Tulsi Tea: an Indian Herb for Metabolic, Immune and Brain Function

Have you heard of Tulsi?


It’s a herb, also known as Holy Basil, indigenous to the Indian continent. You may have come across Tulsi tea or Holy Basil capsules in health food shops. It’s not something you’ll find on your average supermarket shelf!

It’s used in Ayurvedic medicine for its adaptogenic (rebalancing), antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and immune-regulating effects. It’s known as the “Elixir of Life” due to its healing powers. I’ve come across some interesting research about its broad-ranging health benefits, which I want to share!


Three types of Tulsi


  • Rama or Sri tulsi (green leaves)
  • Krishna or Shyama tulsi (purplish leaves
  • Vana or wild/forest tulsi (dark green leaves)

Each type has different benefits and properties.


Animal studies have found that the Tulsi leaf has potent pharmacological actions that include adaptogenic, metabolic, immune-modulating, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, liver-protective, radioprotective, antimicrobial, and antidiabetic effects.



Research on humans


A recent systematic review of clinical trials looked at the health benefits of Tulsi on healthy and non-healthy individuals (individuals with viral infections, psychological stress, diabetes and metabolic syndrome) and found that Tulsi has metabolic, immune and cognitive benefits.

These studies used either Tulsi juice (the juice from the leaf) or dried leaf capsules.

In subjects with metabolic syndrome (i.e. those with an increased risk of heart disease due to increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels), benefits include:

  • Reduced blood sugar levels
  • Improved BMI (Body Mass Index)
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Reduced fasting blood sugar levels
  • Improved HbA1c levels (a marker for type 2 diabetes)

All of these benefits reduce the risk of heart disease!

In subjects with viral infections, benefits include:

  • Reduced fatigue
  • Increased anti-inflammatory immune messengers (important for fighting infections and inflammation)

In subjects with poor cognitive function, benefits include:

  • Increased attention and cognitive flexibility
  • Improved working memory (speed of short-term memory)
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced anxiety and depression


The only adverse effect reported in one trial was mild nausea.

More research on humans and Tulsi are needed to understand specific dosages and formulations needed for the different health effects.

You can drink Tulsi tea (Pukka do a Three Tulsi tea which is very delicious!). Or you can buy capsules of dried Holy Basil, the dosage is often 400mg per capsule, taken 1-3 times per day (similar to the dosage used in these trials).

I would recommend trying the Tulsi tea to start with, as this would be a lower concentration. The taste is difficult to describe. I would say it has a basil/peppermint taste to it – very refreshing and pleasant! It’s definitely worth a try! 

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Jamshidi N, Cohen MM. 2017. The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. doi: 10.1155/2017/9217567