No medicinal garden could be complete without the Tulsi or the Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum/Ocimum tenuiflorum, Thulasi in Malayalam, Surasa in Sanskrit). Tulsi is native to the Indian sub-continent and is a small, erect shrub with hairy stems and green (Rama Tulsi) or purple (Krishna Tulsi) leaves.
There is probably no other plant in India more venerated that the versatile Tulsi, with its religious significance and valuable medicinal properties.
Tulsi benefits & uses are too numerous to list and here is but a sampling of its role as a medicine, in cosmetics, as an insect repellent, anti-septic, stress buster and in the making of spiritual accessories.
Tulsi as Medicine
With its numerous healing properties, Tulsi is known as the ‘elixir of life’ in Ayurveda. Tulsi can be taken in many forms – fresh off the plant, as dried powder, mixed in with other ingredients, in herbal teas, and as an essential oil. According to Ayurveda, Tulsi benefits as an effective Kapha reducing agent, but is also used to soothe Vatha and Pitta. Ayurveda uses Tulsi extracts in several remedies, to treat everything from a common cold to fevers, cough, sore throat, respiratory disorders, skin conditions, insect bites, diarrhea, indigestion, mouth infections, eye disorders and headache. It is known to be effective in the treatment of kidney stones, heart ailments and recent studies reveal that tulsi even protects healthy cells from the toxicity of chemotherapy and radiation and thus a helpful agent in the treatment of cancer. So basically, this little plant that grows in your yard is a ‘sarva roga samurai’.
Tulsi as an Anti-septic
Essential oil derived from Tulsi is a rich source of eugenol, nerol, camphor, and a variety of terpenes and flavonoids which are potent fighters against harmful germs, bacteria, fungi and parasites.
Tulsi as a Stress Buster
Tulsi stimulates the brain’s neurochemistry in the same way that anti-depressants do, but without the harmful side effects. The anti oxidants in Tulsi reduce the harmful effects of stress on the body.
Tulsi as a Insect Repellant/Pesticide
Dried or powdered leaves of Tulsi are used to keep insects and harmful bacteria and fungi away from grains and clothes. Essential oils derived from the plant have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties too.
Tulsi in Cosmetics
The essential oils in tulsi are used in the preparation of curative and preventive herbal cosmetics for a clearer skin, treatment of acne and dandruff. Coconut oil heated with Tulsi leaves is used to promote healthy hair growth.
Tulsi is easily available and is already a staple plant in most houses. In case you have difficulty getting a plant, here is where you can get one.
The Tulsi Plant : A Quick Overview
Next in the series: Cherunarakam (Lemon)