri Lanka, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Taiwan, Thailand, Vanuatu, Vietnam, West Himalaya

Introduced into:

Bahamas, Cayman Is., Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Kenya, Malawi, Niue, Samoa, Society Is., Southwest Caribbean, Tokelau-Manihiki, Trinidad-Tobago, Venezuela, Windward Is., Zambia

English
Holy basil

Ocimum tenuiflorum L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
May 1, 2000 Matamin Rumutom [337], Malaysia K000897273
Jan 1, 1999 Powell, D.A. [XI1351], Australia K000897253
Jan 1, 1999 Powell, D.A. [XI1351], Australia K000897252
Jan 1, 1999 Bloembergen, S. [3224], Indonesia K000897264
Jul 1, 1997 Andau, D. [19], Malaysia K000897275
Jul 1, 1997 Tadong, D. [137], Malaysia K000897279
Jul 1, 1997 Tadong, D. [277], Malaysia K000897277
Jul 1, 1997 Tadong, D. [570], Malaysia K000897276
Jul 1, 1997 Tadong, L. [80], Malaysia K000897278
Jan 1, 1994 Luke, W.R.Q. [3840], Kenya K000434797
Aug 24, 1989 Mamit, J.D. [34564], Malaysia K000897270
Nov 18, 1988 Harini [075], Indonesia K000897291
Carr, C.E. [11605], Papua New Guinea K000897213
Keith, H.G. [7394], Malaysia K000897285
Keith, H.G. [1611], Malaysia K000897283
Haviland, G.D. [3051], Malaysia K000897281
Burbidge, F.W. [s.n.], Philippines K000897241
Loher, A. [4222], Philippines K000897240
Loher, A. [4221], Philippines K000897237
Loher, A. [4220], Philippines K000897234
Koorders, S.H. [27453], Indonesia K000897293
Koorders, S.H. [26206], Indonesia K000897292
Vidal, S. [3480], Philippines K000897227
Wiakabu, J. [LAE73562], Papua New Guinea K000897211
Hellwig, F. [94], Papua New Guinea K000897212
Eyma, P.J. [1748], Indonesia K000897259
Buwalda, P. [4051], Indonesia K000897262
Buwalda, P. [4976], Indonesia K000897261
Horsfield, T. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897288
Meyer, A.B. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897258
Meyer, A.B. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897254
Creagh, C.M.G. [s.n.], Malaysia K000897280
Lütjeharms, W.J. [4922], Indonesia K000897289
Fraser, M. [254], Malaysia K000897284
Fraser, M. [223], Malaysia K000897272
Moseley, H.N. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897256
Moseley, H.N. [s.n.], Philippines K000897236
Pleyte, D.R. [150], Indonesia K000897260
Aet [525], Indonesia K000897215
Taylor, P.M. [507], Indonesia K000897251
Goklin, T. [2552], Malaysia K000897282
Wallich, N. [s.n.] K000911680 Unknown type material
Reynoso, E. [1463], Philippines K000897229
Conklin, H.C. [37857], Philippines K000897230
Savinierre, E. de la [340], Indonesia K000897255
Branderhorst, B. [50], Indonesia K000897214
Usteri, P.A. [2820], Philippines K000897233
Wallace, A.R. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897257
Jones, B.L. [472], Malaysia K000897274
Enoh, M. [382], Indonesia K000897271
Gaerlan, F. [3080], Philippines K000897228
Cuming, H. [1779], Philippines K000897238
Cuming, H. [2433], Indonesia K000897216
Wight [s.n.], India K000911681
Yii, P.C. [60625], Malaysia K000897269
Yii, P.C. [63290], Malaysia K000897268
Yii, P.C. [62838], Malaysia K000897267
Merrill, E.D. [400], Philippines K000897232
Teruya, Z. [1763], Indonesia K000897263
Gregory, V.B. [57], Philippines K000897231
Kadir [A929], Malaysia K000897286
Achmad [305], Indonesia K000897294
Ambri [1240], Indonesia K000897266
Ambri [1241], Indonesia K000897265
s.coll. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897290
s.coll. [3474], Philippines K000897235
Daernedi, D. [690], Indonesia K000897250
Teruya, E. [1658], Indonesia K000897287
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2717], India Ocimum hirsutum K001116921
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2717], India Ocimum hirsutum K001116922
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2717], India Ocimum hirsutum K001116923 Unknown type material
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2717] Ocimum hirsutum K001116924
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2717], India Ocimum hirsutum K001116925
Jan 1, 1964 Thomson, G. [68], Singapore Ocimum sanctum K000897338
India Ocimum sanctum 33715.000
Carrick, J. [1504], Malaysia Ocimum sanctum K000897340
Teo, L.E. [562], Malaysia Ocimum sanctum K000897341
Wallich, N. [Cat. no. 2716], Myanmar Ocimum sanctum K001116909
Yapp, R.H. [298], Malaysia Ocimum sanctum K000897339
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116910
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116911
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116912
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116913
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116914
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116915
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116916
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116917
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116918
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116919
s.coll. [Cat. no. 2716] Ocimum sanctum K001116920
Bally, P.R.O. [15966], Somalia Ocimum tomentosum 52044.000
Gilbert Ocimum tomentosum 60210.000

First published in Sp. Pl.: 597 (1753)

Accepted by

  • Balkrishna, A. (2018). Flora of Morni Hills (Research & Possibilities): 1-581. Divya Yoga Mandir Trust.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Bernal, R., Gradstein, R.S. & Celis, M. (eds.) (2016). Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia 1-2: 1-3068. Libro impreso.
  • Sykes, W.R. (2016). Flora of the Cook Islands: 1-973. National Tropical Botanical Garden, Hawaii.
  • Paton, A.J., Bramley, G., Ryding, O., Polhill, R.M., Harvey, Y.B., Iwarsson, M., Otieno, D., Balkwill, K., Phillipson, P.B., Harley, R.M. & Willis, F. (2013). Flora Zambesiaca 8(8): 1-346. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Manikandan, R., Chandrasekar, K. & Srivastava, S.K. (2012). Life form analysis of the family Lamiaceae in Jammu & Kashmir, India Phytotaxonomy 12: 7-19.
  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Paton, A.J., Bramley, G., Ryding, O., Polhill, R., Harvey, Y., Iwarsson, M., Willis, F., Phillipson, P., Balkwill, K., Lukhoba, C., Otiend, D & Harley (2009). Lamiaceae (Labiatae) Flora of Tropical East Africa: 1-430.
  • Khanam, M. & Hassan, M.A. (2008). Lamiaceae Flora of Bangladesh 58: 1-161. Bangladesh National Herbarium, Dhaka.
  • Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008). Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela: 1-859. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela.
  • National Parks Board Singapore (2006). Vascular Plant Life Checklist Pulau Ubin www.nparks.gov.sg/nparks_cms/cms/cmsmgr/data/6/PlantChkList.xls.
  • Suddee, S., Paton, A.J. & Parnell, J.A.N. (2005). Taxonomic Revision of the tribe Ocimeae Dumort (Lamiaceae) in continental South East Asia III. Ociminae Kew Bulletin 60: 3-75.
  • Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS: 1-216203. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Welsh, S.L. (1998). Flora Societensis: 1-420. E.P.S. Inc. Utah.
  • Smith, A.C. (1991). Flora Vitiensis Nova. A new flora for Fiji (Spermatophytes only) 5: 1-626. Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-Book: A Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses, 3rd Ed. Cambridge University Press.
  • National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (CSIR) (2003). The wealth of India: a dictionary of Indian raw materials and industrial products. First Supplement Series (Raw Materials), Vol. 4: J-Q. CSIR, New Delhi.
  • Promjit Saralamp, Wongsatit Chuakul, Rungravi Temsiririrkkul & Clayton, T. (1996). Medicinal Plants in Thailand Vol. 1. Dept. of Pharmaceutical Botany, Mahidol University, Bangkok.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • (2020). file:///C:/Users/rg02kg/Downloads/7790-19423-1-PB.pdf epublication.
  • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
  • Bernal, R., Gradstein, R.S. & Celis, M. (eds.) (2016). Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia 1-2: 1-3068. Libro impreso.
  • Sykes, W.R. (2016). Flora of the Cook Islands: 1-973. National Tropical Botanical Garden, Hawaii.
  • Paton, A.J., Bramley, G., Ryding, O., Polhill, R.M., Harvey, Y.B., Iwarsson, M., Otieno, D., Balkwill, K., Phillipson, P.B., Harley, R.M. & Willis, F. (2013). Flora Zambesiaca 8(8): 1-346. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Manikandan, R., Chandrasekar, K. & Srivastava, S.K. (2012). Life form analysis of the family Lamiaceae in Jammu & Kashmir, India Phytotaxonomy 12: 7-19.
  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Paton, A.J., Bramley, G., Ryding, O., Polhill, R., Harvey, Y., Iwarsson, M., Willis, F., Phillipson, P., Balkwill, K., Lukhoba, C., Otiend, D & Harley (2009). Lamiaceae (Labiatae) Flora of Tropical East Africa: 1-430.
  • Khanam, M. & Hassan, M.A. (2008). Lamiaceae Flora of Bangladesh 58: 1-161. Bangladesh National Herbarium, Dhaka.
  • Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008). Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela: 1-859. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela.
  • Welsh, S.L. (1998). Flora Societensis: 1-420. E.P.S. Inc. Utah.
  • Gonzalez, F., Nelson Diaz, J. & Lowry, P. (1995). Flora Illustrada de San Andrés y Providencia: 1-281. Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Colombia.
  • Sykes, W.R. (1970). Contributions to the flora of Niue Bulletin, New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research 200: 1-321.

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • K.B. 47: 432 (1992)
  • K.B. 47: 432 (1992).
  • Bull. Br. Mus. Nat. Hist. (Bot.)19: 113 (1989)
  • Sp. Pl.: 597 (1753)

Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0