Tulsi Cultivation

Ocimum Gratissimum

The aromatic plants belonging to genus Ocimum is popularly known by Basil. The word Basil is derived from greek word “Basilica” means royal plant. Among the Ocimum genus Ocimum basilicum is variously known as Sweet basil, French basil or Common basil. Ocimum sanctum is known as Sacred basil or Holy basil which is a very sacred plant according to Hindu belief. These aromatic plants are native to Indian subcontinent and cultivated throughout Southeast Asian tropics. The essential oils from Ocimum genus find diverse uses in perfumery and cosmetic industries as well as indigenous systems of medicines. Basil is cultivated over an area of 25,000 ha in India and it accounts for annual

production of about 250- 300 Tons of oil. As the demand in aromatic industry is growing high, concerns are raising over the improved production and quality of raw materials used. Hence, we feel farmers shall take up Basil cultivation and increase the production by adopting the proper cultivation practices.

  • Name of the plant - Scientific name : Ocimum sanctum Linn ( Family : Lamiaceae / Labiatae )
  • Local name : Sacred basil / Holy basil ( English ), Tulsi ( Hindi, Gujarati, Sanskrit )
  • Part used for distillation - Whole herb at full bloom stage.


Characteristics of the plant :

Sacred basil or Holy basil, Ocimum sanctum Linn is a biennial or triennial shrub. The leaves of this plant on steam distillation yield a bright yellow colour volatile oil possessing a pleasant odour with an appreciable note of clove oil. The plant contains mainly phenols, aldehydes, tannins, saponin and fats. The essential oil major components are eugenol (71%), eugenol methyl ether (20%), carvacrol (3%) etc. The leaves are used as condiment in salads and other foods. O. sanctum is an erect, herbaceous, much-branched, softly hairy biennial or triennial, which grows to a height of 30-75 cm. Leaves are entire, serrate, pubescent on both sides, flowers purplish or crimson, in racemes, fruits are sub-globose or broadly ellipsoid, slightly compressed, nearly smooth, pale brown or reddish with small black markings.

Ocimums are important groups of aromatic and medicinal plants which yield many essential oils and aroma chemicals and find diverse uses in perfumery, cosmetic industries and also in indigenous systems of medicine. In view of great diversity, various species are classified into two broad groups, viz., basilicum and sanctum groups, In India two types of O. sanctum are under cultivation; the green type - Sri tulsi (Ram tulsi) is the most common; the second type, Krishna tulsi bears purple leaves and is preferred in the trade for its higher potency of drug.

Cultivation methods :

  • Soil condition : Sacred basil thrives well on a wide range of soils. Rich loam, poor laterite, saline and alkaline to moderately acidic soils are also well suited for its cultivation. Well drained soil helps in better vegetative growth. Water logged conditions can cause root-rot and results in stunted growth.
  • Climate : It flourishes well under fairly high rainfall and humid conditions. Long days and high temperatures have been found favorable for plant growth and oil production. It can grow up to an altitude of 900 m. The plant is moderately tolerant to drought and frost. The plant can be grown under partially shaded conditions but with low oil contents.
  • Propagation : Tulsi is propagated through seeds. Seeds will get deteriorated over generations, due to its high cross-pollination. Hence, for fresh plantings, the growers have to take fresh seeds from the pedigree stock.
  • Planting time : The nursery can be raised in the third week of February and transplanting is generally done in the middle of April.
  • Harvesting : The crop is to be harvested at full bloom stage to obtain maximum essential oil yield and better quality oil. The first harvest is obtained at 90-95 days of planting. Thereafter, it may be harvested at every 65-75 days interval. Harvesting should be done usually on bright sunny days for high and good quality oil. It is not desirable to harvest the crop if there was a rain in the previous day. The crop should be cut at 15-20 cm above the ground level.
  • Processing : The harvested produce may be allowed to wilt in the field itself for 4-5 hours so as to reduce the moisture and also the bulkiness. However, oil quality and its yield do not diminish up to 6-8 hours after harvest, but further delay may cause considerable loss in yield and quality of oil. Steam distillation is found to be superior to hydro distillation and hydro cum steam distillation. Distillation unit should be clean, rust free and free of any other odour. The oil obtained is then decanted and filtered. The distilled oil is treated with anhydrous sodium sulphate or common salt at the rate of 20 g per litre to remove the moisture. The oil should be stored in sealed amber coloured glass bottles or containers made of stainless steel, galvanised tanks, aluminium containers and stored in a cool and dry place. All processing activities should be recorded.
  • Expected yield : About 8 to 10 tones of fresh herbage per acre can be obtained by two to three harvests in a year. The oil yield varies with type, season and place of origin. Oil recovery ranging from 0.3 – 0.4%. Expenses is around Rs.6,000/acre. Present market rate ranging from Rs.600 to Rs.800.
  • Two varieties viz. Ocimum Sanctum- Krishna and Ocimum Gratissimum are under trial at our farm to check the economic viability in Maharashtra.

Ocimum Sanctum- KrishnaOcimum Sanctum- Krishna

Ocimum Gratissimum
Ocimum Gratissimum

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