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I’m beginning what I hope to be a long series of Herb of the Month posts. Ever since taking courses through an herbal school out of Boston starting back in 2019, I have become positively enamored with herbs! Herbs line up quite a number of shelves in my kitchen and are combined together in a mason jar to make tea almost every morning! For this month’s Herb of the Month post, we will focus on Tulsi(Holy Basil).
What is the difference between Tulsi(Holy Basil) and Sweet Basil?
Both basil and tulsi are members of the herb family, Lamiaceae, commonly known as the mint family. However, they are different species, and do have different features.
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), a name given to the common kitchen herb, is used in a variety of culinary dishes. In my kitchen, basil is used in almost everything with tomatoes! It has a strong, sweet flavor and is often used in salads, pesto and soups. It definitely has a role in Mediterranean cuisine! The plant’s flowers are white and the leaves are smooth. You can read more about basil in last month’s post on basil and rosemary.
Tulsi(Ocimum tenuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum), on the other hand, is a herb that has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine and a large number of herbalists world wide. It is fast-growing in popularity with it’s amazing health benefits. Tulsi is said to have a slightly more pungent aroma and flavor and is typically not used in cooking. I have been known to throw it in a few soup or sauce recipes, however, without noting a difference between it and sweet basil. The plant’s flowers are a light purple and the leaves have a toothy edge. Tulsi is known to have warming, drying and relaxing energetics. We will discuss the plant properties or actions below.
Discover the Health Benefits of Tulsi(Holy Basil)!
Tulsi is a Calming Adaptogen
As I’ve mentioned, tulsi (Holy Basil) has been used throughout history for its health benefits. Tulsi has become one of my absolute favorite herbs and I work with it nearly every day in whatever tea combinations I create first thing in the morning. Working with it this way, I am mostly aiming for it’s benefits as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a natural substance found in plants that helps the body cope with stress and maintain a state of balance. Therefore, Tulsi can help the body cope with stress, grief and anxiety. It is commonly used in traditional medicine to help improve overall well-being.
Tulsi as a Nervine
Tulsi is also a nervine. A nervine calms nervous tension and actually nourishes the nerves. Other nervines I love include chamomile, catnip, lavender and lemon balm. I’m sure they will all make it to Herb of the Month sooner or later! As a nervine, Tulsi can somewhat stimulating at first- uplifting is probably a better term, but there follows a strong sense of calm and feeling grounded. That’s a part I love. Feeling calm and grounded!
Tulsi For the Immune System
Tulsi is another herb, like chamomile and rosemary, that is rich in antioxidants and is thought to help fight off infection and disease. Tulsi’s known antioxidants include eugenol, ursolic acid, and rosmarinic acid. These antioxidants help to protect the body from the damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It’s also a great thing to have around when you are fighting a cold or other infection.
Nutrition With Tulsi
Tulsi is actually quite high in vitamin K, important for blood clotting and bone health. For eye health, tulsi is high in vitamin A. Other nutrients include vitamin C, calcium, Iron, Manganese, and Zinc.
And So Much More!
Tulsi is traditionally worked with to treat respiratory issues such as asthma and bronchitis. Tulsi is known to help with digestion and may be used to treat stomach ulcers. Also known as an anti-inflammatory, tulsi is known to help reduce inflammation in the body. Because the herb is an antispasmodic, headaches are also often helped with the use of tulsi.
I don’t know a lot about growing tulsi yet but hope to incorporate it into my herb garden this spring! I do know that it ‘s supposed to be a relatively easy plant to grow. It grows as a shrub in warmer zones but can still be planted annually in cooler zones. They are very sensitive to frost. I may decide to buy seeds but I may just find a place to order the live plants. I’ll keep you all posted!
I just barely started looking into it, but I found this video last night from Herbal Revolution. In the video, Kathryn talks about the variety they grow and how to harvest this amazing plant!
How Do I Work With Tulsi?
There’s no one perfect way to work with herbal medicine. But my personal favorite is through tea. Tea is a fast delivery mechanism and in their whole form, herbs retain their bioavailability. This means the compounds are in a form that is easily digested and metabolized by the body. Also, many herbs contain a number of compounds that work together in a synergistic manner. Of course, purchasing the dry herbs tends to be more cost effective than in supplement form.
I generally make a warm infusion with tulsi. This is what most people think of as a general cup of tea, simply placing the herbs in a hot cup of water and allowing to steep. Many people only allow tea to steep for a few minutes, and if you are drinking black tea just for taste, that’s fine. But to get the medicinal effects of tulsi or other herbs, you want to steep longer, about 10 minutes or more.
Personally I place my herbs in a stainless steel tea infuser inside a 32 oz. mason jar and let it steep while I walk on the treadmill in the morning. I leave the herbs in their as I drink as well because some herbs have constituents that come out as the tea cools rather than when it’s warm. I’ll have to write a post all about making tea sometime! There are some sources online on making a cold infusion with tulsi! I have not made this recipe yet but I’m looking forward to doing so this summer.
Other Forms of Tulsi(Holy Basil)
As I stated above, there’s not necessarily any one particular perfect way to work with herbs for their medicinal benefits. In addition to tea there are tinctures, powders in capsule form, dried and added to food dishes, essential oils for aromatherapy, and various other ways. I have worked with tulsi in tea, tinctures and in supplement (capsule) form. Tulsi has been an ingredient in supplements I have taken through my functional medicine doctor’s recommendation and I have taken this one previously on my own. I also like this tincture.
Products I LOVE
Foster Farm Botanicals – I LOVE the tulsi grown at Foster Farm Botanicals. It’s also my favorite source for Calendula!
Mountain Rose Herbs – This is a great source for a lot of bulk herbs and products. Their shipping can take awhile, but the products are worth it!
Products From Amazon (as an affiliate, this helps me buy my own tea but at no extra cost to you)
Organic India Tea Variety Pack – this pack would allow you try several blends of Tulsi.
Tulsi Honey Chamomile – if you want to try both Tulsi AND lovely chamomile!
Stainless Steel Tea Infusers – these are the infusers I love to use with mugs or a mason jar to make tea with dried herbs that are not already in tea bags.
17.7 Oz BPA Free Tea Steeper – if you prefer, you can steep right in the container and then simply empty the tea right over your mug.
Please remember: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare provider. This post, as are all others on My Wellness Basket, are for educational purposes only. Please see my disclaimer page.