This single ingredient Holy Basil Tea recipe has two funny things about it.
- It can also be called a Tulsi Tea Recipe.
- It’s not actually tea.
Holy Basil and Tulsi are the exact same plant with two very different common English-language names. These two names can be used interchangeably.
And this Holy Basil Tea is not really a tea. It’s an infusion. Calling it “Holy Basil tea” is technically inaccurate.
Tea will always and only come from a plant named, Camellia sinensis.
Any other herb-steeped hot water drink is really a tisane or an infusion. Not, tea.
Perhaps many non-botanists i.e. regular folk out there know this term, tisane, but I hadn’t.
However, with all this said and done, calling tisanes or hot water herbal infusions simply “herbal tea” is a common and accepted practice for most non-Camellia sinensis herbal infusions/tisanes.
So we can go on ahead and call this the non-technically accurate name. I’ll just use them all interchangeably while I decide if I’m going to stick with the correct terminologies or not.
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Tulsi Tea: A Tea Like No Other
Step aside matcha, there’s a new top tea in town. But it’s not new at all for those in the know. This aromatic, warm-weather herb that carries with it a substantial number of beneficial properties has been relied on historically for ages. Likely as far back as recorded history goes.
There are many reasons why you’d want to drink this tea every day. And the best part is that it’s an easy-to-make single-leaf tea that can be grown with ease if you’re in the right temperature zones. And if you’re in colder climates, you can grow it all year long indoors!
Learn more about Holy Basil, its beneficial properties, historical usages, and then finally, how to brew a Holy Basil Tea with our step-by-step guided recipe, which takes into account both dry and fresh leaf variations.
What Is Holy Basil (i.e Tulsi)?
Holy Basil or Ocimum tenuiflorum (O. sanctum) is a mint family (Lamiaceae) perennial herb grown and consumed for its wonderfully unique aroma and taste, as well as for its potent adaptogenic properties.
How it stands within the Plant Kingdom:
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Lamiales
- Family: Lamiaceae
- Genus: Ocimum
- Species: O. tenuiflorum
- Binomial name: Ocimum tenuiflorum
You’ll also see Holy Basil with the now-dated scientific name, Ocimum sanctum.
It’s not Ocimum basilicum (or Sweet Basil), the most common Basil variety in the U.S.
Holy Basil reaches 3 feet in height with relative ease if in ideal conditions. And depending on the type of Holy Basil it is, its leaves can be either green, red or purple.
The stems are hairy and bear simple toothed or entire leaves oppositely along the stem. – https://www.britannica.com/plant/holy-basil
Here’s the red leaf Holy Basil.
It spontaneously sprouted up in this palm tree’s pot and we left it.
Below is a green leaf Holy Basil plant.
The many names of Holy Basil
Although in India it’s most commonly referred to as “Tulsi” (तुलसी) in everyday language, there are many variations used within India and worldwide.
“Queen of Herbs” or “Jadi Bootiyon ki Rani” in Hindi, is another well-known name for Tulsi that shows its respected status within Indian herbal medical systems.
Some of the many names given to the Holy Basil plant:
- Tulsi (India)
- Holy Basil (United States)
- Sacred Basil (another English name)
- Albahaca Santa (Spanish)
- Kaprao (Thailand)
- Heiliges Basilikum (Germany)
- Basilico sacro (Italy)
- Basilic sacré, Basilic Saint (France)
- Sei-bajiru (Japan)
- Tulasi (Sanskrit derived named used in Hindu countries)
- “The Incomparable One” (within Ayurveda)
- “Mother Medicine of Nature” (within Ayurveda)
- “The Queen of Herbs” (within Ayurveda)
The different types of Holy Basil
- Rama Tulsi – This one is the Holy Basil with green leaves.
- Krishna Tulsi – Purple leaf Holy Basil *this recipe uses this one.
- Amrita Tulsi
- Vana Tulsi (Ocimum gratissimum) – A separate wild species.
Holy Basil Tea’s History
It is said to come from India, parts of Africa and Taiwan, amongst other locations: (7)
Holy basil is native to India and parts of northern and eastern Africa, Hainan Island, and Taiwan, and grows wild throughout India and up to an altitude of 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) in the Himalayas. In China, it occurs in dry, sandy areas of Hainan and Sichuan, as well as in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Holy basil is cultivated in Southeast Asia and also grows abundantly in Australia, West Africa, and some Arab countries.Herbal Gram
Its main cited original location is north central India, where Ayurveda is the predominant medicine practiced. Its significant religious and medical importance makes it more than just a culinary herb throughout all of India.
Holy Basil has only recently become well known all over the world.
But it has always been a cornerstone of Ayurvedic practice.
Holy Basil today grows in tropical climates worldwide.
Most Hindu homes or households in India will have a Holy Basil growing right outside their door. (8)
Each part of the Tulsi plant, including the soil it grows in, is considered holy. If you go to India, you will find Holy Basil growing around Hindu temples and sacred locations like personal home shrines. Caring for one daily is believed to lead one to salvation. Within Indian mythology, it symbolizes purity and is called an earthly manifestation of the Hindu goddess, Tulasi.
The name Holy Basil may be used in the west as a way to convey the Tulsi plant’s sacredness in Hindu tradition.
Names vary greatly depending on the culture using it, so many refer to the scientific name, Ocimum tenuiflorum (O. sanctum), for a common ground when searching to buy a live Holy Basil plant online or at a nursery.
Most Prominent Medical Systems Utilizing Holy Basil (After Ayurveda):
- Siddha Medicine – A traditional medical system from Southern India.
- Unani Medicine – Perso-Arabic traditional medical system.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine – A well known adaptogen in TCM.
- Western Herbalism – It’s been incorporated for its well-known beneficial qualities.
10 Holy Basil Health Benefits
In India, Holy Basil is revered as an elixir of life that is “without equal for both its medicinal and spiritual properties.” (1)
It’s used as a body tonic to assist the mind, body and spirit in many ways unknown to western medicine.
Modern science is now just starting to verify Ayurvedic practices and their claimed health benefits.
And this is certainly the case with Holy Basil.
A traditional Ayurveda belief is that holy basil improves overall immunity when taken on an empty stomach**.. Researchers verified this idea in a small study. The results showed improved immune system benchmarks, including an increase in the levels of T cells. T cells are a type of blood cell that fights infections.Web MD
10 Traditionally Cited Health Benefits from Drinking Holy Basil (Supported By Research)
- Mental health support – Adaptogenic properties calm the mind, help fight stress, are anti-depressant, plus many more psychological benefits. (1)
- Improves sleep quality – especially in adults dealing with constant high-stress. (2)
- Antiinflammatory – Civsilineol, Civsimavatine , Isothymonin, Apigenin, Rosavinic acid and Eugenol compounds isolated from Holy Basil extract all showed anti-inflammatory activity comparable to ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. (13)
- Respiratory health support (3) – Traditionally used for respiratory conditions. (3)
- Immunomodulatory effect – Drink on an empty stomach for Ayurvedic immune support. (3)
- Liver antioxidant (4)
- Heart health – Besides it helpful vitamin K, it’s demonstrated blood-pressure lowering effects. (1)
- Blood sugar regulation – Helps keep blood sugar levels in control. (5)
- Oral and dental health – It’s a natural oral disinfectant that makes a great herbal mouthwash. (11)
- Gastroprotective – Its leaf extract has been shown to be very effective against peptic ulcers. (12)
These are just some of the top attributed benefits. There are many other notable beneficial properties. These range from wound-healing to anthelmintic, antimicrobial and anti-diabetic properties. (12)
Beyond spiritual importance, Holy Basil holds significant medicinal value because of the fact that it is a plant adaptogen loaded with beneficial bioactive compounds.
If you’re dealing with stress or anxiety, and as a result have to deal with a chronic illness, Holy Basil tea is a good tea for you.
Adaptogen plants help both body and mind to cope with stress.
Adaptogens are herbs, roots and other plant substances (like mushrooms) that help our bodies manage stress and restore balance after a stressful situation. People take adaptogens as herbal supplements in capsule form, drink them in teas or in a powder added to soups, smoothies and other foods.UCLA Health
Apart from its adaptogenic qualities, there’s a whole new list of therapeutic properties attributed to the bioactive compounds within Holy Basil.
“The most commonly used part of the tulsi plant is the leaf (dried or fresh), which is known to contain several bioactive compounds including eugenol, ursolic acid, β-caryophyllene, linalool, and 1,8-cineole. Eugenol has been found to be the major bioactive metabolite common to all three tulsi varieties with varying amounts in each cultivarJamshidi and Cohen (2017) – The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans
Between the two, the adaptogenic properties and the bioactive compounds, you have a powerhouse of an herb in Holy Basil.
For inflammatory disorders, mental health, immune support, and so much more, Holy Basil is not an herb to overlook.
If you have systemic inflammation or sleep issues preventing your natural healing, a Holy Basil infusion should be considered.
In fact, it’s an herbal tea to start drinking every single day (I personally do this).
The Ayurvedic tradition of consuming tulsi on a daily basis may be an effective lifestyle measure to address many modern chronic diseases.Jamshidi and Cohen (2017) – The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans
How To Make Holy Basil Tea, With Step-By-Step Instructions
Below are the directions on how to make this herbal tea either with fresh or dried leaves.
- 4 cups or 1 liter of water: Our 16 cm (1.5L) saucepan holds around 6 cups of water.
- Fresh Holy Basil Leaves: 12-24 teaspoons of fresh leaves.
- Dried Holy Basil Leaves: 4-8 teaspoons of dried leaves.
- Optional: fresh ginger, fresh mint leaves, buckwheat honey
- Heat source to boil the water. You’ll only need to simmer it.
- Saucepan (or any pot that boils your water). For this recipe we use a 16 inch saucepan that holds up to 6 cups of water.
- Cup to pour and drink your holy basil infusion out of.
Step 1. Attaining & Preparing the Leaves
For Fresh leaves – unless it’s just rained, rinse off your leaves and them bruise them as this extracts more of the good stuff for your tea, prior to adding them in the simmering water.
For Dried leaves – Make sure you’ve attained organic Holy Basil leaves if you have not dried the leaves yourself. You’ll want to measure out about a teaspoon of leaves per cup.
Step 2. Boiling the water
Some herbs are too delicate for boiling water, but Holy Basil is not one of them.
Bring the water up to a light boil.
Anywhere from 200-212°F or 93-100°C.
Step 3. Infusing the Holy Basil leaves
Add your leaves to the boiling water, and let it boil for 5 minutes.
Then bring it down to a simmer for another 5 minutes.
After this total of 10 minutes are over, remove it from your heat source as it’s ready to serve.
Letting it sit in the water will further extract its compounds.
It’s ready to drink at this point, however, to increase its strength and potency, you can let the leaves steep in the water for another 5 or 10 minutes at this point.
Step 4. Adding Flavor (Optional)
If you’re adding flavor, this is the time to do it.
All of the following go great with Holy Basil:
- Freshly chopped and smashed ginger has a great synergy with Holy Basil.
- As does fresh mint
- Manuka or Buckwheat honey
- Fresh lime or lemon juice
Step 5. Strain and Serve
Next, just use a strainer when pouring into your tea cup and it’s ready to enjoy.
Enjoy your cup of holy basil tea hot or cold, day or night.
It can be incorporated into your daily routines.
On the Amount of holy basil leaves to use
How many leaves you put in will depend on their size and moisture content. When leaves dry, weight and size goes down, while flavors concentrate.
You have to be careful with the dried leaf herbal infusions or you’ll end up with a bitter, unpalatable tea. Add leaves more liberally when they’re fresh.
Number of leaves to use for this Holy Basil Tea recipe made with 4 cups of water in a 16 inch saucepan.
You need to use around 3x more leaves if you’re using fresh Holy Basil because the flavor is not concentrated.
4-8 teaspoons of dried leaves would call for 12 to 24 teaspoons of fresh leaves.
Number of leaves per teaspoon:
Fresh leaves in a single teaspoon can be anywhere from 5 to 10 leaves. Their size can vary greatly.
So 12 teaspoons of fresh Holy Basil leaves could be anywhere from 60 to 120 fresh leaves.
With dried leaves, a single teaspoon will hold a bit more, so like 10-15 dried leaves per 1 teaspoon.
So 4 teaspoons of dried leaves will be anywhere from 40 to 60 dried leaves.
How many leaves you put in will ultimately come down to taste, fresh or dried.
These are general guidelines to get you started.
You’ll know when you’ve taken it too far, as it will become bitter.
Anything before the point of bitterness should be purely preference.
You can make them extremely light and drink as a Holy Basil-water if you let it cool down.
Use Organic Holy Basil Leaves
Unless it’s labeled organic, grown by you or someone you know, it’s probably tainted with pesticide.
If you let it boil down as if you’re making an extract, stop it before it gets too low and your cup will have all the visible volatile oils on top. I’ll have to get a picture of this up on here! It will still be drinkable too.
However, you only need 10 minutes for the best tasting Holy Basil infusion.
Holy Basil Tea Recipe (Using Fresh or Dried Tulsi Leaves) PDF
- 1 Saucepan Or Borosilicate Glass Pot to boil water in.
- 1 Teapot
- 1 Heat source Any source of heat to get a light-boil going.
- 4 cups water
- 24 tsp fresh leaves If using dried leaves, use 4-8 tsp.
- Step 1. Preparing the fresh Holy Basil leaves: Rinse off leaves and bruise them first.If using purchased dried leaves, make sure they're organic. Use around 1 teaspoon of dried leaves per cup.
- Step 2. Boiling the water:Bring the water up to a light boil.Anywhere from 200-212°F or 93-100°C.
- Step 3. Infusing the Holy Basil leaves:Get the lightest boil going, then place the leaves in and leave them for 5 minutes.Bring it down to a simmer for another 5 minutes.It's ready to strain (if you choose to strain), or you can let the Tulsi steep in the water for another 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how hot you like your teas.Letting it steep longer will increase its strength.
- Step 4. Adding Flavor (Optional):All are good choices that combine well with Holy Basil's taste.– Freshly chopped and smashed ginger– Fresh mint– Manuka or Buckwheat honey– Freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
- Step 5. Strain and Serve:Strain the Tulsi leaves out if you choose to do so, and enjoy your wonderful adaptogenic infusion!
- Enjoy it as a daily medicinal drink
- Test out how many leaves you like to use. You’ll know when you’ve gone too far.
- Some don’t boil. I find it gets me a bit more flavor if I let it simmer a while or boil. You can experiment with this as well!
- There’s no going wrong.
Drinking Holy Basil Tea: What’s It Taste Like?
If you’ve eaten, and enjoy the taste of Holy Basil, then you will love the tea.
If you like Thai food and enjoy the dish called Pad Krapow or “Phat kaphrao” (Thai Holy Basil Stir Fry), then you will love this Holy Basil infusion!
Holy Basil’s unique flavor comes from the large number of essential oils it contains.
Essential oils are mixtures of aromatic molecules. For the chemists: common groups are alcohols, terpenes, esteres, ketones and aldehydes. These molecules tend to be quite volatile, meaning they evaporate easily which is why they find their way to your nose.Food Crumbles
The Molecules That Make Holy Basil’s Essential Oil So Good
- Estragole – the main one
Phytochemical studies have shown that oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, carvacrol, linalool, and β-caryophyllene are some of the main chemical constituents of Tulsi. Tulsi also contains eugenol methyl ester, caryophyllene, terpinene-4-ol, (+)-δ-cadinene, 3-carene, α-humulene, citral, α-pinene, β-pinene, α-camphor, carvacrol, luteolin, methyl chavicol, limatrol, decyladehyde, cirsilineol, cirsimaritin, isothymusin, isothymonin, apigenin, and rosmarinic acidPrakash and Gupta, 2005
Popular variations of Holy Basil Tea or Tulsi Tea will include ginger or honey.
While this tea isn’t a fancy flavored tea or blend, it’s able to be enjoyed daily for years on end. Holy Basil possesses a distinct taste on its own due to its essential oils. These create what is a completely unique and unmatched herbal tea experience.
Fresh Holy Basil Leaf Tea Vs Dried Holy Basil Leaf Tea
A fresh leaf Holy Basil tea provides a pungent kick that’ll clear the sinuses, while the dried leaf version provides its own unique take on what a proper Holy Basil tea is. Both provide wonderful beneficial properties and the same, unique Holy Basil taste its aficionados are after.
Sipping on a fresh leaf Tulsi tea is reminiscent of biting open a fresh peppercorn ball.
This is due to the essential oils left un-evaporated from the drying process.
They say bitter is good and sweet is bad. Fresh Holy Basil tea should not be bitter, but its powerful flavor sits side-by-side it in the medicinally-good taste category (if one exists).
A dried leaf Holy Basil tea won’t give you this sensational experience, but it’s not far from it. Infusing dried Holy Basil leaves in hot water gives you the same signature Holy Basil taste, but with an Earthiness replacing the “spice.”
A dried Holy Basil leaf tea is still a potent adaptogenic tea. While you do miss out on some of the beneficial essential oils when you dry the leaves, drying medicinal herb leaves usually increases their bioavailability and potency. For this reason, when you brew a dried leaf Tulsi tea, you’ll need to use less leaves.
When making teas and hot water herbal infusions, we recommend 1:3 ratio for dry:fresh leaves.
The end result is a unique yet similar taste, either way you go with the leaves.
Both versions of Holy Basil tea will support your fight against stress in an enjoyable and flavorful way.
The ancients prominently used Holy Basil for a reason.
Whether it’s ancient concrete or old-world architecture that simply couldn’t be replicated today, or the various stone cut megaliths found worldwide, these should all hold as a form of validation to a past-held knowledge that’s either gone or being suppressed today.
Ancient wisdom is truly something to cherish and learn from. The field of medicine and medicinal herbs is another form of ancient knowledge we should continue to try to uncover.
This includes concepts and ideas not really considered yet in the west, like the use of Holy Basil tea for health and spiritual wellbeing. God gave us all herbs and plants to use as food, medicine and sustenance. It makes sense that they’d align with our bodies better medicinally than any synthetic medicine could.
Grow Your Own Holy Basil!
Holy Basil is easy to grow. If you have lots of sunshine and any temperatures around 70°F, then you can easily grow it. Anything below 60°F starts to be too cold for growing Holy Basil outside.
We’ve grown Holy Basil from seed with ease in two different regions of the world. One was a subtropical coast-town in the Oaxaca state of Mexico. The other was a similar subtropical region in northern Thailand.
Holy Basil is a special culinary herb.
If you like it, you may want to adopt Holy Basil Tea into your lifestyle. Many consume it daily, as this is often how it’s recommended to take.
In India, Holy Basil is called Tulsi after a Hindu goddess, Tulsi. Its worshipped spiritually, and in practice (cornerstone of Ayurveda).
This tea is as good as it is simple.
We hope you enjoy your future Holy Basil teas!
References and Resources
Below are all references and resources used to create this recipe blog post.
Scientific studies on the health benefits of Holy Basil:
(1) Truly a plant for all things. Learn more in this review: Cohen, M. M. (2014). Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 5(4), 251–259. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/
(2) 8 weeks supplementing Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) resulted in better sleep for stressed-out adults: Smith, J. (2022). Study on Holy Basil. Journal of Ayurvedic Studies, 24(2), 100-120. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9524226/
(3) Study on rats reveal how Holy Basil is good for asthma: Eftekhar, N., et al. (2019). “Immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of Ocimum basilicum leaves in rat model of asthma.” BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 19(1), 346. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6894265/
(4) A Holy Basil herbal supplement was shown to provide significant antioxidant activity and protection on liver damage for rats with induced injuries: Ponnusam et al. (2023). “Antioxidant Activity of Holy Basil in Liver Injury in Rats”. Ayurvedic. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4766851/
(5) Several studies around Holy Basil reviewed in regards to its medicinal usage: Jamshidi, N., & Cohen, M. M. (2017). The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2017/9217567/
(10) Several looks showing how great Holy Basil is for oral health, including a comparison between the efficacy of Holy Basil mouthwash and chlorhexidine mouthwash (an antibacterial mouthwash) finding them nearly equally as effective at halting plaque regrowth: Hosamane, M. et al. (2023). Evaluation of holy basil mouthwash as an adjunctive plaque control agent. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312674/
(11) Malik, K., et al. (2012). Ocimum Sanctum seeds as a natural superdisintegrant in fast melt tablets of nimesulide. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22783733/
(12) Pattanayak, P., Behera, P., Das, D., & Panda, S. K. (2010). Ocimum sanctum Linn. A reservoir plant for therapeutic applications: An overview. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249909/
(13) They isolated Holy Basil leaf and stem phenolic compounds to show clear anti-infammatory activity: Kelm, M. A., Nair, M. G., Strasburg, G. M., & DeWitt, D. L. (2000). Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine, 7(1), 7-13. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10782484/
Other blog articles and books used: