by Sheyna Haisman-Holmes
Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a precious plant in the Mint family that is revered in Ayurveda. It grows in India, as well as parts of California, Oregon and more. It is common for people in India to have a tulsi plant in their homes that they tend to and use as needed. This holy plant is often planted outside of temples in a structure called a Tulsi Vrindavan. This plant is worshipped as the goddess Tulsi/Tulasi/Lakshmi. Tulsi is the earthly manifestation of Lakshmi who is the goddess of good fortune. Through worship of the tulsi plant, Vishnu and his many forms are also worshipped. The woody stalks and roots are turned into mala beads for ritual, where the tulsi plant can dance with and potentize our prayers.
Tulsi tastes of a combination of basil and mint with a pungent and astringent effect. It is a warming herb that can help balance the body temperature. There are different types of tulsi with slightly different scents and qualities. There is Rama, Krishna, Vana, Kapoor and Amrita tulsi. These varieties have different growing ranges, leaf size, color, and levels of eugenol (oil of clove) & rosmarinic acid. They are often blended together in loose-leaf tea and certain varieties are used for hydrosols, tinctures and other medicines.
Actions & Qualities of Tulsi:
-Clears & supports the lungs
-Improves circulation to the extremities. This can help in cases of Raynaud’s Syndrome (poor circulation to extremities)
-Increases circulation & blood flow to the brain
-Clears the mind
-Adaptogenic, helping the body to manage and cope with stress
-Uplifting, warming, sattvic
-Can encourage menstruation through stimulated blood flow
-Promotes alertness, mental clarity, creativity and focus
-Promotes sleep and calming down of the system
-Stimulates the crown and the front of the brain
-Drying, clear, mobile, light
Tulsi helps kapha dosha the most with its warming quality and focus enhancing action. Taken in excess, it can be slightly aggravating to pitta dosha in a vitiated case. In people with a high vata dosha, tulsi may be ungrounding with the amount of expansiveness that can occur. It can be a little drying, which can cause constipation, unless the stool is loose and could benefit. The astringency and mild bitterness can cause the mouth to feel rough or dry, but it also has some demulcent qualities that bring moisture and softness.
There are many ways to work with tulsi. Tea is a preferred way that comes with the soothing benefit of tea ritual and warmth. It can also be taken in tablets, tincture, and powder or absorbed topically through the skin in infused oil. Regular consumption of tulsi can have profound and helpful effects on the body that align with the foundations of Ayurveda. Ayurveda targets the prevention of disease through lifestyle habits that are often simple, but done with regularity. :)