Herbs have always played a significant role in human life since centuries. The modern man, in spite of his scientific and inventions and innovations is now turning back to the safety of herbal care for his umpteen medical problems. He realizes the fact that Mother Nature has cure for everything and that there is much to be discovered.
Tulsi (Tulasi), otherwise known as Basil leaf, is one of the most popular medicinal herbs in India. It is native to India and has a central position in Indian culture. It also appears in some of the European Christian legends like those of the Greek Orthodox Church. The name basil is likely to have derived from Greek words referring to ‘royalty’ or ‘king’.
Tulsi is considered by Hindus as a sacred plant and is widely used for its extensive medicinal properties since eons. Tulsi, is the elixir of life and takes a customary and distinctive place in the garden of an Indian. It has a unique place in the native Indian beliefs and superstitions as well.
A traditional Indian would not begin his day without offering prayers to the Sun God (Surya Namaskara) and the Tulsi leaves (Tulsi Puja). In ancient Hindu houses Tulsi is located in the center of the eastern side of the compound in a specially built-in area as it is believed to safeguard the house from harmful diseases. It is true that the presence of Tulsi in the vicinity of the house can control the spread of harmful germs and keep the atmosphere clean and pure owing to its antibacterial powers.
Tulsi is highly revered and consecrated in India because of its invincible medicinal powers and is considered as a gift from the Lord Himself. It is a symbol of a Hindu’s religious inclinations. However, Vaishnavites do not draw on Tulsi for medicine due to their rigid belief that Tulsi is a favourite of God Vishnu.
There are various definitions as to what the Sanskrit word ‘Tulsi’ mean. Some references show that it means ‘the incomparable one’ while some others point out that it means ‘the one that does not tolerate’.
Scientifically called Ocimum sanctum or Ocimum tenuiflorum, Tulsi has three varieties:
- Rama Tulsi
- Krishna Tulsi
- Vana Tulsi
They are mainly distinguished by their colour and then by the size of the leaves, fragrance and flavor. Thai Basil is another variety that closely resembles the Holy Basil.
The healing powers of Tulsi are not alien to human race. Tulsi is the elixir that promotes longevity. Tulsi is bestowed with many magical powers:
- Enhances stamina
- Relieves inflammation
- Lowers cholesterol
- Reduces stress
- Eliminates toxins
- Prevents ulcers
- Brings down fever
- Improves digestion, etc.
Tulsi’s strong anti-viral, anti-oxidant and anti-viral properties promote good health and wellbeing and increase immunity.
There are innumerable uses to Tulsi and hence is deservedly called the Queen of Herbs.
Tulsi leaves can promote the removal of phlegm from bronchial tube and also act as a nerve tonic. The adaptogen or the anti-stress agent in Tulsi can calm the nerves and alleviate stress. Basil and sandal wood paste make a good cure for headache as they have a great soothing power.
Scientists swear on Tulsi that it can reduce blood glucose levels and thus cure diabetes with its antioxidant properties. Studies also show significant reduction in total cholesterol levels with Tulsi.
It also helps in alleviating and preventing diseases like common cold and flu. The decoction made with Tulsi brings down high temperature resulting from fever or flu, especially in children. Many herbal medicines for cough, throat problems etc are made with Tulsi as the main ingredient. It can relieve a patient of bronchitis and asthma. Tulsi is also used for respiratory disorders along with ginger and honey.
Chewing Basil leaves can prevent mouth disorders and also purify blood. Toothpastes and toothpowders made of Neem and Tulsi are not uncommon in India as both are good for dental health and for eliminating bad odor.
Additionally, the dried leaves of Tulsi are mixed with stored grains to repel insects. Some find use to Tulsi as a mosquito deterrent.
Tulsi takes up a significant role in the eastern medicines like Ayurveda and Unani while it also makes a simple herbal tea in combination with other herbs. Though in the recent culinary experiments the plant is abominably reduced to a spice or a garnish which often remains as a left over in the dinner plate!