Progress in Essential Oils

Sacred Basil, or Tulsi Oil

Sacred basil, holy basil or tulsi (Ocimum tenuifolium L. [syn. O. sanctum L.]) is a perennial member of the Lamiaceae (Labiatae) family (Paton et al. (1999). It is an aromatic, erect, much-branched subshrub that can grow to a height of 30–60 cm. Like all Lamiaceae, O. tenuifolium possesses quadrangular (square) stems and opposite ovate to ellipticaloblong green or purplish leaves with serrated margins borne on relatively long petioles. It possesses white flowers which arise in whorls (arranged in circles) on the terminal apexes of the stems.

Ocimum tenuiflorum is native to the tropical regions of India and possibly Burma and Malaysia; however, it is widely cultivated. In India it has been known since the Vedic period (1,500–600 BC) and is held sacred (hence its name) by Hindus. It can be commonly found planted around Hindu temples and is used in religious rosaries (Das and Vasudevan, 2006). It is also used as a traditional medicinal plant by several ancient systems such as Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and even those of Greek and Roman medicine in which it is reported to have a wide range of therapeutic uses (Mondal et al., 2009). Ocimum tenuifolium oil is readily available in India, although only in levels of 1–2 metric tonnes annually.

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