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In Ayurvedic medicine the Tulsi plant is perhaps regarded as the most beneficial herb. In the Charaka Samhita scripture on Ayurveda, the Tulsi is one of the primary herbs that can be taken by anyone without any adverse effects. It is said to be astringent, bitter and pungent in taste and has a warming action on the body as well as balancing the ‘Doshas’ (the three bodily humors in Ayurveda). Tulsi is traditionally given a purifying action, cleansing the respiratory system and helping to relieve gas from the digestive tract. In this sense it makes one feel lighter and less bloated. It is also used to treat skin ailments, fever, heart disorders, mouth infections, insect bites, headaches and eye disorders. Ayurvedic medicine calls this extraordinary herb an elixir and overall tonic that can be used for a variety of illnesses bringing the body back into alignment. It is said to be even better if taken daily as a preventative.
Because of its chemical composition Tulsi has certain antimicrobial qualities that are thought to help in combating coughs, colds, flu and fevers. It might also be helpful for skin complaints if made into a paste and applied topically. There have been a number of trials conducted on the effectiveness of Tulsi leaf as an adaptogenic herb which show it can reduce swelling and blood pressure. Also there is some scientific basis for it to be considered a stress busting herb, relieving anxiety if taken regularly. Taken in line with other herbs and foods, Tulsi has shown that it can help in the absorption of nutrients into the body. In general Tulsi supports the constitution in adjusting and regulating the body’s chemistry where it is needed.
Traditionally Tulsi is made into pastes, teas and added to cooking. As a powdered supplement it can be mixed with water in the prescribed dose and drunk straight. It can also be blended in Superfood smoothies and herbal powder blends.
For a vast majority of those who live in India the Tulsi plant is a Goddess incarnate. An evocative, holy and revered name for those who are devoted Vaishavas (those who worship Lord Vishnu and his incarnations, e.g. – Lord Rama, Lord Krishna), the Goddess Tulsi is considered one of the consorts of Lord Vishnu and an incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi. There are a myriad of varying mythologies that tell of how Tulsi became incarnated as a plant. The most simple of these tells of how Lakshmi is cursed by the Goddess Saraswati after Lakshmi defended the Goddess Ganga from an attack from Saraswati. Ganga had been flirting with Lord Vishnu making Saraswati jealous; Lakshmi intervenes and is cursed by Saraswati to be born as a plant. Both Ganga and Saraswati then curse each other to be incarnated as rivers. For this reason the Tulsi plant is highly regarded as the Goddess Lakshmi herself. Every part of the plant has significance and is used in religious rituals, made into malas (prayer beads) and taken as medicine. In Vrindavan, a city in India that is considered holy to Lord Krishna, it is not uncommon to find Tulsi trees planted in elevated positions outside houses and in courtyards. It is thought that having a tree at the front of the house will prevent negative energy from coming near.
There are two varying colours to the Tulsi plant; one light green which is called either ‘Shri-Tulsi’ or ‘Rama-Tulsi’ and another dark or purple leafed Tulsi plant that is called ‘Shyama-Tulsi’. Shri (meaning ‘fortunate’) refers to Lakshmi as the consort of Lord Vishnu and Rama being one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The Shyama Tulsi is in reference to Lord Krishna, another incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who had skin that was said to be the colour of a beautiful night or very dark blue.
One of the most interesting facts relating to the chemical composition of the Tulsi plant is that it is extremely complex resulting in different levels of chemicals in each sample. The differing chemistry of each plant depends on environmental factors such as soil, altitude and strain of Tulsi. It has even been found that individual Tulsi plants that have been grown in the same field can be very different chemically.
In trace elements Tulsi contains Vitamin A and C as well as Zinc, Iron, chlorophyll and phytonutrients.
Below are the common phytochemicals that can be found in varying amounts in each plant.
oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, carvacrol, linalool, β-caryophyllene, β-elemene, and germacrene D.
Tulsi may reduce the effectiveness of making the blood clot. It is recommended that you stop taking Tulsi two weeks before scheduled surgery.