What is Tulsi (Holy Basil)?
Popularly known in the western world as Holy basil, the Latin name of Tulsi is Ocimum tenuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum. The tulsi plant is a heavily branched small shrub which is widely grown in India for medicinal as well as religious purposes.
The word “tulsi” means “the incomparable plant“. The plant can grow up to a height of about 60 cm and has hairy stems with oval-shaped leaves of about 5 cm in length. There are two main varieties of the Holy basil, the one with the green leaves is called Rama or Shri tulsi and the one with the reddish leaves is called Krishna or Shyama tulsi.
Tulsi is used in many forms which includes in the form of a tulsi tea, juice, fresh leaves, and dried powdered form.
Health Benefits of Tulsi
Tulsi is widely used in Ayurveda for medicinal purposes. Eugenol, found in Ocimum sanctum, is believed to be the main constituent responsible for the medicinal properties of the Holy basil. The plant has also been found to have antimicrobial properties, thanks to the ursolic acid and carvacrol constituents found in it.
Along with antimicrobial properties, the phytochemicals present in tulsi offer antioxidant as well as immune-enhancing qualities. It also has adaptogenic properties, that is, it enhances the body’s ability to adapt to stress.
Let’s take a look at some of the medicinal uses of the Holy basil leaves.
Respiratory benefits of tulsi
For asthma and bronchitis
The leaves of the Tulsi are effective expectorants and promote the release of mucus in bronchitis and asthma, thus, facilitating breathing. A decoction made of tulsi leaves, honey and ginger is effective for asthma, bronchitis and influenza.
For cold and flu
Chewing the leaves of the Holy basil helps relieve symptoms of cold and flu.
For sore throat
Boil a few leaves of Tulsi in about half a liter of water. Drink this tulsi tea or use it as a gargle at least three times a day. You can also add cloves to this decoction for more benefits.
The antimicrobial properties of the tulsi leaves make it an excellent treatment for fever. As we know, fever is not a disease by itself. In fact, it is caused by infections caused due to viruses, bacteria, fungus, protozoa or due to allergens.
Tulsi is quite effective in bringing down temperature and can safely be used with children too. It also protects an individual from malarial and dengue fever, which are caused due to mosquito bites.
The leaves can be boiled in half a liter of water and mixed with honey and milk. Tulsi extract added to water can also be given every 2-3 hours for bringing down the fever.
Beneficial for the kidneys
Tulsi juice and honey taken regularly for 6 months may help in expelling a kidney stone that is smaller than 5mm through the urinary tract. Regular intake of tulsi leaves may also reduce uric acid levels and promote proper cleansing of the kidneys through urination.
Effective for skin disorders
The juice of the tulsi plant may help in the treatment of skin diseases such as ringworm and leucoderma.
Tulsi leaves can be applied as poultice on the infected area to cure skin diseases. You can also add a decoction of tulsi leaves to your bathwater to cure infections as well as prevent their occurrence.
It is also effective for insect as well as snake and scorpion bites. It can be taken internally as well as applied on the infected area. Take a teaspoon of the tulsi extract every 3 hours. Apply the extract on the affected area as and when required.
It may reduce blood cholesterol levels and have benefits for the heart. Its antioxidant properties protect the heart from free radical damage. Regular intake of tulsi tea also reduces high blood pressure.
Beneficial for the nerves and brain
Tulsi acts a nerve tonic and improves brain functioning. It improves concentration and sharpens memory.
Oral and dental Benefits
The antibacterial properties of the Holy basil keep your mouth and teeth free from bacteria. Tulsi juice works as an excellent mouth freshener, prevents bad breath, and cures ulcers in the mouth.
It also prevents the occurrence of dental cavities, tartar and plaque. Tulsi is also beneficial for strengthening gums and preventing tooth decay.
Instead of chewing the leaves, use tulsi tea for promoting oral and dental health since the mercury in the leaves may damage your teeth. You can also use the dried and powdered leaves as toothpaste for curing dental and gum diseases such as pyorrhea.
Beneficial as an eye wash
Regular consumption of tulsi may protect your eyes from various diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. It also soothes the eyes and reduces strain caused due to constant computer use.
Soak the leaves of the Holy basil in a cup of water and let it stay overnight. Strain the water and use it as an eye wash. You can also dip cotton ball into this liquid and place it on your eyes. Blink a few times to get relief in eye strain and other eye diseases. You can also instill two drops of basil juice.
Good for headaches
Applying a poultice of pounded tulsi leaves on the forehead helps relieve headache caused due to heat, stress and eye strain. You can also drink tulsi tea to relieve migraine and other stress headaches.
Its antioxidant properties prevent the body from damages caused due to free radicals, thus, delaying the aging process and the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging.
More benefits of tulsi
Chemicals found in tulsi may decrease pain and inflammation. It may lower blood sugar in diabetics. Although more studies are needed, preliminary research has revealed that the antioxidant properties of tulsi seed oil may slow down the progression of certain types of cancer.
The Holy basil may be beneficial for the treatment of tuberculosis as well. Tulsi extracts may also help in weight loss because of its ability to reduce cortisol levels.
Other Uses of Tulsi
If you are in a country like India, you need to use something that keeps the mosquitoes away from you. Rub tulsi oil on the exposed areas of your body to keep mosquitoes and other insects away from you.
Beads made of this plant are considered to have medicinal as well as divine properties. It is believed that tulsi protects one from negative influences.
Tulsi in Hinduism
As mentioned above, the Holy basil possesses excellent medicinal properties. This is probably one of the main reasons why this plant is so revered in Hinduism. Hindus consider their house as incomplete if they don’t have a tulsi plant within the place itself.
In Hindu mythology, tulsi is very dear to Lord Vishnu. On the 11th bright day of the month of Kartika (around mid-October) in the Hindu calendar, tulsi is ceremonially married to Lord Vishnu in what is called tulsi vivah. This symbolic marriage denotes the beginning of one of the most auspicious periods for marriage in Hindu culture.
It is usually the woman of the household who take care of the plant. They water it, light the diya (small earthen lamp), and worship the plant after taking a bath in the morning. It is considered to be auspicious to have the Holy basil as it is believed to promote longevity and happiness for the residents of the household.