HOLY BASIL ‘TULSI’
I started growing Holy Basil ‘Tulsi’ several years ago when I felt stressful. Little did I know there are many health benefits of consuming Holy Basil ‘Tulsi’. I did some searching for herbal remedies and Holy Basil ‘Tulsi’ was mentioned. This was the start of my passion for herbal teas. I take no medications so inter actions are not a problem for me. Be careful if you are taking medications.
I use it fresh during gardening season. I dry a lot of it for using during the winter. This year I am growing 12 plants. They are growing in my south windows right now and will be transplanted into my gardens the first week in June. Here in Wisconsin, zone 5, Holy Basil is an annual. It is very easy to collect seed and plant from year to year. Let me know it you are considering growing this special herb and how you like it.
Health Benefits of Tulsi as an Aromatic Digestive
Like our common culinary basil, holy basil has many positive effects on the digestive system. As a slightly warming and aromatic herb it is used to promote stagnant digestion and it is often paired with dried ginger for this purpose. Stagnant digestion is when you eat a meal and feel like it is stuck. One might also experience bloating, gas, decreased appetite and nausea. Tulsi is also helpful for heartburn and can help to heal ulcers.
The fresh juice sweetened with honey is used for intestinal parasites. And it is considered to be an hepatoprotective herb, or an herb that protects the liver from harm.
Health Benefits of Tulsi as a Blood Glucose Regulator
Holy basil has been shown to help regulate blood sugar in diabetics and specifically can lower fasting blood glucose significantly. One reasoning for this ability may be its high antioxidant levels. Someone who is taking insulin to control their diabetes might need to approach this herb with caution and adjust their insulin levels accordingly.
Health Benefits of Tulsi as a Cardiovascular Tonic
Tulsi has many beneficial actions on the heart. It is slightly blood thinning and promotes good circulation. It can lower stress-related high blood pressure and taken daily it can help optimize cholesterol levels. Stress can play an ugly role in overall cardiovascular health and the adaptogenic properties of tulsi can help mediate stress-related damage.
In Ayurveda, a formula that is balancing to all who take it (tridoshic) is made up of tulsi, arjuna and hawthorne.
Health Benefits of Tulsi for Musculoskeletal Pain
In scientific studies, holy basil has been shown to be a COX 2 inhibitor (many modern pain medications are COX 2 inhibitors), making it useful against arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Tulsi is high in eugenol, a constituent also found in cloves, which is helpful to decrease pain.
Health Benefits of Tulsi as an Immunomodulator
Holy basil helps to strengthen and modulate the immune system. It can be taken to both prevent and address current upper respiratory viruses like the cold or flu. This expectorant herb also has an affinity for the lungs and can be used for bronchitis as well as pulmonary weakness. Taken over time it can have a beneficial effect on asthma and has also been shown helpful in alleviating allergic rhinitis symptoms like seasonal hay fever.
Add some ginger and honey to tulsi tea to help soothe an irritated sore throat.
As an antimicrobial herb it can be used topically or internally to treat bacterial, viral and fungal infections. It is frequently used for herpes sore outbreaks (viral infection) and can also be applied externally to ringworm infections and eczema. (Taken internally its effects on the liver and digestion also help with eczema.)
Tulsi has the ability to reduce cancerous tumors and can also protect healthy cells from radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
How to Prepare Tulsi as Medicine
The most common way to prepare holy basil is as a tea. Because of its high volatile oil content it is steeped for 5-10 minutes covered. You can start with 1 tsp of the leaf and increase as desired. I’ve seen recommendations of up to 4 ounces per day so this will be difficult to take too much of.
In Ayurveda the fresh juice is often used for remedies and my friend and herbalist Christophe (who adores holy basil) says that he strongly prefers fresh leaves for tea or as a fresh tincture.
As a fresh-herb holy basil tincture, one could start with 40 – 60 drops of a 1:2 tincture, 2 – 3 times a day.
Tulsi might have an anti-fertility effect on both men and women and thus should not be taken by couples wishing to conceive or by pregnant women. It is slightly blood thinning and should not be taken by those who are currently taking warfarin. Those who are taking insulin to control their diabetes may need to adjust their insulin levels while taking tulsi.
The Tulsi Plant
For this botanical section let’s concentrate on Ocimum sanctum, Rama Tulsi. This is the easiest herb to find in commerce and, if you can grow basil, then you can grow this one.
As a member of the mint family it has the characteristic square stem and opposite leaves.
The flowers have the familiar lipped shape of the mint family.
It likes to grow in full sun with moderate water and fertile well-draining soils.
As the plant forms flowers, gently pluck these off to avoid the plant going to seed too early in the season. Also, by occasionally plucking off these flowers you will encourage the plant to branch and continue growing. If you are wanting to collect the seeds for next year’s crop you can grow a special plant just for seed production, or stop plucking the flowers early enough in the season that the seeds will develop.
Normally, it’s an annual plant that needs about 80 days until maturity. In some tropical climates it may grow for five years.