Ayurveda enlightens us on various medicinal and culinary herbs that helps in preserving and promoting good health, and preventing occurrence of diseases. Out of all these herbs, none has a status comparable to Tulsi or Holy Basil. So in our series #SacredIndianHerbs, Tulsi is the very first and the foremost beneficial herb. The word ‘Tulsi’ is derived from Sanskrit, which means ‘matchless one’ dictating that there are no substitutions for what Tulsi has to offer. It is a humble, inexpensive herb comes loaded with a host of benefits. Tulsi in India is a ubiquitous herb in Hindu tradition and is considered "The Queen of the Herbs" for its spiritual and restorative properties. It has been used for thousands of years to support a healthy response to restore balance and harmony.
Scientific Name: Ocimum Sanctum Linn
English Name: Holy Basil
Common Types of Tulsi: Rama Tulsi (green leaved) and Shyama Tulsi (purple leaved)
Tulsi as a deity
In India, Tulsi is worshipped as a goddess and every part of tulsi plant is considered sacred including its leaves, stem, flower, roots, seeds and oil. We have imbibed a ritual of worshipping Tulsi after morning bath from our parents, generation to generation. Tulsi plant in the courtyard helps keeping away all the negative energies or vibrations present in the environment. Even during construction, dried leaves of Tulsi in a copper container is laid into the foundation to remove such energies. Tulsi has refreshing fragrance and it is an useful houseplant that also work as mosquitoes and insects repellent.
‘Tulsi mala’ made up of tulsi stem beads is weared for the spirituality purpose. It contains cosmic radiation which are quite beneficial for our health. ‘Charanamrit,’ prepared by adding Tulsi leaves to the cold milk and consumed by reciting some chants is practiced since ancient times. The objective is to remain healthy and disease free. And for a dying person can pass away in a pious manner, Tulsi leaves are believed to put in the mouth at his/her very last stage.
All these traditions actually have been the most spiritual way to derive the benefits from Tulsi.
Culinary usage of Tulsi and Medicinal values
We consume Tulsi in various ways, ranging from eating the raw leaves to making a potent tea. Tulsi tea, the most widely used beverage all over the world with its diverse health benefits including its ability to reduce stress, improve blood sugar levels, prevents occurrence of chronic disease, soothe the symptoms of respiratory problems, and aids digestion. But do you know…!
The right method of making Tulsi Tea : To make Tulsi tea, the leaves are crushed and are always added after the water starts boiling. Tulsi leaves contains essential oils which evaporates very fast. Therefore it’s necessary to cover the vessel to avoid evaporation and destruction of essential oils that are highly beneficial. This method is said “Phanta Kalpa”in Ayurveda.
The method of consuming Tulsi Seeds : Tulsi seeds or Basil seeds have been widely used in Ayurvedic and Unani System, also known as “Tukhme Rehan”, for promoting sexual vitality. Basil seeds improve nutrition, helps in digestion, increase the libido and stamina of the body. They are rich in dietary fiber, vitamin K, iron, protein, phytochemicals, orientin, vicentin, and other powerful antioxidants. Nowadays people are becoming aware of their health benefits and consuming them as an ingredient to drinks and shakes.
Basil seeds should be taken in the pulp form by soaking a teaspoon of seeds in water for overnight. We can consume 5-7g of seeds twice a day. In winters they should be best consumed with lukewarm cow milk or water. Whereas in summers they can be taken with normal water or added to your cold shakes or drinks. This way basil seeds also act as one of the best body coolants for the summer.
Why consuming Tulsi Ark : Tulsi is a sensitive plant which dries up during winters. Tulsi ark or Tulsi essential oil which consists of all the nutriment of tulsi in the concentrate form is the best way to get benefits of tulsi. Few (8-10) drops could be added to the drinking water and consumed day long or 2-3 drops to your tea. It is really great at easing stress, relieving fever, aiding digestion, fighting respiratory disorders and skin problems, promoting hair growth, etc. Moreover to raise the immunity power of the body, Tulsi oil is one of the best option.
Medicinal usage of Tulsi
Fever: Tulsi is quite effective in bringing down temperature and can safely be used with children too. Tulsi can be swallowed alone or for best results a decoction can be made of Tulsi leaves, Giloy and Black pepper. It should be taken twice a day. The antimicrobial properties of the tulsi leaves makes this decoction an excellent treatment for Dengue, Chikungunya and Viral infections.
Respiratory disorders: Basil leaves promotes the release of mucus in bronchitis and asthma, thus facilitates breathing. Tulsi helps to lower the growth of bacteria causing tuberculosis. To get rid of such respiratory disorders, we can take tulsi oil in the steam form or we can dry the leaves in the shade and these dried leaves can be taken 2.5-5.0 g per day.
Urinary tract infections: Tulsi leaves when taken with black pepper and warm water is helpful for urinary tract infections. Regular intake of tulsi leaves may also reduce uric acid levels and promote proper cleansing of the kidneys through urination.
Joint pain: The essential oils present in Tulsi leaves have excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Tulsi act a natural remedy for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. So to get relief from joint pain we can consume 5-10 leaves of Tulsi along with 2 gm of Carom seeds (ajwain) taken with warm water.
Recurrent cold and congestion: Tulsi has antimicrobial and anti-allergic property, so it is extremely useful for treating bacterial and fungal infections. It works as a natural immune-modulator, boosting antiviral activities in the body. To prevent from recurrent cold and congestion; tulsi leaves, dry ginger, black pepper and pippali are crushed together and is taken with honey.
Cancer: Various studies showed that Tulsi leaves not only protects from cancer but also cures cancer in the initial stages. By taking the tulsi leaves through Kalpa Vidhi, i.e. increasing the amount of Tulsi leaves daily, starting from 5 leaves then 10..20...30…. and making it to 50 leaves twice a day can protect you cancer.
Cosmetology: Tulsi extract is used for cosmetics too. The extract of tulsi leaves is mixed with water and sesame oil. The mixture is taken in the proportion of 1 tulsi extract : 4 water : 16 sesame oil. It is heated to its lowest setting and the water is allowed to dry up. The leftover is filtered and applied over the affected areas such as skin irritation, rash or any area of skin allergy.
Besides tulsi face pack to maintain the pH balance of the skin both for dry and the oily skin can also be used. Take 20 tulsi leaves mixed with Red lentils (masoor daal) and apply this mixture on the face.
For dry skin, use of Camphor basil is highly recommended. Camphor basil is a hybrid of tulsi and the camphor plant. It was made in South India and was invented in the Research Institute of Jammu. Camphor basil contains all the properties of the camphor which can be applied on the skin as well as can be eaten for various purposes. It balances the pH of the skin.
Oral care: Holy basil has astringent and antimicrobial properties that prevent the formation of dental cavities, plaque, tartar, bad breath and prevents from pyrrhea. It cures ulcers in the mouth and also acts as an excellent mouth freshener that lasts for a long time. Few tulsi leaves a day keeps the oral disorders way.
Remember ! As just a few leaves of tulsi when used regularly can help resolve a host of health and lifestyle related issues.