Ocimum sanctum, know commonly as tulsi, is also known as "holy basil" or "sacred basil". This plant is often grown in Hindu homes for its medical and spiritual properties.

Hands holding basil stem, partial view
credit: Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Woman holding Tulsi in hands

History

Basil
credit: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
Type of basil detail

Tulsi has been used in India, China and the Middle East for thousands of years. It became known as "sacred" or "holy basil" after it was introduced to European Christians.

Identification

Close up of ingredients in a plate, Kerala ayurveda
credit: Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Variety of asian herbs on tray

There are three different strains of tulsi. Rama tulsi has green leaves, Krishna tulsi has purple leaves, and the third, Vana tulsi, is a wild variety. There is a great deal of variety in the size and coloring of these plants depending upon geography, rainfall and plant type.

Benefits

Man sitting in janu sirsasana position
credit: Getty Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Man stretching on mat

Tulsi is used in Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogen. Claims have been made that the herb helps people adapt to stress and is used to restore balance within bodily systems. Tulsi has been used to treat colds, stomach problems, and headaches, among other uses. It is usually ingested as a tea or dried powder.