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Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Often referred to as holy basil, Tulsi is a potent herb that has been used in India for thousands of years to treat colds, coughs, and flu. According to Ayurveda, tulsi promotes purity and lightness in the body, cleansing the respiratory tract of toxins and relieving digestive gas and bloating. Tulsi leaves offer a rich source of essential oil, containing eugenol, nerol, camphor, and a variety of terpenes and flavonoids. The oil is a strong antiseptic against many kinds of disease-causing organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

In terms of the Ayurvedic doshas, tulsi carries the bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes and generates a warming influence on the physiology. The herb is predominantly Kapha-reducing, but it can also be used to pacify Vata and Pitta. However, it can have a mildly Pitta-aggravating effect in individuals who are severely overheated.

Tulsi has spiritual as well as medicinal significance in Ayurveda. In Hindu mythology, the plant is an incarnation of the goddess Tulsi, offering divine protection. Many Indian families keep a living Tulsi plant in their homes – tending to it with great care and reverence. The plant’s woody stalks are often made into beads used in meditation malas or rosaries.

While basil is found on every continent, tulsi or holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. It is a bushy shrub that grows to about 18 inches in height. Its leaves are oval and serrated, with colors ranging from light green to dark purple, depending on the variety. In the wild, tulsi is an annual, but it can be kept as a perennial by trimming it before it forms seeds. The plant has delicate lavender-colored flowers, and its fruit consists of tiny rust-colored nuts.

One precaution: Studies from the 1970s suggest that holy basil might have a mild anti-fertility effect in animals. Although this effect hasn’t been demonstrated to occur in human beings, if you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, don’t take medicinal doses of this herb.

Grow Your Own Tulsi Plant

Starting with seeds: Place the seeds between warm, moist paper towels for a day, and then plant them a half-inch below the surface in rich potting soil. A sprout will start to break through in 10 days. Once the plant reaches a height of about 12 inches, you can 1) pinch back any flowers to keep it from going to seed; or 2) allow the plant to seed and start a new generation.

Indians have long worshipped Tulsi as a sacred plant. In fact, for thousands of years, Tulsi had been grown for spiritual reasons in the gardens of most Indian homes. Its branches, leaves and fragrance are used by Indians in for purification purposes and to heighten spiritual awareness. Thus, Tulsi is noted for these spiritual attributes, is commonly called “holy basil.”

Also known by the names, “the Queen of Herbs,” “the Incomparable One” and “the Mother Medicine of Nature – Tulsi is also a powerful medicine. Though many herbs are valued highly in India, the stimulating powers of Tulsi were recognized by the ancient healers and sages, giving it a unique status as one of the most sacred herbs in India along with Soma and the Lotus.

Tulsi Increases Your Stress Resilience

The best part of Tulsi is that it is one of the most effective adaptogens (an agent that helps the body adapt more efficiently to stress) ever known. Tulsi reduces the intensity and negative impact of stress caused by:

  • Mental tension
  • Emotional difficulties
  • Poor lifestyle habits

Naturally, Tulsi’s protective actions against stress help prevent the onset of illnesses that come with living at a faster, frenzied pace. Tea made from Tulsi leaves can be taken when healthy to:

  • Support overall wellbeing
  • Enhance stamina
  • Stimulate energy

Western science has already confirmed that stress is the leading cause of degenerative disease, something Eastern medicine has understood for thousands of years. In fact, the American Institute of Stress reports that 75% – 95% of visits to healthcare professionals are somehow related to the adverse effects of stress. And 50% of adults in the U.S. say they experience high stress on a daily basis. Fortifying yourself against the aftermath of stress is the key to living a healthy life. As they say, an ounce of prevention with Tulsi tea is worth more than a pound of cure.

Anti-Aging Effects of Tulsi

Do you think “youth” merely means smooth skin and a wrinkle free face (as most beauty products promise)? You may certainly slow down the superficial effects of time if you are a regular at beauty spas and a consumer of expensive anti-aging beauty products. But no beauty product or treatment can make you “young” in the real sense, if your nutritional supplements are all wrong.

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