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Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Updated: May 15

There are many new varieties of basil out there now but there is a very old variety of basil that is used for healing that you may not have heard of. Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is grown in India and is used in Ayurvedic healing practices in many middle eastern countries.

Just because it’s grown there, does not mean that we cannot grow it here just like our normal basils. Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum,) or tulsi, is a powerful herb. The small holy basil shrub with tiny lavender flowers is considered a sacred plant in India and is often worshiped. It was believed that the holy basil leaves had potent powers to flush out toxins from the body. Even now in India, people have tulsi water (water which has tulsi leaves soaked overnight) or chew on a tulsi leaf to improve overall health.

I discovered this herb a few years ago and love the clovey/minty/basily smell and taste, so I started growing it! I just love harvesting it and smelling the plants as I brush up against them in the garden as I gather them for our VitaliTea.

Several health products are available with tulsi extracts to help treat cold, cough, and the flu.

Holy basil is incredibly beneficial for human health, primarily due to the unique composition of its essential oil, containing eugenol, camphor, flavonoids, nerol, and various terpenes. This rich blend of organic compounds delivers a number of health benefits and can help relieve acne, asthma, inflammation, respiratory issues, and lower your chances of heart diseases and atherosclerosis

Holy basil differs from the basil used in Italian dishes or Thai basil used in curries in Southeast Asia. There are 4 different varieties of tulsi. Some of the tulsi has a pungent and bitter taste and it is not usually used for cooking. It is, however, used to make tulsi tea which has adaptogenic properties. The clove-tasting variety is particularly nice for tea.

Holy basil is highly nutritious and, according to USDA, it is a good source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. It also contains iron, sodium, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6, A, and K.

Health Benefits of Holy Basil

Let's look at the most powerful health benefits of holy basil or tulsi:

Reduces Fever

The miraculous healing properties of holy basil come mainly from its essential oils and the phytonutrients in it. Holy basil is an excellent antibiotic, germicidal, fungicidal, and disinfectant agent and very effectively protects our body from all sorts of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Fever is mainly caused due to infections from protozoa (malaria), bacteria (typhoid), viruses (flu), and even allergic substances and fungus. Fever is not actually an ailment in itself, it is just a symptom which shows that our body is fighting against less visible infections. The tremendous disinfectant, germicidal, and fungicidal properties of tulsi destroy all those pathogens discussed above and heal the resulting fever. It is an old practice in India to have a decoction of tulsi leaves and flowers on hand in case anyone is suffering from a fever.

Relieves Symptoms of Respiratory Disorders

Tulsi, along with curing viral, bacterial, and fungal infections of the respiratory system, gives miraculous relief from congestion due to the presence of components like camphene, eugenol, and cineole in its essential oils. It is very effective in curing almost all respiratory disorders including bronchitis, both chronic and acute.

Helps with Treatment of Asthma

Tulsi is very beneficial in the treatment of asthma since it relieves congestion and facilitates smoother breathing. The phytonutrients and essential oils, along with the other minerals in it, help cure some of the underlying causes of asthma as well.

Prevents Lung Disorders

The compounds like vitamin C, camphene, eugenol, and cineole present in the essential oils of tulsi not only provide relief from the infections in the lungs but also help clear the lung congestion. Furthermore, they are found to be effective in healing the damages caused to the lungs due to smoking, etc.

Prevents Heart Diseases

A 2017 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal throws light on the use of tulsi for chronic cardiovascular diseases. Holy basil contains vitamin C and other antioxidants such as eugenol, which protect the heart from the harmful effects of free radicals. Additionally, eugenol is very beneficial in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood.

Reduces Stress

Vitamin C and other antioxidants in holy basil, apart from repairing damages done by free radicals, also minimize the stress caused by these oxidants. A study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine says that tulsi soothes the nerves, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation, and thus reduces stress. Potassium, in Tulsi, also reduces blood pressure-related stress by replacing sodium and loosening the tensed blood vessels.

Mouth Freshener

Tulsi is an excellent mouth freshener and an oral disinfectant and its freshness lasts for a very long time. Holy basil destroys more than 99% of germs and bacteria in the mouth and this effect can last all day. It also aids in providing relief from mouth ulcers.

Chemopreventive Properties

Tulsi may inhibit the growth of various cancers including oral cancer due to the presence of phytochemicals like eugenol, according to research cited in the Nutrition and Cancer journal. Other studies also support that it may have anticancer potential.

Another study by Dr. Vivek Yadav, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas, throws light on the apoptotic property of ursolic acid present in holy basil.

Dental Care

Holy basil destroys the bacteria that are responsible for dental cavities, plaque, tartar, and bad breath, while also protecting the teeth. It also has astringent properties which make the gums hold the teeth tighter, thereby keeping them from falling. However, tulsi also has certain compounds like mercury, which has rich germicidal properties that can be harmful to the teeth if kept in direct contact for too long. Therefore, it is advised to avoid chewing these leaves. It is actually discussed in holy books and Ayurvedic teachings that chewing these leaves robs them of their holiness. It is, however, harmless as long as it is not chewed, (e.g.: consuming its decoction.)

Reduces Risk of Kidney Stones

Tulsi, being a detoxifier and a mild diuretic, helps to reduce the uric acid level in the body, which is the main culprit as far as kidney stones are concerned. It also helps clean out the kidneys through increased frequency of urination. Acetic acid and certain components in Tulsi essential oil facilitate dissolution of the stones. Finally, it has pain-killer effects and helps bear the pain from kidney stones as they pass.

Skin Care

Try taking a bath with a decoction of holy basil mixed with your bath water, washing your face with it, or simply applying the paste of its leaves on an infected area of the skin in the case of skin diseases. You can just consume tulsi leaves and still manage to keep your skin free from all infections. Rubbing holy basil leaves or its extracted oil on the body keeps mosquitoes and other insects away. It helps cure skin disorders both internally and externally, without any side effects. This property mainly comes from its essential oils, which are highly antibiotic, disinfectant, antibacterial, and antifungal in nature. External application on the skin also removes extra oil from the surface of the skin. Camphene gives tulsi a soothing and a cooling effect.

Relieves Headache

A headache caused due to a migraine, sinus pressure, cough, cold, or high blood pressure can be effectively controlled by the use of a single tulsi serving. Camphene, eugenol, cineol, carvacrol, and methyl-chavicol, in holy basil, have excellent analgesic, sedative, anti-congestive, and disinfectant properties.

Prevents Premature Aging

Vitamins C and A, phytonutrients, and the essential oils in holy basil are excellent antioxidants and protect the body from nearly all the damages caused by free radicals in the body, which are hazardous byproducts of cellular metabolism that are responsible for a wide swath of diseases, including cancer. In the traditional Indian medicine system called Ayurveda, it is considered as a tonic to retain youthful vigor and avoid premature aging.

Boosts Immunity

Holy basil is so good for boosting up the immune system that it is hard to describe it in words. It protects against nearly all infections from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.

Eye Care

Wash your eyes daily with a few leaves of basil soaked in water and you will be free from conjunctivitis, boils, and many other problems of the eyes which are caused due to viral, bacterial, or fungal infections. It also soothes eye inflammation and reduces stress. Regular consumption can protect your eyes from the damage done by free radicals, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, vision defects, and ophthalmia, due to the high antioxidant content of its essential oils, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

Other Benefits

It can protect your body from radiation poisoning and also heal the damages from that sort of condition. It can be given after surgery to help heal wounds quickly and also to protect those areas from infections. It acts as a vaccine against pox if consumed regularly. Effectiveness as an expectorant is one of the most prized properties of holy basil, making it very efficient in curing coughs and colds. It is beneficial in reducing labor pain, destroying rabies germs, treating gastroenteritis, cholera, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rheumatism, nausea, septic, urinary and genital infections, and destroying worms in the stomach. Furthermore, its dried leaves can be mixed with food grains to be used as an insect repellent.

Is it any wonder that I love Tulsi?!

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