Ocimum Sanctum - Holy Basil

My 33-Day Holy Basil (Tulsi) Journey – Part 1

How can you really get to know an herb & all her benefits?

As a “budding” (newly-trained) herbalist, I’ve decided to take a deep dive into the world of one herb. How does it taste, smell, feel and look? What kind of effects does it have on the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical body? It’s challenging to answer these questions if you are taking more than one herb at a time because you won’t know which herb is doing what. Studying and utilizing a single herb on its own is the only way to get a clear understanding of its gifts.

I chose Holy Basil because, as you may have guessed by the name, this plant is considered a very sacred herb indeed. 

For one month, I’ll be enjoying 4-5 cups of daily tea, making and burning incense from the leaves, growing the plant, meditating on her energy, and generally learning all I can about why this herb is so beloved to people all around the world.

Will she live up to her esteemed name during my experience? Only time will tell.

Until then, let us take a walk through Holy Basil’s rich and royal history and learn how she was and still is used to help a plethora of common health problems. 

History of Tulsi
Tulsi is Goddess Lakshmi

Holy Basil “Herstory”

Holy Basil, also known as “Tulsi,” has been one of India’s most revered and sacred herbs for over 5,000 years. According to ancient Vedic texts, Tulsi, also called “Queen of Herbs,” is the reincarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and generosity, gave herself and became the plant embodiment of the Tulsi plant to show her love and devotedness to her husband, Vishnu.

The 5,000-year-old Sanskrit healing text Padma Purana declares, “Leaves, flowers, fruits, root, branches, and the main stem and everything about Tulsi is sacred; even the soil under the Tulsi plant is holy.” 

Lord Shiva also proclaimed the herb as blessed, stating, “Through the worship of Tulsi, the souls of our ancestors are pleased and our path to the heavens is opened….” According to Hindu mythology, Tulsi is a living gateway between heaven and Earth. 

As Tulsi made its way throughout time along the trade routes from Asia to Europe, the herb became known as “Sacred Basil” or “Holy Basil” and was highly regarded for its healing and magical qualities.

Today, Holy Basil is frequently used in Ayurvedic medicine and worldwide. Its aromatic fragrance and delicious taste make it a perfect medicinal tea. The herb is also used in the forms of a tincture, capsule, essential oil, infused oils and topical preparations.

What is Holy Basil?

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum or Ocimum tenuiflorum in Latin) is a deliciously aromatic shrub of the Labiatae/Lamiaceae, Mint plant family. Cultivated in many tropical and temperate zones worldwide, the Ocimum sanctum species hail from India, the Himalayan Mountains, and northern Africa. 

Although Holy Basil grows as a perennial in tropical India, she can also be grown and enjoyed by gardeners and pollinators alike as an annual plant in temperate climates. The small, purple, clustered flowers yield many seeds, allowing for an abundant new crop each following Spring.

You can utilize Tulsi’s leaves, flowers, seeds and roots for medicinal purposes, but the fuzzy leaf is most commonly used to make Tulsi tea.

There are three varieties of Holy Basil: Rama, Krishna, and Vana Tulsi. Rama is a deep green color mainly used for digestion concerns. Krishna is a beautiful, magenta-purple color utilized for its detoxifying benefits. Vana offers the best of both worlds, offering similar properties to both. All the varieties have similar benefits, but Ayurvedic practitioners believe that drinking a combination of the sacred trio is most powerful.

What Is Holy Basil?
Tulsi Tea Benefits

The Benefits of Holy Basil

Lowers Stress & Aids Adrenal Function

Holy basil is highly renowned for its adaptogenic properties. Tulsi builds up the system’s ability to cope with all types of stress by supporting the body’s immune, endocrine and nervous systems. 

Over time, Holy Basil repairs adrenal burn-out and is an excellent remedy for chronic fatigue, depression, insomnia, exhaustion, elevated blood sugar levels, and weight gain due to excessive cortisol production.

Boosts Immune System

When consumed regularly, Tulsi activates the production of T-lymphocyte cells in the body. These “T cells” are what shape and control our immune response to viruses, bacteria, toxins and even cancer. 

Tulsi’s anti-microbial and antibacterial properties help fight infectious disease, while her mild antipyretic properties assist in lowering the body’s temperature when a fever is present.

Improves Respiratory Health

Holy basil contains compounds including camphene, eugenol and cineole, which help relieve congestion and other symptoms of respiratory disorders.

One clinical trial found that when patients took 500mg of dried leaves three times a day over four weeks, they experienced fewer allergic reactions and asthma attacks, along with greater ease in breathing and an expanded lung capacity. (Dixit, 1986; Singh, 1986a).

Tulsi tea is a beneficial remedy for the common cold, flu, asthma, bronchitis, and other upper respiratory tract infections. The herb’s expectorant properties help to loosen phlegm so that it can be coughed up and quickly expelled.

I had been experiencing pain and pressure in my sinuses for about a week prior to beginning my Tulsi journey. After two days of drinking the tea three times a day, I began to expel mucus, and the pressure eased up significantly. By day six, the pressure was completely gone. 

Nervous System, Depression & Anxiety

When enjoyed daily, Holy Basil is a powerful ally to those who experience anxiety, depression and tight, rigid muscles due to stress. She calms and restores the nervous system and is beneficial for any related problems, including ADHD, psychosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and loss of cognitive function. 

Events of this past year left me feeling even more anxious than my norm, and my nerves felt frayed. The changes were subtle at first, but the difference in my overall attitude and outlook on life between now and two weeks ago is incredible. I feel like a new person! I can personally vouch for the near-miraculous abilities Tulsi provides to help cope with stress and anxiety.

Quells Digestive Issues

Tulsi stimulates the production and secretion of digestive enzymes and is used in Ayurveda to increase the Agni or digestive fire. She relieves hiccups, bloating, gas, and abdominal spasms.

Historically, people have used Tulsi to treat colic, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and intestinal parasites. The herb also helps the body assimilate fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

In India, Holy Basil seeds are ground into a fine powder, mixed with liquid, and drunk to heal stomach and intestinal ulcers.

Relives Pain

Tulsi root offers mild, analgesic (pain-relieving) effects and is beneficial for many types of inflammation. Her volatile oils help lessen muscle and arthritis pain, as well as fibromyalgia.

I have experienced moderate pain in my neck and hips since 2008, when I slipped on ice and fell on my tailbone, then hit my head on the pavement. My pain level is very much improved after two weeks of Tulsi tea even though I haven’t received any chiropractic adjustments or massage during this time. I believe this is due to Holy Basil’s anti-inflammation properties and am looking forward to seeing if this continues to improve.

Reproductive Health for Her & Him

Holy Basil is used in Ayurveda to help women relieve menstrual pain and calm their emotions. Men are given the dried root and leaves of Tulsi in a tea to increase sperm count quality of sperm, prevent premature ejaculation, and increase sexual stamina.

Both men and women can enjoy Holy Basil tea to help increase blood flow and lower tension in the pelvic area, which helps to increase fertility.

Supports Detoxification

Holy Basil contains many flavonoids that act as powerful antioxidants and support the body’s detoxification abilities. Drink Tulsi tea daily to help purify the blood and eliminate toxic poisons to reduce acute and long-term toxic overload.

Benefits of Tulsi Tea

Safety, Contraindications & Side Effects

Tulsi tea is safe for all ages. Ayurvedic medicine practitioners advise those with an excessive pitta condition to balance with a cooling herb, such as hibiscus flower, and use it in moderation. 

Those who have a dry constitution (experience dry skin, hair, etc.) may want to add a demulcent herb along with Tulsi, as it can be drying. Marshmallow root is a great choice, as it balances out Tulsi’s drying effect and does not compete with her lovely, slightly spicy taste.

Due to a study on rats, in which large amounts of Holy Basil resulted in decreased fertility, some websites and literature recommend avoiding the herb during pregnancy. However, Tulsi has been safely used to promote fertility in men and women for hundreds of years without issue.

Ready for a cup of Tulsi?

I have been pleasantly surprised to experience so many physical and mental benefits after enjoying Tulsi tea for only two weeks. I hope this inspires you to try Holy Basil for yourself!  

You’ll find a note at the bottom about what to look for when purchasing dried Holy Basil leaves, as well as a link to my absolute favorite place to buy high-quality, sustainably-grown Tulsi tea

Please feel free to ask in the comments section below if you have any questions. In my next post, I’ll tell you all about how you can use Tulsi for both spiritual and magical purposes, so be sure to join my email list for more Tulsi fun!

Dosage

Steep 1-2 teaspoons of fresh or dry leaves for 5-10 minutes. 

1-5 cups a day.

Larger dosages help treat specific, persistent problems.

Where to Buy Tulsi Tea

Cheers to all the Tinctures, Tales & Teas to come!


Amy A. (Bjork) Armijo

Resources

The Art of Herbal Healing: A Guide to Health and Wholeness by Susan Clearwater, Green Turtle Publishing

The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: A Contemporary Introduction and Useful Manual for the World’s Oldest Healing System by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa & Michael Tierra, Lotus Press

Organic India Website:  organicindiausa.com

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