Tukh Malanga/ Sabza (Sweet Basil Seed/ Ocimum basilicum)

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History, botanical characteristics

Tantalising Tukh-Malanga

By Zahrah Nasir


Tantalising Tukh-Malanga
Tantalising Tukh-Malanga
Tantalising Tukh-Malanga

Zahrah Nasir throws light on the history and botanical characteristics of sweet basil and provides useful information on growing the herb

This wonderful Urdu name of the plant rolls pleasantly around the mouth leaving a very intriguing after taste for those who have not actually got around to sampling the seed in question. Also known as naz boo, a second Urdu name for the same family of herbs, tukh-malanga is the seed of that all time favourite sweet basil, or basilicum ocimum to be botanically correct.

Traditionally, tukh-malanga seed sold in surprisingly large quantities, is soaked in water and then added to summer sherbets and faluda for its well known cooling effect. Not many people realise that the seed is the sweet basil which they repeatedly request the owners of regular seed stores to supply them with, often without any luck, in order to add this very versatile herb to their gardens!

Sweet basil, and just to stir the linguistic pot a little more, is not the tulsi which many people confuse it with. Tulsi, yet another Urdu name, is a perennial variety of basil, revered by Hindus who also call it sacred basil whilst sweet basil is an annual variety. Tulsi, to make the difference even more apparent, has rather tough, slightly hairy leaves and stems, the stems when cut into bead shapes and strung in to necklaces claim to protect the wearer from evil, but the leaves and stems of sweet basil are very soft and tender to the touch, so much so in fact that they must be handled lightly in order to avoid bruising and discolouration.

Back to tukh-malanga before I get side-tracked again, sweet basil is native to the subcontinent and Africa and it is a historical fact that Alexander the Great, something of a botanist when he wasn’t subjugating people and their countries, was so impressed by it that he sent samples of the plant and lots of seed back home to Greece where it quickly became established before moving on to Rome where the Italians still make full use of it in their delectable cuisine.

However, and this is the ‘twist’, for some unknown reason the Greeks came to associate basil with all manner of evil, though this, by the way, didn’t prevent them from using it as an ingredient in love potions, and some bright spark came up with the theory that unless you soundly, roundly and very nastily curse the seed when planting it then it won’t grow!

This tradition also spread to Italy and throughout the rest of Europe but I do not know if it is still practised as I have not been in the vicinity when basil sowing is in process. I most certainly do not curse my basil seeds during the planting process but talk to them rather nicely instead, but come to think of it, I may be mumbling, certainly thinking, “Germinate and grow up so I can cut you to pieces and eat you!” Logical isn't it?

Now that all of the above is out of the way I will tell you some more about tukh-malanga and its many uses. For a start, the seed has completely different uses than the actual plant and, as for those of you who are familiar with it will know, when soaked in water the seeds quickly develop a highly mucilaginous coating, an almost transparent, whitish, jelly-like substance which, along with the seed itself, is highly regarded for its cooling and tonic properties in locations as diverse as the Caribbean Islands, South and North America, Europe, China, Malaysia and, of course, the subcontinent where it is an ingredient of numerous herbal medicines.

Sweet basil, the entire plant not just the leaves, is considered to be a restorative herb which lowers fever, helps digestion, cures bacterial infections and gets rid of intestinal parasites. An extract of the plant is popular for the relief of colds and influenza, to relieve nausea, migraine, anxiety and exhaustion. A different preparation is used to clear up acne, treat insect bites, skin infections and even snake bites. The oil is in high demand in the perfume industry and is also added to dental hygiene products and fancy, high quality soaps. The leaves have so many culinary uses that one could devote an entire recipe book to the subject! Another interesting fact is that whilst the seeds are renowned for their cooling effect, the rest of the plant is directly opposite being ‘warming’ to the human system.

Having ploughed your way this far, perhaps you would like to know how to grow sweet basil for yourself and, this I guarantee is nowhere near as complicated as the previous discourse may lead you to believe! Basil, in all of its forms, is one of the easiest and most rewarding herbs to grow in your garden or in suitable containers on a balcony or patio. Soil need not be terribly rich but must be well drained as water-logging causes the plants, particularly young seedlings, to rot off at the point where the stems emerge from the soil. Basil needs sunshine and plenty of it but, it does tend to run to seed rapidly in the extremely high summer temperatures of places including Islamabad and Lahore.

I would suggest sowing the seeds of your selected variety, just under the surface of damp soil, during late February –- March in Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and all the places in-between; the same goes for Peshawar, though you can continue sowing seed until the end of April if a little shade is available in the heat of the day and this applies to Quetta too; in the cooler mountainous regions, one has to wait until the soil warms up at the end of April through to the end of May and even until late June.

Curb your patience please Karachiites as I am just getting to you and, despite what you may have read elsewhere, you have the best climate for growing basil of all as you can have fresh basil almost round the year. You can sow seed from the middle of August when the monsoons finish through to the end of October, and then start all over again from the beginning of February through to the end of April. Not bad eh!

A word of warning here, don’t get confused by the countless varieties of basil on sale be they green, big leaved, lettuce leaved, narrow leaved, small leaved, lemon flavoured, cinnamon scented, blue leaved or even that beautiful deep purple, pink flowered, ruffled leaved variety, they are all absolutely superb. Grow them all if you can but do keep in mind another Greek superstition -–– if you eat too much basil you just may turn in to a scorpion. Beat that one if you can!

Send your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Answers will appear in a future issue of 'The Review'.

Health benefits of 'tukh malanga'

Nutrition, digestion, constipation, acidity, body heat, stress

6 health benefits of 'tukh malanga' | Entertainment Desk | June 11, 2017| The Express Tribune

The importance of this nutrient-rich food, popularly known as tukh malanga.

Mix a handful with chilled faluda, limo pani, Rooh Afza or water, and it will surely keep you refreshed, rehydrated and refuelled.

Compiled from Beauty Glimpse, here is a list of six health benefits of basil seeds that we guarantee will attract you towards this long-forgotten food.

1. Packed with nutrition

Adding basil seeds to your regular diet will help regain all the lost carbohydrates, proteins, fats, sugar, dietary fibres, vitamins and minerals. Tukh malanga regulates your bodily functions and keeps you from a number of ailments.

2. Helps in digestion

Scientists have proven that basil seeds have excellent carminative effects because they contain a very high level of insoluble dietary fibres. They serve the purpose of a natural detoxifying agent, which cleanse out the entire gastrointestinal tract efficiently. As the stomach becomes toxin-free, the process of digestion turns easier and the chances of developing various digestive issues such as an upset stomach, cramps, indigestion and flatulence also go down.

3. Cures constipation

Being rich in insoluble dietary fibres, tukh malanga can reduce constipation to a great extent or even cure it completely. All you need to do is to soak a handful of the seeds in a glass of milk and drink it every night before going to bed. It will make bowel movements smoother, thereby relieving constipation.

4. Heals acidity and stomach burn

Such seeds are very soothing for our gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach. If you feel an acute burning sensation in your abdomen, you should consume some basil seeds. Give it one week and you will definitely see a difference!

5. Regulates body heat

When it comes to keeping our body cool during scorching summer days, tukh malanga can be a true rescuer. It has great cooling properties and is used as an effective body coolant. Just submerge a handful of fresh basil seeds in a glass of cold water and drink it after an hour or so.

6. Reduces stress

These seeds are one of the best natural stress busters. As mentioned earlier, they have wonderful calming effects on our body, which are to some extent similar to aromatherapy. Therefore, incorporating these seeds in your daily food actually means reduced stress levels, increased mental clarity, improved mental strength and uplifted mood.

A scientific summary

The following section consists of extracts from www.wjpps.com/download/article/1480494719.pdf

Kelvin Bucktowar, Mili Bucktowar, Luchmee Devi Bholoa | A REVIEW ON SWEET BASIL SEEDS: Ocimum basilicum |Vol 5, Issue 12, 2016 | World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

The complete, original article can be accessed at www.wjpps.com/download/article/1480494719.pdf

It has details such as ‘CULTIVARS of Ocimum basilicum,’ ‘NUTRITIONAL VALUES OF SWEET BASIL SEEDS,’ ‘DRUG INTERACTION WITH TUKMARIA,’ photographs, and references, which have been omitted here.

Corresponding Author: Dr. Kelvin Bucktowar, T.John College of Pharmacy, Gottigere, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore-560083, , India.


Sweet Basil Seeds are native to India [and Pakistan]. Sweet Basil (Tukmaria) initially originated from Asia and Africa. In approximately 350 BC, Sweet Basil was introduced to Greece by Alexander the Great. It reached to England through India and lastly it visited the US in the 1600s.Sweet Basil Seeds are a very versatile food. Sweet Basil Seeds (Ocimum basilicum belonging to the Family Lamiaceae) are sacred in many Asian countries such as India, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka due to their excellent nutritional properties. Moreover they are a famous ingredient used in Ayurvedic medicine in India. They are also used in many Asian dishes such as desserts and drink (‘falooda’).Tukmaria has been part of a balanced diet in many countries for years and ages. However it is almost unknown in many countries mainly in Europe, North America and South America. Even though these seeds are not famous, they are now being discovered and gaining popularity due to their ‘super qualities’ they possess.


Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Lamiales

Family: Lamiaceae

Genus: Ocimum

Species: O. basilicum


English :Basil seeds, Sweet Basil Seeds

French: Basilic Cultive

German: Basilien Krau

Hindi: Sabja Seeds, Sabza Seeds

Tamil: Thiruneetru Patchai Vithai, Sabja Vithai

Telugu: Sabja Ginjalu

Punjabi: Baburi

Kannada: Kama Kasturi

Malayalam: Tirunitru

Kashmiri: Hazbo

Marathi: Tulasa Biyane

Bengali: Tulasi Bija

Pakistani: Tukh malanga

Indonesian: Selasih

Other Names

Tukmaria Seeds, Tulsi Seeds, Falooda Seeds, Thai Basil Sabja Seeds, Manjarika, Bisya, vebudipatri(Telugu), Karandai, Dala, tukhmaria


Sweet basil is an annual plant.

Seed Colour: Totally black and teardrop shaped

Seed Appearance: Similar to poppy seeds

Seed Odour : Neutral

Plant Size: 20 to 50 cm tall

Blossoming Period: Late Summer

Seeds swell much faster than Chia seeds and to a larger size

Leaves: Broadly Oval with a peak and come in pairs up the stem. They are bright green, but purple-coloured versions exist.


It is usually the leaves and seeds that are used in herbal medicine, but sometimes all of the aerial parts of the herb are used. The herb is used when fresh because it loses much of its flavour when dried. The seeds are having ample of uses.


The plant is endemic to India [and Pakistan], the Middle East and some islands in the Pacific. It is widely grown in Thailand and India [and Pakistan]. Today it is grown in all parts of the world where there is a warm or temperate climate. The herb has been cultivated in the Mediterranean countries for thousands of years.


-Let the Sweet Basil flower bloom.

-Let it wither and turn dry.

-Tiny black seeds will be attached to the dried flower pods.

-Wait until the flowers are dried, then cut them out.

-Put them in a plastic bag and shake it.

-The seeds will be nicely collected in the bag.

Note: If some of the seeds do not detach from the flower, it means that they are not fully matured.


Sweet Basil Seeds are having many uses, nutritional facts and medicinal values and surprising health benefits.

1. Weight loss: It is used for weight management purposes. It is rich in fiber thus it makes your stomach full and don’t feel hungry to a certain period of time. After soaking into water, Sweet Basil Seeds have the capacity to expand to 30 times their original size making an excellent natural diet supplement

2. Hair Nourishment Sweet Basil seeds contain adequate amount of vitamin K, protein and iron. The latter are important to make your hair healthy and shiny.

3. Healthy skin Sweet Basil Seeds when used along with coconut oil is effective to eliminate many skin related diseases.


-Take 100 ml of coconut oil and 1 teaspoon of crushed sweet basil seeds.

-Heat the mixture for 5 minutes.

-Strain and apply it over your skin to cure skin related problems like psoriasis, eczema.

4. Treatment of Acidity Sweet Basil Seeds are having cooling and soothing effects on the stomach. Rose petal jam also helps in treating stomach burn when used along with Sweet Basil Seeds.


-Take 1 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of Sweet Basil seeds.

-Stir it well and drink the same to reduce burning sensation in your stomach.

5. Treatment of Diabetes The seeds work very well to control blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes.


-Take 1 teaspoon of soaked Sweet Basil Seeds.

-Add to 1 glass of milk.

-Add vanilla as a flavouring agent.

6. Diuretic Properties Sweet Basil Seeds have a swelling capacity. It thus promotes diuresis, that is, increase production of urine.


-Mix a teaspoon of Sweet Basil Seeds in water.

-Add some honey and drink.

7. Relieves constipation: Soaked Sweet Basil Seeds when eaten help to cleanse the inner stomach. It ensures easy bowel movement and helps to flush out harmful toxins from the stomach. It is also taken with milk before going to bed to ease constipation.

8. As a coolant: These seeds are used to lower body heat. It is an important ingredient used in summer in a number of drinks such as ‘Alooda-A Mauritian Speciality’, ‘Falooda in Asian Countries’, ‘Indian lemonade’, ‘Indian Lemon water’. These delicious and refreshing drinks are well appreciated by any person in need to quench their thirst.


-¾ glass of milk at room temperature

-2 to 3 tablespoon Evaporated

-4 tablespoon of strawberry syrup

-1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

-1 tablespoon of soaked Sweet Basil Seeds

-Ice cubes

-1 scoop of vanilla ice cream

-Mint to decorate

-Blend all the above ingredients except the Sweet Basil Seeds, mint and ice cream.

-Pour into your glass

-Add in your Sweet Basil Seeds and top with your vanilla ice cream and mint.

9. Appetite Control: The fibre in the soaked seeds has the effect of making you feel full. This ultimately helps reduce your appetite and assist with weight loss.

10. Treatment of cold: Sweet Basil Seeds provide relief from fever, cold, influenza and bronchitis.


-Take Sweet Basil Seeds and add ginger and honey

-Drink with lukewarm water

11. Stress Relief: Consumption of Sweet Basil Seeds is said to have an uplifting effect on your mood and can help with mental fatigue.

12. Lowering Cholesterol Levels Sweet basil seeds could be used to reduce cholesterol levels in patients.

13. Treatment of Migraine and depression

14. Treatment of asthma and respiratory disorders

15. Treatment of Arthritis: Due to its anti inflammatory properties, it is used to provide relief from swollen and painful joints. Eugenol is an important essential oil in basil that has been found to have anti-inflammatory function by acting against the enzyme cycloxygenase (COX). COX enzyme mediates inflammatory reactions inside the human body. This enzyme-inhibiting effect of the eugenol in basil makes it an important remedy for symptomatic relief in individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and inflammatory bowel conditions.

16. Genitourinary Infections: Sweet Basil Seeds help with issues such as bladder infections and vaginal infections.

17. Reduce the risk of Heart Disease: Sweet Basil Seeds reduce the formation of plaque in the arterial walls thus reducing heart diseases.

18. Improves memory: Sweet Basil Seeds contain Omega-3 fatty acids which is required for brain growth. It is crucial nutrient for memory and brain performance.

19. As an Aphrodisiac.

20. Diaphoretic, carminative and stimulant (Leaves of Tukmaria)

21. Reduce fever and as antidote to snake poison (Seeds and Roots of Sweet Basil)

22. As an insect repellent: Basil oil is very good insect repellent. Basil essential oil is found to be larvicide and insect repellent. It is used as insecticidal fumigant in storage.

23. Sore eyes and night-blindness

24. Promote longevity

25. Promote milk production in nursing women The plant is traditionally used to increase production of breast milk in lactating mothers.

26. Anti Cancer: The Omega-3 fatty acids and the antioxidants in Sweet Basil Seeds reduce the production of free radical in the body and reduce degenerative diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s diseases and many more.

27. Anti-Infective: Direct Compression of Sweet Basil Seeds lead to formation of oils. These Oils inhibit many pathogenic bacteria like Staphylococcus, Enterococci, Shigella and Pseudomonas.


• Energy: 975 kJ / 233 Kcal

• Protein: 23 g

• Carbohydrates: 48 g

• Fat: 4 g

• Vitamin A: 744IU

• Vitamin B6: 1.34mg

• Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): 10.7mg

• Vitamin K: 1714.5 mcg

• Vitamin B1: 0.08 mg

• Vitamin B2: 1.2mg

• Vitamin B3: 4.9mg

• Vitamin B5: 0838 mg

• Vitamin B9: 310 mcg

• Vitamin B complex: 54.9 mg

• Betaine: 16.1 mg

• Calcium:2240 mg

• Iron: 89.8 mg

• Magnesium: 711 mg

• Phosphorus: 274 mg

• Potassium: 2630 mg

• Sodium: 76 mg

• Zinc: 7.1 mg

• Copper: 2.1 mg

• Manganese: 9.8 mg

• Selenium: 3 mcg

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