Tulsi, an Ayurvedic herb widely used in therapeutic herbal tea/tisane and true tea blends, may be called tulasi, holy basil, "The Incomparable One," "Elixir of Life," or "Queen of the Herbs." Native to India and cultivated throughout Southeast Asia, it's considered a foundational herb that, combined with other adaptogenic herbs, can help the body withstand many forms of stress.
- Origin: Indian subcontinent
- Alternative Names: Elixir of Life, Queen of the Herbs, holy basil
- Caffeine: None, though often combined with black, green, or white tea leaves
What Is Tulsi Tea?
The tulsi plant (Ocimum sanctum or Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a member of the mint family closely related to culinary basil (Ocimum basilicum), but it is differentiated by its medicinal properties and some physical characteristics. It's been harvested for use in Ayurvedic treatments for 5,000 years and has a strong aroma and a flavor that can range from peppery to astringent. It's often combined with black, green, or white tea leaves or in an herbal blend with other health-promoting ingredients such as turmeric and ginger.
6 Health Benefits of Tulsi Tea:
Tulsi has been used for centuries to cure symptoms of various diseases and ailments, but its power as an adaptogen gets the most notice in modern times. Some scientific studies have shown its efficacy as an anti-inflammatory, anxiety treatment, and antioxidant , although no large-scale formal research has been undertaken in the United States.
Combats Respiratory Ailments
Tulsi may relieve symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, colds, congestion, coughs, flu, sinusitis, sore throat, and similar ailments. To clear your sinuses, inhale the steam from a fresh cup of tea before you drink it.
Lowers Blood Pressure and Reduces Stress
Regular consumption of tulsi may lower blood pressure and cholesterol by regulating cortisol levels, reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other related diseases. It can also help relieve headaches and may lessen anxiety and depression for some. Regular consumption may lead to better sleep.
Treats Gastrointestinal Disorders
Tulsi can be used to treat indigestion, intestinal parasites, ulcers, vomiting, gastric disorders, and stomach or menstrual cramps. It may also reduce pain from kidney stones and could help prevent them.
Tulsi tea may help reduce inflammation and relieve the joint pain associated with arthritis.
Regulates Blood Sugar
Drinking tulsi tea can help maintain stable blood sugar levels. It may also improve metabolism and promote the efficient processing of carbohydrates and fats.
Tulsi may kill damaging bacteria in the mouth, resulting in cleaner teeth and fresher breath. It can also alleviate acne, slow the effects of aging, and relieve the itch or sting of bug bites.
Alternative medicine practitioners use tulsi as a powerful adaptogenic herb (an herb that reduces stress and increases energy). It may also reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, work as an anti-inflammatory, and promote detoxification. It can modulate the immune system and protect the liver from environmental toxins. In the United States, tulsi is most commonly found packaged for use as an herbal. In Asia, cooks often add fresh holy basil leaves to stir-fries or soups.
How to Drink Tulsi Tea
One easy way to consume tulsi is to brew an herbal tea or an herbal infusion. To make tulsi tea, boil 1 cup of filtered water and pour it over 1 teaspoon of fresh tulsi leaves, 1/2 teaspoon of dried tulsi leaves, or 1/3 teaspoon of tulsi powder. Cover the water in a pot or mug and let it steep for 20 minutes (or longer, if you want to maximize the health benefits). Then strain the leaves, add honey if desired, and enjoy.
Caffeine Content in Tulsi Tea
Tulsi tea is caffeine free and can be safely consumed up to six times a day. However, tea producers often combine tulsi with black, green, or white tea leaves, so check the package carefully if you want to avoid caffeine.
Buying and Storing
You can buy loose dry tulsi at natural food stores, from specialty tea retailers, or online. It's also available as the main ingredient in a selection of packaged herbal teas or as a powdered drink mix. Store dried tulsi in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry location such as your pantry or a cupboard and use it within a year of purchase for the greatest health benefits. It's also an easy plant to grow in pots at home; most Indian households have multiple tulsi plants.
Types of Tulsi Tea
There are three main types of tulsi plants:
- Rama Tulsi (also known as green leaf tulsi): A green tulsi with light purple flowers and an aromatic, clovelike scent (thanks to its chemical component of eugenol, which is the main aroma in cloves) and mellower flavor.
- Krishna Tulsi (also known as Shyama Tulsi or purple leaf tulsi): A purple plant with a clovelike aroma and peppery flavor.
- Vana Tulsi (or wild leaf tulsi): A bright, light green tulsi plant that grows wild and is indigenous to many areas of Asia; it has a more lemony aroma and flavor.
Of the three types of tulsi, Krishna tulsi is often considered to be the most beneficial to health, followed closely by Rama tulsi. Vana tulsi has less potency, but it is sometimes blended with other types of tulsi for a more pleasing flavor.
Tulsi may decrease fertility in men and women, so anyone hoping to conceive should refrain from consuming large quantities of tulsi. It's also recommended that women avoid tulsi while breastfeeding. Some people experience nausea or diarrhea when they first add tulsi tea to their diet, so it's best to start with small quantities and increase your consumption over time. Tulsi may also slow blood clotting, so doctors generally tell patients to avoid it for at least two weeks before and after any surgery.
Tulsi may interfere with pharmaceutical drugs, so it's best to confer with your doctor if you're being treated with medications for any chronic or acute condition before you start using it.
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Yamani HA, Pang EC, Mantri N, Deighton MA. Antimicrobial Activity of Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) Essential Oil and Their Major Constituents against Three Species of Bacteria. Front Microbiol. 2016;7:681. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00681