Our featured herb at HerbMentor for the months of May and June is holy basil or tulsi (Ocimum sanctum).
This mint family plant has been a sacred and important medicinal plant in India. Tulsi is one of those plants that will amaze you with the many ways it can support health and well-being.
As an Adaptogen
Tulsi’s main claim to fame in the western world is as an adaptogen. In Ayurveda they refer to it as a rasayana. This term is similar to the Chinese term tonics. It basically means that this is a transformative herb and, when taken daily, it moves a person towards health. These are generally building and nourishing herbs.
I often hear people say that they don’t want to be taking herbs for the rest of their life, the idea being that if they were healthy they wouldn’t need to take herbs. In this sense, people are equating herbs with pharmaceutical drugs. However, in other systems of healing like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, specific herbs are taken for a lifetime to ensure vibrant health and longevity. Holy basil is one of these herbs.
Holy basil not only helps the body adapt to stress, it can also promote energy and endurance. One way it does this is by increasing the body’s ability to efficiently use oxygen.
Holy basil is a relaxing nervine that can help calm the mind and recover from our hustle and bustle culture.
As an Herb for the Heart
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.
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.
This is just a smattering of beneficial uses for this amazing plant. It’s also used for viral infections, fungal infections, radiation exposure, high blood sugar, hay fever, the herpes virus, anxiety, high blood pressure and on and on and on!
Note: I know some of you are wondering if our common culinary plant, basil, is the same as tulsi or holy basil and the answer is no. Our culinary plant, Ocimum basilicum, is a different species although they do have some overlapping properties and uses. There are over 60 different species in the Ocimum genus.
A “Tulsi Journey”
Many members of the HerbMentor community have signed up for a tulsi journey.
We’ve agreed to take tulsi as a tea or tincture daily for 30 days and then report back on what our experiences are. We can share recipes and different ways we experiment with taking tulsi as well as changes in how we feel.
Since we are drinking tulsi tea daily at my house, I have been experimenting with all sorts of different recipes. Today I am going to share one of my favorites.
Tasty Tonic Tulsi Tea
What you’ll need…
- 1 heaping teaspoon dried tulsi (holy basil) leaves
- 1 heaping teaspoon dried hibiscus flowers
- 1 heaping teaspoon dried rose petals
- Pinch of dried stevia or honey to taste
- 16 ounces hot water
To make this tea, simply place the herbs in your tea pot.
Pour in the just-boiled hot water.
Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes and then strain.
…And enjoy your holy basil tea!