Tulsi, The Incomparable One
Tulsi, “The Incomparable One”
In the Hindu culture Tulsi, or Holy Basil is considered the “Queen of Herbs”. She has been revered for thousands of years as one of most sacred herbs in ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is the world’s oldest medical system using a holistic approach that focuses on preserving and promoting health through healthy lifestyle practices using foods and consuming detoxifying, adaptogenic herbs and formulas that enhance the body’s capacity to maintain balance. Of these herbs, Tulsi or Holy Basil, is perhaps the most revered. In Hidduism, Tulsi is worshipped, grown in shrines outside every household in the belief that she purifies the air and bestows wealth and protection on the inhabitants. She serves both practical and ceremonial purposes, linking the householder to the divine. Her beautiful aroma not only uplifts the spirit but also repels mosquitoes and other insects. In India she is revered as the plant incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. Tulsi, which is Sanskrit for "the incomparable one" is one of the great adaptogens, sacred in Ayurvedic medicine.
The medicinal properties of Tulsi have been studied in hundreds of scientific studies revealing potent pharmacological actions helping the body to cope with a wide range of chemical, physical, infectious and emotional stresses, protecting the body from cancers, DNA damage, toxins, radiation, heavy metals and pesticides.
I first learned about Tulsi when studying with David Crow, one of the world’s foremost experts in botanical medicine, while taking his course Medicinal Plants and Spiritual Evolution. Becoming aware of its diverse health and spiritual benefits I began to grow Tulsi in my garden. The smell is divine, the tea from its fresh leaves delicious. When friends stopped by who were ailing from headaches, nausea or colds stopped by I would make them a cup of Tulsi tea. Soon afterwards they would say how much better they felt and what was in that drink I’d made them. Tulsi has a soothing effect on the digestive system and seemed to calm headaches quite quickly.
David Crow presents the free on-line Plant Medicine Summit every winter where herbalists from around the world offer courses on plant medicine, ecology & spirituality in the plant kingdom. This year I was introduced to herbalist Tish Streeten who spoke about Tulsi as Queen of Herbs: The story of a plant who is a goddess. Tish is a filmmaker and producer of the documentary “Juliette of the Herbs”, a film about Juliette de Bairacli Levy, grandmother of today’s herbal movement. Tish is now embarking on making an herbal movie starring Tulsi in the leading role as a Goddess, Queen of Herbs. Impressive, a plant as the star of a movie. The movie stresses the growing realization that issues such as environmental degradation, climate change, rural poverty, hunger and food security issues can be addressed by organic farmers in India to produce a business ecology whereby farmers have a healthy and sustainable livelihood nurturing both the land and its people producing a range of teas which have tremendous health benefits.
What makes Tulsi a plant so venerated, acclaimed for such high status?
The holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is one of the most celebrated medicinal herbs, known and used for thousands of years in Ayurveda, revered as an adaptogen with the ability to improve the function of virtually every system in the body. The long list of medically active constituents, such as eugenol, said to be largely responsible for its therapeutic effects, but also rosmarinic acid, oleanolic acid, linalool, carvacrol, and many more active compounds, as well as its rich nutrient content, including calcium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin C and phytonutrients such as chlorophyll and many others, make Tulsi a potent medicinal plant. The list of conditions it is recommended for is lengthy.
Tulsi as adaptogen helps the body to adapt to stress. Lowering stress and anxiety without causing drowsiness, as well as reducing feelings of depression are benefits Tulsi offers.
Well known as a respiratory aid, Tulsi clears excess mucous from the lungs and reduces congestion which can lead to lung infections, asthma and chronic bronchitis as well as allergies and other respiratory infections. Simply drinking Tulsi tea or taking tulsi as a tincture daily can improve your chances of staying healthy throughout the winter months when cold and damp conditions can lead to infection.
Tulsi is anti-inflammatory and analgesic, so makes a great substitute for ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories, without the side effects such as upset stomach, liver problems, nausea, skin reactions, etc.
Tulsi is a carminative, having a heating nature for the digestive system. This helps with conditions where poor digestion creates gas, bloating, cramps and can cause phlegm to accumulate, which then can lead to respiratory congestion.
Tulsi helps to balance blood pressure, regulate blood sugar imbalances, helps to protect the stomach against ulcers, inhibits candida overgrowth, improves cognitive function and memory and protects the central nervous system. She protects the skin, the liver, the lungs, the stomach, the breasts, and the mouth by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. She is a galactagogue, promoting the stimulation of breastmilk. She has a therapeutic effect protecting organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals. In all, Tulsi has been studied by researchers describing her therapeutic effects and widespread potent healing power on every system in the body, a true tonic for all bodily systems.
Tulsi builds the immune system, is anti-bacterial and anti-viral, enabling our body to fight off infection and to stay healthy. According to Ayurveda she is the “elixir of life.”
Externally Tulsi can be used as a poultice on fungal infections and when added to sprays can be effective as an insect repellant.
Tulsi is an aromatic shrub. It is a member of the basil family (Ocimum) and the Lamiaceae family. It is hardy to zones 10-12, grown as a summer annual in temperate zones. Varieties include Tulsi Rama, stronger smelling with mellow flavor, best for digestive issues; Tulsi Krishna, spicier and more pungent flavored, best for respiratory infections; and Tulsi Vana, considered best tasting, more lemony. Grow them all if you can. Divine tasting, aromatic and pleasing just to smell the plant growing, no day is complete without a cup of Tulsi tea.
Enjoy Tulsi as a delicious, aromatic tea. Steep 1 tablespoon of leaves in a cup of boiled water to 15 minutes. Do not boil it or you will lose the volatile aromatic oils and the tea will be less flavorful. You can easily dry tulsi leaves and have tea from your plants all winter long. Also easily tinctured, Tulsi can provide potent medicinal value concentrated in tincture, easy to use and travel with.
Growing Tulsi from seed is easy. Sow in the spring to early summer. The seeds require light to germinate. Sow the seeds on soil surface, press in then keep moist and in the light. Germination may take up to 3 weeks. Thin seedlings and pot up once they have the 2nd set of true leaves. . Tulsi needs at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. It requires fertile soil and rich compost. Harvest Tulsi once it reaches a foot in height. Pinch back to encourage a bushy plant.
Enjoy not only the taste of this plant and its health benefits, but also the spiritual benefits of holy basil, consuming her energetic forces that increase the qualities of clarity, tranquility and vitality. What botanical could enhance life more than this?
Some of the phytochemical constituents of tulsi are oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, carvacrol, linalool, β-caryophyllene (about 8%).
Ocimum tenuiflorum commonly known as holy basil or tulsi, is an aromatic perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae. It is native to the Indian subcontinent.
A powerful adaptogenic herb, Tulsi promotes longevity and good health and is extremely supportive to the mind, body and spirit. Especially beneficial for the respiratory and digestive systems.
Tulsi tincture helps to boost the immune system, the digestive system and the respiratory system. This powerful herb helps to clear excess mucous and congestion from the lungs aiding bronchitis, asthma and chronic respiratory conditions. Tulsi helps the body to metabolize foods, making it an excellent digestive remedy for treating GERD, gas, bloating, stagnation and sluggishness in the gut.
A powerful adaptogen, Tulsi helps the body to adapt to stress.
Antibacterial and antiviral, Tulsi helps with the cold and flu season by inhibiting the growth of viruses and bacteria, and may help to lower fevers. As a calmative it is used to reduce tension and stimulates the flow of energy, heightening mental awareness.
Tulsi or Holy Basil translates as “the incomparable one”and is among
the most sacred herbs in Ayurvedic medicine.
Tinctures are a liquid extract made by steeping fresh organic herbs in alcohol. Tinctures are the most concentrated form of herbal medicine.
Tinctures are best taken under the tongue where they directly enter the blood stream. They are very strong and may be taken diluted in water, juice or tea. Avoid liquids for 10-15 minutes afterwards.
Check with your doctor to be sure the herbs do not interfere with your medications. Some herbs are not recommended during pregnancy.
Tincture dosage depends on the herb, person and situation. In general, 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon (15–30 drops, 1/2 – 1 dropperful) of tincture is used 3 times daily for chronic situations. For acute conditions, you want to take smaller and/or more frequent doses, such as 1/4 teaspoon every hour.