The Health Benefits of Tulsi

Tulsi tea bags, tea leaf, powder, capsules, and tincture

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak 

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Closely related to culinary basil, tulsi (Ocimum sanctum, a.k.a. holy basil) is a medicinal herb used in Ayurveda that is native to India and Southeast Asia. Tulsi is considered an adaptogenic herb, meaning it can help adapt the body to stress and boost energy. In alternative medicine, tulsi is typically used for anxiety, stress, and fatigue, and may be used in herbal formulations to help treat asthmabronchitiscolds, and the flu.

Tulsi is available in capsules, tinctures, powders, and as an herbal tea.

Health Benefits

Tulsi contains a number of beneficial compounds including:

  • Eugenol: A terpene with pain-relieving properties
  • Ursolic and rosmarinic acid: Compounds with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties
  • Apigenin: A flavonoid that helps the body removes waste at the cellular level
  • Lutein: An antioxidant carotenoid important for eye health
  • Ocimumosides A and B: Compounds that reduce stress and balance the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine

To date, very few studies have looked at tulsi's effects on human health. It's too soon to recommend tulsi as a treatment for any condition, but here's a look at what benefits preliminary research suggests that the herb may offer.


As an adaptogen, research suggests tulsi may relieve anxiety and improve moods. Several animal and laboratory have shown its effectiveness, but few clinical trials have been done.

In a 2008 study of 35 adults with generalized anxiety disorder, researchers found that taking tulsi in capsule form twice daily for 60 days significantly reduced levels of anxiety. Subjects also reported feeling lower levels of stress and depression.

A 2015 placebo-controlled trial of healthy adults found tulsi may ease stress and improve cognitive functions like reaction time.

High Cholesterol

Tulsi may help keep cholesterol in check, according to a 2006 study on rabbits. Although the study showed that tulsi had significant cholesterol-lowering and antioxidant effects, results also found the herb had no effect on diabetes.

An earlier study, however, found tulsi lowered blood sugar in rats.

The results of animal studies cannot be reliably translated to humans. More research is needed to determine the efficacy of tulsi.

Metabolic Syndrome

A 2017 literature review published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found tulsi shows promise in preventing a treating lifestyle-related chronic diseases, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and psychological stress.

The review of 24 studies that reported on the therapeutic effects of tulsi on metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, immunity, and neurocognition found favorable clinical outcomes without any significant side effects. The researchers note, however, that more studies are needed to clarify the beneficial dosage for different populations.

Possible Side Effects

Like other supplements, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of tulsi due to a lack of research.

This applies to all individuals, including pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. Of particular note for some of these groups:

  • Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should not take tulsi as it may affect reproductive capacity, possibly due to its ursolic acid content.
  • Tulsi may lower blood sugar and should be used with caution in people who have diabetes and are on blood-sugar-lowering medication.

Tulsi contains eugenol, a substance also found in the essential oil of cloves and balsam of Peru. While small amounts of eugenol may actually prevent toxin-induced damage to the liver, greater amounts of eugenol may cause liver damage, nausea, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, or convulsions.

Keep in mind that not all supplements have been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. 

It's important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using tulsi for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

Tulsi herb

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

The various forms of tulsi are sold in health-food stores and online. Products may be labeled by any of the names this herb goes by (tulsi, holy basil, or Ocimum sanctum), so keep that it mind if you are looking for it but can't immediately find it.

Tulsi is often sold in combination with other herbs and spices and can be found in herbal tea blends promoting stress relief and energy. The herb itself is caffeine-free, but it may be combined with other tea leaves that contain caffeine. If you are watching your caffeine intake, check labels to be sure that what you choose is free of caffeine.

If you choose to use this supplement, look for a product with a seal of approval from a third-party organization that provides quality testing, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia,, and NSF International. A seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product's safety or effectiveness, but it does provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.

Common Questions

What other herbs are commonly combined with tulsi?
Tulsi is often found in preparations that contain other adaptogens, such as ashwagandha, astragalus root, Siberian ginseng, and turmeric, which work synergistically to provide optimal benefits.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bhattacharyya D, Sur TK, Jana U, Debnath PK. Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Nepal Medical College Journal. 2008;10(3):176-9. pmid: 19253862

  2. Sampath S, Mahapatra SC, Padhi MM, Sharma R, Talwar A. Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) leaf extract enhances specific cognitive parameters in healthy adult volunteers: A placebo controlled study. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2015;59(1):69-77. pmid: 26571987

  3. Gupta S, Mediratta PK, Singh S, Sharma KK, Shukla R. Antidiabetic, antihypercholesterolaemic and antioxidant effect of Ocimum sanctum (Linn) seed oil. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology. 2006;44(4):300-4. pmid: 16629372

  4. Jamshidi N, Cohen MM. The clinical efficacy and safety of tulsi in humans: a systematic review of the literature. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:9217567. doi: 10.1155/2017/9217567.

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