by Tina Sams
This article ran in the Nov/Dec '10 issue of The Essential Herbal, and I was sure that I'd added it to the blog, but apparently it was a note on the Facebook business page but not blogged. If you know how much I love holy basil, you'll know that I don't mind repeating myself here one little bit!
“Oh Narada, wherever Tulsi grows there is no misery. She is the holiest of the holy. Wherever the breeze blows her fragrance there is purity. Vishnu showers blessing on those who worship and grow Tulsi. Tulsi is sacred because Brahma resides in the roots, Vishnu resides in the stems and leaves and Rudra resides in the flowering tops.”
(Padmapurana (24.2) Lord Shiva tells the sage Narada of Tulsi’s power)
The Essential Herbal Yahoo group had a discussion 5 or 6 years that led me to an herb that has become the very first herb I reach for in almost any situation. Oddly enough, the conversation on the group was about weight loss and how stress hormones increase belly fat. I started doing some research in order to discuss the topic, and stumbled across Holy Basil, a plant that had somehow found its way into my garden that year. What luck! I immediately started a tincture.
Holy Basil goes by many names – Ocimum sanctum and O. tenuiflorum, Sacred Basil, Tulsi, and Tulasi, it comes in a green leaved variety (Sri or Lakshmi) and a purple variety (Krishna) as well as another green leaved variety that is used in Thai cooking. While it is a basil, the first two are rarely used in cooking.
In India, Tulsi has been considered a sacred herb for at least 3000 years. The benefits ascribed to this herb are nearly unbelievable, however testing is being conducted and it is proving to be an extremely valuable and health-giving plant.
Going back to my own experience with it… I made the tincture and didn’t really do much with it for a while. Later that fall, my terminally ill brother moved in with me while waiting for a liver transplant. It was an extremely difficult time, and I was completely unable to get a grip on my emotions. I went to a counselor who was hell-bent on giving me anti-depressants, but I declined. Shortly thereafter, I remembered the holy basil tincture and took about 50 drops. Within an hour, I could feel a complete shift in the way I was looking at the situation, and it enabled me to function fairly well. The next “trial” would be on my tax-guy sweetheart. It made a huge difference in the way he got through tax season that year. It was amazing.
So just what does this miracle herb do? It is primarily classified as an adaptogen, reducing stress and the way our bodies react to stress, strengthening the immune system, and is a neuro-protector that works as an anti-depressant. That just scratches the surface, however. Components in holy basil work similarly to aspirin on inflammation and aches and pains, fevers, colds, and flu. It neutralizes free radicals and protects healthy cells from radiation. It is useful for stomach problems and ulcers, as well as heart disease. It has blood-thinning properties as well as reducing blood sugar. In fact, according to Deepak Chopra, M.D. Founder of The Chopra Center, “In a recent study of forty patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) people taking two and one-half grams of dried Tulsi leaf powder every morning showed significant reductions in their blood glucose levels first thing in the morning as well as after their meals. In addition to lower glucose levels, they also had a mild reduction in their cholesterol levels.”
A cup of the tea works very well as a preventive or on mild illness, while I use the tincture almost exclusively because it is just very convenient. A tea blend that I make (Cuppa Happy) is truly wonderful. For the past 4 or 5 years I’ve been singing the praises of this herb. My local herb farmer (Kathy Musser at Cloverleaf Herb Farm) grew an entire flat of baby plants in the Lakshmi and Krishna varieties for me to tincture and dry for teas this year, and teased me about how many of her customers told her I’d sent them for it.
They are growing beautifully, and I tend them lovingly each day, treating them with the reverence that they deserve!