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Ocimum tenuiflorum - L.

Common Name Sacred Basil
Family Lamiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Naturalized in waste places or in settled areas and thickets[418 ].
Range E. Asia - China, Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, northern Australia.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Ocimum tenuiflorum Sacred Basil

Ocimum tenuiflorum Sacred Basil
Public Domain


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Ocimum tenuiflorum or commonly known as Sacred Basil or Holy Basil is an aromatic, erect, and well-branched herb. Commonly grown in East Asia, it reaches a height of around 30 - 100 cm. It has purple flowers.The leaves are green or purple, ovate, long, and slightly toothed. It is eaten raw or cooked, added to salads, used as flavoring, or made into tea. The seeds can also be made into beverages. Sacred basil is an important herb in Ayurveda medicine and used particularly to treat fever, spasms, bacterial infections, inflammation, high blood sugar levels, colds, influenza, sinusitis, headaches, arthritis, rheumatism, etc. It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Dried leaves and essential oil from the plant is used as insect repellent.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Ocimum tenuiflorum is an evergreen Annual/Perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Geniosporum tenuiflorum (L.) Merr. Lumnitzera tenuiflora (L.) Spreng. Moschosma tenuiflorum (L.) Hey

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Seed
Edible Uses:

Leaves - raw or cooked[301 ]. Sweetly spicy, with a sharp, pronounced clove scent and pungency[301 ]. Used in salads, they can also be cooked as a potherb or used as a flavouring in a variety of dishes[301 ]. A refreshing tea can be made from the leaves[301 ]. Fresh flowers[301 ]. The mucilaginous seeds are made into a sweet, cooling beverage[301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Sacred basil is a very important herb in the Ayurvedic tradition[254 ]. A pungently aromatic, warming, antiseptic herb; it induces perspiration; lowers fevers; relaxes spasms; eases pain; clears bacterial infections; strengthens the immune and nervous systems; reduces inflammations; and benefits the digestive system[238 , 254 , 272 , 348 ]. Research has shown that the herb has the ability to lower blood sugar levels[254 ]. The essential oils from the leaf have shown antibacterial and antifungal activity. They contain methylchaviol, eugenol and other volatile, commercial oils[238 ]. The plant is used internally in the treatment of feverish illnesses (especially in children), colds, influenza, sinusitis, headaches, rheumatism, arthritis, digestive disorders, including abdominal distension and cramps; low libido and negativity[238 ]. It has been found helpful in some types of diabetes[254 ]. The herb is used externally as an antiseptic to treat skin infections, spots etc[238 , 348 ]. The juice of the plants is used to treat insect bites and ringworm[254 ]. The juice is dropped into the ear to treat earaches[348 ]. The leaves can be harvested during the growing season and used fresh or dried for later use[238 ]. The seeds are used as a tonic[238 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Other Uses The stems are cut into beads for rosaries[238 ]. The essential oil from the plant is used as an insect repellent[238 ]. Sacred Basil is constantly flowering, which attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects. Makes a good insect hedge.

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the moist to wet, lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range of 20 - 28°c but can tolerate 15 - 35°c[418 ]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 3,000mm, but tolerates 700 - 7,600mm[418 ]. Prefers moist but well-drained soil in a sunny position[302 ]. It prefers rich, light, well-drained to dry soil and a position in full sun[238 ]. It prefers a pH range of 6 - 7.5, tolerating 5 - 9[418 ]. Cool, humid, overcast weather causes the plants to succumb to grey mould[418 ]. The three main forms cultivated in India and Nepal are Ram tulsi (the most common type, with broad bright green leaves that are slightly sweet), the less common purplish green-leaved (Krishna or Shyam tulsi) and the common wild vana tulsi (e.g., Ocimum gratissimum also known as clove basil). The twigs can be harvested only one month after planting the young plants and thereafter at periods of every two weeks during the growing season[418 ]. The plant attains full bloom stage (maturity) 65 - 70 days after transplanting[418 ]. There are several named varieties[301 ]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is fleshy. Thick or swollen - fibrous or tap root [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed. Cuttings - easy

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Sacred Basil, Ajaka, Baranda, Basilic des moines, Basilic sacre, Bidai, Brinda, Bryanda, Gaggera, Hsiang tsai, Kala tulsi, Kamangi, Kaphrao, Katriin, Kom ko dong, Krishna tulasi, Loko-loko, Maeng-luk, Manjari, Mreah preu, Mreahs prow, Nalla tulasi, Parnasa, Patrapuspha, Ruku-ruku, Sacred balm, Saph'au, Sheng luo le, Sulasi, Suvasa tulasi, Tarp hao, Te marou, Thai basil, Trittavu, Tulasa, Tulasi chajadha, Tulsi, Tunrusi, achhaphun, albahaca morada, badroj, badrooj, bahumaniri, bana tulasi, basilic des moines, basilic à petites feuilles, bazsalikom levél, bhutaghn, bidai, brush-leaf-tea, daun lampes, folium ocimi sancti, garden balsam, green tulsi, helig basilika, holi basil, holy basil, holy basil leaf, holy basil, sacred basil|heen maduruthala, huong nhu t¡ia, im-khim-lam, jagu lu myah, kamangi, kamimebouki, kaphrao, kaprao, kemangi, kemangi laki, kemangi utan, kom ko dong, kra phrao, k???atulasi, lampas, lampes, loko-loko, manchi tulasi, manjericão-branco, monk's basil, nalla tulasi, ocimum sanctum, oku, peihan, persian, powdered holy basil leaf, pti basilic, raihan, rayhhan, rehan, reihan, rough basil, ruku-ruku, sacred balm, sacred basil, saling-kugon, saling-kugon ma, selaseh puteh, selasih, shree tulasi, solasi, sri tulasi, sulasi, surasa, surasa, sursa, tamole, thiru theezai, thiruthazhai, thulasi, tjlsi, tompanamma, toolsee, tulas, tulasa, tulashi, tulasi, tulasi (leaf), tulasi (seed), tulasi (whole plant), tulsi, vishnu tulasi.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Andamans, Africa, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Africa, East Timor, Ethiopia, Fiji, Hawaii, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Pacific, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, SE Asia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tasmania, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, USA, Vanuatu, Vietnam,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Ocimum tenuiflorum is considered an agricultural and environmental weed and is reported to be invasive to Cuba and weedy in Puerto Rico, India, Palawan (Philippines), Guam, and Malaysia [1-8].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Ocimum basilicumSweet Basil, Common Basil, Thai Basil, Tropical BasilPerennial0.5 9-11 FLMNM432
Ocimum minimumBush BasilAnnual0.3 9-11  LMNM432

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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