Sweet Basil Leaves on Wood

Basil vs. Holy Basil: The Differences, Health Benefits, & More

Basil leaves on wooden background

A common question we receive is, “What is the difference between basil and holy basil?”

Many people don’t realize that there are over 150 varieties of basil. When we think of basil, most of us think of Genovese and sweet basil, which are frequent stars in Italian cooking. 

However, holy basil is another favorite herb for its unique flavor, culinary uses, and medicinal properties. Both basil and holy basil are members of the mint family and have strong aromatics.

Today, we’re sharing a breakdown of the differences between basil and holy basil, their health benefits, and other applications for these wonderful herbs. 

Holy Basil

Holy basil, also known as Tulsi, is traditionally used for mental stimulation, relaxation, and enhancing deep meditation and spiritual awakening. It has a spicy, sharp, herbaceous, minty, and sweet scent profile. 

Regarding taste, many say holy basil has a pungent, warm, and sweet taste with flavor notes of cloves, lemon, peppermint, and licorice. Compared to traditional basil used in cooking, holy basil has a much stronger, peppery flavor. Some even refer to it as “hot basil” in food because of its punchy, intense flavor. 

Holy Basil’s Health Benefits

Holy basil has so many health benefits that we’d be here all day if we tried to touch on every purported health benefit! 

Here are some of the most notable research studies on holy basil’s (tulsi’s) health benefits: 

  • Enhanced Aerobic Metabolism: Studies have shown that tulsi improved swimming time, enhanced aerobic metabolism, improved stress responses, and reduced oxidating tissue damage in swimming lab animals. 
  • Anti-inflammatory Activity: Tulsi contains a light yellow oil with anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that this oil is effective against arthritis and joint edema. It was also helpful in bovine mastitis, an inflammatory disorder that occurs from a staphylococcal infection. 
  • Supports Mental Health and Stress Responses: Many studies have shown that tulsi has anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects. One study even concluded that tulsi might be a valuable treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder in humans. Another human study found that tulsi reduced anxiety, stress, and depression over a six-week, double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled study. The participants in this study also reported improved overall stress levels, sleep, and cognitive function. 
  • Protection Against Infections. Tulsi has long been used to enhance immune responses. Research today has backed this claim by showing that tulsi boosts the body’s defense against infective threats in healthy humans. 

Interested in trying holy basil? Try these holy basil remedies: 

  • Tulsi (Holy Basil) Essential Oil: This sharp-scented essential oil is great for diffusing to promote greater mental alertness or to balance and relax the mind after a long day. A highly versatile essential oil with a strong, minty scent that many enjoy! 
  • Tulsi Leaf Tea (Holy Basil): This tea is made from certified organic holy basil and supports purification and invigoration of the mind and body. Holy basil has a much stronger taste than traditional basil, so this is a punchy tea! 
  • Creative Expression: Looking to boost your artistic ability, perceptional awareness, and creativity? Our Creative Expression essence supports sharpened senses, including taste and smell, allowing your inner creativity to flourish. It may also balance the electrolytes in the body. Simply add three drops, three times daily, to your water to support increased sensitivity and creativity. 
  • Magic Tulsi Tea: Our Magic Tulsi Tea combines holy basil, ginger root, apple, orange, cinnamon, anise, and more to promote increased immunity to help protect you from cases of flu, colds, headaches, fevers, and more. This a great caffeine-free option for those who enjoy a sweet, peppery tea and want to support their immune system. 
  • Adapto-Gen Capsules: The Adapto-Gen Capsules blend contains everything needed to support healthy stamina, energy, and stress responses. Tulsi promotes a sharpened mind, while herbs like Ashwagandha and Schisandra may enhance the body’s ability to combat stress while supporting healthy adrenal function.  

Interested in learning more about adaptogenic herbs for stress? Read our previous piece on the topic here. 


Basil is a wildly popular herb in many dishes because of its sweet, warm, slightly minty, and peppery flavor. It has a sharp, sweet, peppery, and anise-like scent profile. 

Basil essential oil can be used to promote better dream recall, sharpened senses, and deeper meditations. Like holy basil, it helps hone one’s senses. However, basil is a much softer scent and may be more soothing for those looking to support their digestion, refresh their environment, or calm their mind. 

Basil Health Benefits

  • May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels. A 2019 study found that sweet basil extract may lower high blood sugar levels, making it a potentially helpful herb for people with diabetes. 
  • Protecting the Skin Against Aging: A 2011 research study shared that sweet basil may protect the skin from the effects of aging. Researchers applied basil extract to laboratory models of skin, and the skin showed improved hydration and lessened wrinkling and roughness. 
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Sweet basil extract has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects in patients struggling with obesity and chronic inflammation. These effects may also support improved digestion.

Try these incredible basil products: 

  • Sweet Basil Essential Oil: Sweet Basil Essential Oil is incredibly versatile. We recommend diffusing this in the car to keep your mind calm but alert. You can also use it to refresh your home or promote increased presence and clarity during a work project. After eating a heavy meal, you may even find rubbing two to three drops (mixed with a carrier oil) on your belly soothing. 
  • Calm Digestion Capsules: This formula is ideal for supporting people experiencing acid indigestion due to poor diet or mild cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Basil helps support neutralized stomach acids, while slippery elm coats and soothes the digestive system. 
  • Sweet Basil Leaf: No cook’s spice cabinet is complete without delicious Sweet Basil Leaf! Perfect for nearly any savory dish, including soups, meats, stews, pizza, and vegetables. An easy way to add basil to your day-to-day routine! 
  • Strawberry Basil Rooibos Tea: This refreshing, light tea is a great way to add basil leaves to your daily routine. Sure to leave your taste buds delighted! 

We hope today’s article cleared any confusion about the differences between holy basil and traditional sweet basil. Both have so many incredible benefits! 

Well Wishes, 

Natalie & Leilah

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