Holy basil, known as tulsi in most Indian languages, is one of the most beneficial Ayurvedic plants for health and healing. As one of the eight named indispensable items in any ancient Vedic worship ritual, every house and temple had at least one Tulsi bush in its proximity.
Ocimum tenuiflorum, also known as Ocimum sanctum, is one of the many varieties of basil plants in the world. It has been known as an “incomparable one” by Charaka Samhita (one of the oldest Ayurvedic compendiums) and is considered to be a symbol of spiritual enlightenment.
Ayurveda, which means “science of life,” calls tulsi the “Mother Medicine of Nature,” and suggests the plant as a tonic for the body, mind and spirit. As such, tulsi offers solutions to many modern-day health concerns.
Ayurvedic Herbology – Insights into the Great Tulsi Plant
Taste of Tulsi: It has a pungent and bitter taste with hot potency and holds the qualities of lightness, dryness and piercing. The efficacy of the herb once digestion is complete and ready for assimilation in the body tissues (post-digestion taste or vipaka) is pungent.
Parts Used: leaf, root, seed
Effects on Doshas: Balances vata and kapha doshas and may increase pitta dosha if used in excess.
Benefits of the Holy Basil Herb
Holy Basil for Respiratory Care
Chewing tulsi leaves or drinking tulsi leaf tea have been shown to relieve symptoms of the common cold and other respiratory symptoms. The decoction of its leaves has been shown to be effective in relieving intermediate cases of influenza as well. Tulsi can also be used to mobilize mucus in the case of bronchitis or asthma and in general for the maintenance of a healthy respiratory passage.
Tulsi as a Home Remedy for Cough
A decoction of tulsi flowers, ginger, black and long pepper powders along with honey at least three to four times a day will reduce the symptoms of cough and cold. If you look back into ancient Ayurvedic texts, cough syrups and expectorants given to patients have always contained holy basil as a main ingredient.
Holy Basil as a Stress Reliever
In addition to physical, toxic and infective stress, modern living is associated with heightened levels of psychological distress, caused by the many demands and fast pace of modern life.
While the reality of daily chemical exposures from our environment cannot be denied, researchers have shown that the regular consumption of holy basil not only helps us to protect our body and organs against existing physical toxins but can also help decrease the toxic effects of daily stress by having a relaxing and calming effect.
Tulsi stimulates neurotransmitters that regulate the hormones responsible for happiness and energy. Chewing 10 to 12 fresh tulsi leaves can control stress and manage anxiety. This beautiful herb for all seasons has psychological benefits such as antidepressant activity and aids cognitive function and memory.
Tulsi for Skin Infections and Acne
Holy basil has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help kill bacteria that can cause breakouts and skin infections, so it’s a great natural remedy for wounds. Research has shown that when tulsi is applied locally it is beneficial for ringworm and other skin conditions such as leucoderma.
Holy Basil for Dental and Oral Health
Due to antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, tulsi has the ability to fight bacteria in your mouth that ultimately can cause dental issues such as cavities, plaque, tartar and bad breath. It serves as a natural mouth freshener and cleanser because compounds found in the leaves kill bacteria and germs hiding in your mouth. Using a mouthwash containing basil leaf extract twice daily seems to help reduce plaque and the risk for developing gingivitis. Therefore, just chewing tulsi leaves will help maintain good oral hygiene.
The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Tulsi
Tulsi can be a significant substitute for daily pain killers such as naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin. Daily use of tulsi helps patients suffering from pain and inflammation by inhibiting enzymes that cause inflammation in the body along with suppressing edema in the body. This improves blood circulation and can be a very helpful therapy for any swelling pain or inflammation.
Holy Basil for Hair Care
Treating dandruff is a big challenge when it comes to hair care. Dandruff causes the skin on the scalp to flake. Factors such as irritated, oily skin, sensitivity to hair care products and not shampooing enough can be some of the main causes of dandruff. Tulsi benefits hair by controlling four types of fungal strains that may cause dandruff. Simply add a small amount of tulsi oil to your regular oil and massage it into your scalp before washing your hair.
How to Use Holy Basil / Tulsi
The holy basil plant is environmentally friendly and ecologically sustaining although it requires great care. Growing tulsi plants indoors is highly recommended as that is one of the easiest ways to have the plant available for regular use. Chewing the leaves is enjoyable, as they have a sweet, aromatic smell and a minty taste and may also be used in garnishing foods, sauces and soups.
You can also find tulsi as an essential oil, supplements in capsule form and in tea bags. You can make your own tea by using dried tulsi leaves and boiled water in a decoction.
Holy basil dosage recommendations depend on how you’re using the plant and the symptoms you’re managing. As a result, is always better to consult with your healthcare practitioner if you are considering taking tulsi as a medicine for a medical condition.
Roza Moradi, MD, Honors Specialization in Psychology BA/BSc, Ayurveda Health Educator, Ayurveda Health Practitioner (CAISH Graduate 2020)
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