Tulsi tea is made from the Ayurvedic herb tulsi or also called "holy basil." It is native to India where it is valued as an energizing beverage and sacred plant. Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is a distant cousin to "culinary basil" but is an entirely unique species with different medicinal properties.
Revered for its remarkable healing qualities, holy basil has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and is one of India's most cherished plants.
"The Hindu scriptures instruct us to look upon tulsi not as a mere plant, but as the divine representative of the God Vishnu or of Lord Krishna." Yash Rai
More frequently consumed in India than coffee, holy basil or tulsi tea is an energizing drink that is used in Ayurveda to treat lung and heart problems, digestive disorders, mental fog, colds, headaches and inflammation.
What Does Tulsi Tea Taste Like?
The flavor of tulsi is uniquely spiced, resembling a blend of mint, licorice and clove. The leaves of holy basil contain essential oils that contribute to the fragrance and refreshing flavor.
Tulsi tea is made from the leaves of the plant. The most traditional way to prepare it is to infuse the fresh leaf, dried leaf or powder in hot water much the same way you would the previously mentioned herbs.
It can be served as an iced tea or as a hot tea by itself or with other herbs and spices. In India it is also used in ghee or clarified butter. Further below we will share our tulsi tea recipe, but first let's discuss the health promoting elements of this renowned leafy herb.
The properties of holy basil or Ocimum sanctum are antiviral, adaptogenic, immune modulating and antibacterial, specifically working with the digestive, respiratory and nervous systems.
Tulsi is known as an adaptogen and contains many phyto-chemicals that act synergistically to promote the bodies natural defense mechanisms toward disease and stress.
Adaptogens help to counteract the negative effects of stress, support the body's natural immune response and help to normalize organ functions. Tulsi does this by nourishing the nervous system in much the same way that other triterpenoid containing adaptogens do, like ginseng, eleuthero and reishi.
Tulsi has a natural energizing effect on the body, although it contains no caffeine and is considered an herbal stimulant. Interestingly, when you brew the tea some varieties actually turn a dark brown color similar to that of coffee. Some say it is actually a good substitute for coffee or caffeinated teas for those trying to reduce their consumption.
Holy basil benefits as an adaptogen make it a powerful immune modulator, balancing and strengthening the immune response of the body in fighting antigens such as bacteria, viruses, microbes and allergens.
It can be taken to both assist and prevent upper respiratory viruses like colds or flus. It is an expectorant herb with a special affinity for the lungs and has been long used for bronchitis as well as pulmonary weakness.
Taken over a period of time it can have a beneficial effect on asthma and has also been shown to be helpful in relieving allergies and seasonal hay fever symptoms.
Tulsi tea contains a rich amount of bio-available antioxidants that help to boost the immune system and protect the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, shielding the cell structure from "germs" and other foreign invaders that threaten our health.
Holy basil has shown significant results as an anti-inflammatory in lab animal research. "Several experimental studies have confirmed its anti-inflammatory properties and its role in modulation of both cellular and humeral immunity. Recently its efficacy against inflammatory response, hepatic injury and gastric ulcer has been elucidated in animal studies." PubMed study
In the book "Beyond Aspirin, Nature's Answer to Arthritis, Cancer and Alzheimer's Disease", it states that holy basil contains the phytonutrient ursolic acid which has been shown to have potential anti-inflammatory activity due to its "significant COX-2 inhibitory effect."
Tulsi benefits also include many other antioxidant, anti-inflammatory compounds, such as eugenol, rosmarinic acid and apigenin, according to "Natural Cancer Cures: The Definitive Guide to Using Dietary Supplements to Fight and Prevent Cancer."
Ayurvedic physician Dr. Vasant Lad speaks of the plants effects on one's "energy field" and its traditionally viewed benefits as a "sattvic herb", helping to balance the chakra centers of the body. It is known in India to be very useful for achieving mental clarity and meditative states, working energetically with both the heart and the mind to bestow bhakti or "love and devotion." According to David Winston, author of "Adaptogens", it strengthens compassion, faith and clarity.
For this reason tulsi is similar to other tonics like reishi, shatavari and asparagus root for its ability to help bridge the heart-mind connection and is known to open one to greater feelings of love.
1) Rama Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) or the Indian name: Lakshmi tulasi - is the original version, widely cultivated around the world and is usually a short growing plant compared to other varieties.
2) Krishna Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) or the Indian name: Krishna tulasi - this kind of tulsi often has a purple-tinged leaf, stem and flower. It is stronger in flavor and is quite high in triterpene constituents.
3) Vana Tulsi (Ocimum gratissimum) - this is the native wild variety of tulsi that grows throughout India as well as parts of Asia and Africa. It is known to be particularly high in eugenol.
This tulsi tea recipe is particularly refreshing in the heat of summer as an iced cold beverage. It has a lovely fragrance and blends particularly well with the other herbs used.
Dried tulsi leaf or powder is widely available in bulk quantities or sold as prepackaged teas. We always use and support organic tulsi products for our own personal consumption. There are some companies, like Herb Pharm, that also offer holy basil as a tinctured concentrate for ease and therapeutic use.
The more you use and drink tulsi tea the more you will become
familiar with what herbs blend well with it. We personally like to
balance our herbal tea formulas
with a spice of some kind to help drive in the medicinal qualities of
the main herbs. In this case we used ginger, but other herbs like
cinnamon, long pepper, or cayenne, for example, also work. For more information on how to blend your herbs visit our herbal tea preparation page.
There is nothing quite like making tea from freshly picked tulsi leaves. We grow it in a pot placed by our front door as in Indian tradition. It is very easy to grow in most moderate climates around the world. If you have a vegetable or herb garden, this is a great plant to add so you have fresh leaves for your herbal brews.
Tulsi rama is an annual plant in Northern regions and looks and grows a lot like mint. This is the most common cultivated variety. It does well in 3-10 gallon pots or can be planted directly into a garden space for many years of tulsi leaf harvesting.