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Basil, Holy
 

Holy Basil

  
Botanical NameOcimum sanctum, O. tenuiflorum

Family: Lamiaceae

Common Names: Tulsi (Hindi), tulasi (Hindi), surasa (Sanskrit), sacred basil

Part Used: Herb

Location/Cultivation: Holy basil is found throughout the lowlands of India as well as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, southern China, Thailand, and Malaysia. In India, small patches of it are widely cultivated for daily use. There are at least three types of holy basil. The greenleafed variety sri or rama tulsi is the most common. The second type (Krishna tulsi) bears dark-green to purple leaves; this variety has a stronger taste and smell. The third type (vana tulsi, O. tenuiflorum) is a green-leafed forest variety that often grows wild. 

Properties: Adaptogen, antibacterial, antidepressant, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue (promotes the flow of mother’s milk), and immunomodulator

Constituents: Essential oils such as eugenol, carvacol, linalool, caryophylline, and methyleugenol as well as triterpenes such as ursolic acid and flavonoids.

 
History/Ethnobotany

Holy basil is sacred to the Hindu god Vishnu and is used in morning prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being. Strings of beads made from the plant’s stems are used in meditation to give clarity and protection. The ancient ayurvedic texts, the Charaka Samhita (appx. 200 BCE) and Sushruta Samhita (400–100 BCE) both mention the use of this herb to treat people with snakebites and scorpion stings. 

Holy basil is classified as a rasayana, an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and promotes long life. For perhaps three thousand years, holy basil has been considered one of India’s most powerful herbs. The daily use of this herb is believed to help maintain the balance of the chakras, (energy centers) of the body. It is acclaimed as possessing sattva (energy of purity) and as being capable of bringing on goodness, virtue, and joy in humans. In the Puranas (a sacred Hindu text), everything associated with the plant is holy, including water given to it and the soil in which it grows as well as all its parts, among them leaves, flowers, seed, and roots.

Ocimum tenuiflorum (also tulsi, tulasî, or Holy Basil  is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae which is native throughout the Old World tropics and widespread as a cultivated plant and an escaped weed.    It is an erect, much branched subshrub 30–60 cm tall with hairy stems and simple opposite green leaves that are strongly scented. Leaves have petioles, and are ovate, up to 5 cm long, usually slightly toothed. Flowers are purplish in elongate racemes in close whorls. There are two main morphotypes cultivated in India—green-leaved (Sri or Lakshmi tulsi) and purple-leaved (Krishna tulsi).

Tulsi is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely known across South Asia as a medicinal plant and an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda, and has an important role within the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving tulsi plants or leaves.

There is also a variety of Ocimum tenuiflorum which is used in Thai cuisine, and is referred to as Thai holy basil, or kraphao—not be confused with Thai basil, which is a variety of Ocimum basilicum.

 Holy Basil (Tulsi) Herb Profile Also known as Ocimum sanctum, Tulasi (Sanskrit name)

Holy Basil is commonly grown in Hindu homes and it is a sacred plant in the Hindu religion. In fact a Hindu household is considered incomplete if there is not a Tulsi plant in the courtyard. Native to India, it grows wild in Asia and Malaysia, and has a long tradition of use in ayurvedic medicine, where it is considered the most sacred herb in India. Devotees of Vishnu may wear necklaces made of Tulsi seeds because it is written that it is the plant that pleases him the most. It is also written that Tulsi was the incarnation of a princess who fell in love with the Lord Krishna, but had a curse laid upon her by his consort Radha. The Latin name Ocimum sanctum means "sacred fragrant lipped basil" or "the incomparable one". Holy Basil has also been called by many other names including the "Queen of Herbs", "The Elixir of Life", and the "Mother Medicine of Nature". Ayurvedic medicine teaches that Tulsi is classified as a "Rasyana": an herb that nourishes a person's growth to perfect health and promotes long life. There are three distinct varieties of Tulsi: Vana, which grows wild in the forests, Krishna, which is entirely purple, and Rama, the most commonly found type. The types offered by Mountain Rose Herbs are of the Rama and Vana varieties.

Parts Used

The leaf is generally the only part used in a medicinal capacity.

Typical Preparations

Tulsi is traditionally taken as an herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee.

Summary

Holy Basil has been used for thousands of years as a prime herb. In India, Hindus grow Tulsi as a religious plant in their homes and temples, and the leaves are an important part of their meditation and worship. Holy Basil is used in ayurvedic medicine for common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning, and malaria. Holy Basil is considered an adaptogen, which means that it assists the body adapt to stress (environmental, physical, or chemical), restore balance in the body, and normalize body functions. It is currently being studied for its beneficial properties and has been found to be effective for cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, stress, wound healing, the immune system, inflammations, liver support and protection, hypoglycemic conditions, ulcers, digestion, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, radiation poisoning, cataracts, the memory, respiratory system, urinary problems, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions, and it is an antioxidant.

Precautions

Not recommended for use if pregnant, nursing, or are considering becoming pregnant (may have an anti-fertility effect). Do not administer to infants or toddlers. May lower blood sugar, consult a doctor if hypoglycemic (in separate studies, it has also been shown to be beneficial for those with hypoglycemia). Holy Basil has mild blood thinning properties.

 


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