Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum Linn) is a medicinally important plant. Ursolic acid (UA) and oleanolic acid (OA) are among its major constituents which account for many medicinal activities of the plant. In the present work, we deployed a new ambient ionization method, leaf spray ionization, for rapid detection of UA, OA and their oxidation products from tulsi leaves. Tandem electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) has been performed on tulsi leaf extracts in methanol to establish the identity of the compounds. We probed changes occurring in the relative amounts of the parent compounds (UA and OA) with their oxidized products and the latter show an increasing trend upon ageing. The findings are verified by ESI-MS analysis of tulsi leaf extracts, which shows the same trend proving the reliability of the leaf spray method. © 2012 The Royal Society of Chemistry.