1. Family: Lamiaceae Martinov
    1. Genus: Ocimum L.
      1. Ocimum tenuiflorum L.

        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.

    [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.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

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

    Introduced Into:

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

    Common Names

    English
    Holy basil

    Ocimum tenuiflorum L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    May 1, 2000 Matamin Rumutom [337], Malaysia K000897273
    Jan 1, 1999 Powell, D.A. [XI1351], Australia K000897252
    Jan 1, 1999 Powell, D.A. [XI1351], Australia K000897253
    Jan 1, 1999 Bloembergen, S. [3224], Indonesia K000897264
    Jul 1, 1997 Andau, D. [19], Malaysia K000897275
    Jul 1, 1997 Tadong, D. [570], Malaysia K000897276
    Jul 1, 1997 Tadong, D. [277], Malaysia K000897277
    Jul 1, 1997 Tadong, L. [80], Malaysia K000897278
    Jul 1, 1997 Tadong, D. [137], Malaysia K000897279
    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
    Wiakabu, J. [LAE73562], Papua New Guinea K000897211
    Hellwig, F. [94], Papua New Guinea K000897212
    Carr, C.E. [11605], Papua New Guinea K000897213
    Branderhorst, B. [50], Indonesia K000897214
    Aet [525], Indonesia K000897215
    Cuming, H. [2433], Indonesia K000897216
    Vidal, S. [3480], Philippines K000897227
    Gaerlan, F. [3080], Philippines K000897228
    Reynoso, E. [1463], Philippines K000897229
    Conklin, H.C. [37857], Philippines K000897230
    Gregory, V.B. [57], Philippines K000897231
    Merrill, E.D. [400], Philippines K000897232
    Usteri, P.A. [2820], Philippines K000897233
    Loher, A. [4220], Philippines K000897234
    s.coll. [3474], Philippines K000897235
    Moseley, H.N. [s.n.], Philippines K000897236
    Loher, A. [4221], Philippines K000897237
    Cuming, H. [1779], Philippines K000897238
    Loher, A. [4222], Philippines K000897240
    Burbidge, F.W. [s.n.], Philippines K000897241
    Daernedi, D. [690], Indonesia K000897250
    Taylor, P.M. [507], Indonesia K000897251
    Meyer, A.B. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897254
    Savinierre, E. de la [340], Indonesia K000897255
    Moseley, H.N. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897256
    Wallace, A.R. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897257
    Meyer, A.B. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897258
    Eyma, P.J. [1748], Indonesia K000897259
    Pleyte, D.R. [150], Indonesia K000897260
    Buwalda, P. [4976], Indonesia K000897261
    Buwalda, P. [4051], Indonesia K000897262
    Teruya, Z. [1763], Indonesia K000897263
    Ambri [1241], Indonesia K000897265
    Ambri [1240], Indonesia K000897266
    Yii, P.C. [62838], Malaysia K000897267
    Yii, P.C. [63290], Malaysia K000897268
    Yii, P.C. [60625], Malaysia K000897269
    Enoh, M. [382], Indonesia K000897271
    Fraser, M. [223], Malaysia K000897272
    Jones, B.L. [472], Malaysia K000897274
    Creagh, C.M.G. [s.n.], Malaysia K000897280
    Wallich, N. [s.n.] K000911680 Unknown type material
    Haviland, G.D. [3051], Malaysia K000897281
    Wight [s.n.], India K000911681
    Goklin, T. [2552], Malaysia K000897282
    Keith, H.G. [1611], Malaysia K000897283
    Fraser, M. [254], Malaysia K000897284
    Keith, H.G. [7394], Malaysia K000897285
    Kadir [A929], Malaysia K000897286
    Teruya, E. [1658], Indonesia K000897287
    Horsfield, T. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897288
    Lütjeharms, W.J. [4922], Indonesia K000897289
    s.coll. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897290
    Koorders, S.H. [26206], Indonesia K000897292
    Koorders, S.H. [27453], Indonesia K000897293
    Achmad [305], Indonesia K000897294

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

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2016) Phytotaxa 250: 1-431
    • [2] Sykes, W.R. (2016) Flora of the Cook Islands . National Tropical Botanical Garden, Hawaii
    • [3] (2013) Flora Zambesiaca 8(8): 1-346. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [4] (2012) Phytotaxonomy 12: 7-19
    • [5] (2012) Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192
    • [6] (2009) Flora of Tropical East Africa
    • [7] (2008) Flora of Bangladesh 58: 1-161. Bangladesh National Herbarium, Dhaka
    • [8] Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008) Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela . Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela
    • [10] National Parks Board Singapore (2006) Vascular Plant Life Checklist Pulau Ubin . www.nparks.gov.sg/nparks_cms/cms/cmsmgr/data/6/PlantChkList.xls
    • [11] (2005) Kew Bulletin 60: 3-75
    • [12] Govaerts, R. (2003) World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [14] Welsh, S.L. (1998) Flora Societensis . E.P.S. Inc. Utah
    • [17] Smith, A.C. (1991) Flora Vitiensis Nova. A new flora for Fiji (Spermatophytes only) 5: 1-626. Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai

    Literature

    • [9] Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-Book: A Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses, 3rd Ed. Cambridge University Press.
    • [13] 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.
    • [15] Promjit Saralamp, Wongsatit Chuakul, Rungravi Temsiririrkkul & Clayton, T. (1996). Medicinal Plants in Thailand Vol. 1. Dept. of Pharmaceutical Botany, Mahidol University, Bangkok.
    • [16] Gonzalez, F., Nelson Diaz, J. & Lowry, P. (1995) Flora Illustrada de San Andrés y Providencia . Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Colombia
    • [18] (1970) Bulletin, New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research 200: 1-321

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
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