Difference Between Tulsi and Basil

Main Difference – Tulsi vs Basil

Aromatic medicinal plants are primarily cultivated for the edible leaves, stems, barks, flowers or fruit components and they are essential flavoring and/or ayurvedic agents mainly used in South Asian countries. Tulsi and basil also belong to the aromatic medicinal group, and they share a similar taste profiles as well as features. As a result, tulsi is often referred to as basil or vice versa by the most of the consumers in the world. But tulsi and basil are two different plants; the botanical name of tulsi is Ocimum tenuiflorum whereas the botanical name of basil is Ocimum basilicum. Both tulsi and basil belong to the Lamiaceae family. The edible basil leaves are mainly used for culinary dishes whereas tulsi is mainly used as an indigenous medicinal ingredient. This is the main difference between tulsi and basil. Although, both tulsi and basil belong to the same family, tulsi and basil have different sensory properties as well as different applications and this article explores the difference between tulsi and basil.

What is Tulsi

Tulsi is an aromatic herbal plant, and its leaves are highly scented. It is native to the Indian subcontinent, and it is a blessed plant in Hindu beliefHindu people believe that it as an imaginable appearance of the goddess Tulsi, a wife of the god Vishnu. Therefore, Hindu people have tulsi plants growing in the center of the central courtyard. This plant is mainly cultivated for religious and Ayurvedic medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil extraction. It is believed strongly that tulsi has health beneficial effects against headaches, inflammation, common colds, malaria and heart disease. It is also important to prevent food poisoning.

Difference Between Tulsi and Basil

What is Basil

Basil is a culinary herb mainly used as a flavoring agent in various  types of dishes in the world. Although it is originated in India, basil is mainly used in the Italian cuisine. People in Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia also incorporate basil into their cooking. Leaves of basil have a pungent and strong taste.

Main Difference - Tulsi vs Basil

Difference Between Tulsi and Basil

Tulsi and basil may have substantially different properties and applications. These differences may include,

Scientific Name

Tulsi is known scientifically as Ocimum tenuiflorum.

Basil is known scientifically as Ocimum basilicum.

Alternative Names

Tulsi is also known as Holy basil, Tulasi.

Basil is also known as Sweet Basil, Saint Joseph’s Wort, Thai basil, mints.

Scientific Classification


  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Order: Lamiales
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Genus: Ocimum
  • Species: tenuiflorum


  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Order: Lamiales
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Genus: Ocimum
  • Species: basilicum

Religious Significance

Tulsi has a religious importance and significance. Tulsi is considered a very sacred plant for Hindu people. It is given to very sick or dying people so that they can go to the heaven after death. The legend stories describe tulsi as a manifestation of Sita because it is as a symbol of chastity and purity.

Basil does not have religious significance.

Tree Biology

Tulsi is an erect, many-branched bush, 30–60 cm (12–24 in) tall plant. Leaves have petioles and are oval-shaped, up to 5 cm long, frequently somewhat toothed. The flowers are purplish in color.

Basil grows between 30–130 cm tall, with opposite, light green, silky leaves 3–11 cm long and 1–6 cm broad. The flowers are small and white in color.

Health Effects

Tulsi is helpful for adapting to stress and supposed to promote long life. It is also used as remedies for a variety of illnesses in traditional medicine.

Basil has antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. It also has a potential for use in treating cancer, platelet aggregation, stress, asthma and diabetes mellitus.

Chemical Composition

Tulsi has a number of different chemical constituents such as oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, carvacrol, linalool and β-caryophyllene that contribute to flavor and aroma.

Basil has a number of different chemical constituents such as eugenol, methyl chavicol, camphene, licorice, citronellol, etc. that contribute to flavor and aroma.


Tulsi has following applications;

It is mainly used in religious events

The foliage of the tulsi plant is used in many food preparations. Raw leaves are used for juice preparation. It is also used in the preparation of herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf or sometimes mixed with ghee.  

  • It is used as a form of herbal
  • It has anti-bacterial properties and thus it is used as skin nourishing agent
  • It is also used as an insect or mosquito repellent (In Sri Lanka, tulsi is known as maduruthala which is used as a mosquito repellent)
  • Essential oil production

Basil is distinguished by its characteristic flavor. It is used for cooking various dishes and flavored tea production. It is added in the dishes only at the last minute because its flavor compounds are volatile and highly heat sensitive. Also, it is used to extract essential oil production. It is the key ingredients in the preparation of ‘pesto’ a tasty Italian sauce. Basil is mixed with milk in the preparation of ice creams like desserts.
Difference Between Tulsi and Basil - infographic

In conclusion, basil is an essential culinary ingredient whereas tulsi is a medicinal holy herb. But they are derived from two different plant species and the tulsi and basil are used for human consumption.



Deshpande, Aruna (2005). India: A Divine Destination. Crest Publishing House. p. 203. ISBN 81-242-0556-6.

Staples, George; Michael S. Kristiansen (1999). Ethnic Culinary Herbs. University of Hawaii Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-8248-2094-7.

Jeffrey B. Harborne; Herbert Baxter (2001). Chemical Dictionary of Economic Plants. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 68–. ISBN 978-0-471-49226-9.

Image Courtesy:

“Ocimum tenuiflorum2” by en:User:GourangaUK – (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

“BasilikumGenovesergroßblättriger” by Goldlocki – of my own work. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons

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