Herb in Focus: Holy Basil – Tulsi

Holy Basil is grown in many home gardens in India, the traditional location for this plant in the garden is near the front door of the house and is also grown in the garden of many temples throughout India. The medicinal and protective qualities of this Ayurvedic herb, when planted at the front door of the family home is said to protect the occupants from illness and diseases. This type of herbal wisdom can be traced back hundreds, if not thousands of years, well before Louis Pasteur and the proposal of the germ theory.

As with many Ayurvedic herbs, Holy Basil has a few different names, but most of us would have heard of it referred to as Tulsi or Tulasi. The botanical name for Holy Basil is Ocimum tenuiflorum and an alternate form of Holy Basil is called Ocimum sanctum, and it is from this alternate botanical name that we understand the importance of Holy Basil in India as this herb is the spiritual symbol of Hinduism.

Historic Use of Holy Basil

Traditional usage of this herb focuses around the lower respiratory system, with Holy Basil historically used for asthma, cough and bronchitis, and as a treatment for colds or influenza. The authoritative text on Ayuvedic medicine – Charaka Samhita refers to Tulsi or Holy Basil as the ‘elixir of life’. In Ayurveda, Holy Basil is considered to be a ‘rasayana’ herb, which loosely translates to a herb that builds up strength in the body and promotes longevity.

Holy Basil and Modern Herbal Medicine

Back in Australia, Holy Basil is fast becoming a popular herb with Western medical herbalists and research into the beneficial effects of Holy Basil on the immune system and the endocrine system is beginning to clarify the importance of the traditional usage of this herb in Indian culture.

Reputed to be ‘anti-everything’ Holy Basil is considered to be anti-microbial, anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-ulcer. Also considered to be beneficial for the nervous system and for stress management, Holy Basil is also used to support the cardiovascular system and digestion.

Holy Basil Medicinal Constituents

The taste of Holy Basil, which bears a slight resemblance to the sweet basil that many of us are familiar with in Italian cooking, gives an indication of what kinds of constituents within this herb give it its medicinal qualities. The pleasantly pungent flavour of Holy Basil indicates that even when dried that it has an abundance of essential oils, and it is these essential oils, along with many other constituents that make Holy Basil such a therapeutic and versatile herb to use.

Holy Basil is a relatively easy herb to grow in your own garden, but for those of you who do not have a green thumb (or can’t wait that long), we have Holy Basil at Sundala Health Centre. Holy Basil is particularly nice to use as a herbal tea, so we have the dried leaf to use, we also stock the dried powdered herb, for traditional Ayurvedic usage, and in our herbal dispensary, we dispense Holy Basil in herbal tincture format.

The information provided in this article is for information purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. We recommend you consult with a GP or other healthcare professional before taking any action based on this article. While the author uses best endeavours to provide accurate and true content, the author makes no guarantees or promises regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information presented. If you rely on any information provided in this article, you do so at your own risk.

About The Author

Leonie Satori

Naturopath and Herbalist Leonie is passionate about women’s health, especially perimenopause and all that midlife encompasses for women - anxiety, gut health and hormones. Her holistic and down-to-earth approach to well-being incorporates wisdom from traditional healing practices, including Western herbal medicine and Ayurveda plus over a decade of clinical experience. In her free time, you’ll find Leonie bush-walking, gardening and living life slowly.

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