A year ago I took a workshop on using medicinal herbs for trauma, grief and support for the dying. Tulsi (holy basil) was a popular recommendation in many of the suggested formulas. I have never been that drawn to experiment with tulsi since it is not commonly grown in the US. You can now find it easily in many well known commercial blends, but the tea has always seemed rather bland to me. Probably because of how it is dried and stored. It just seemed to be yet another plant from a far off country to become the next health trend (because it can be harvested in large amounts cheaply but unsustainably).
I decided to take the risk and order some dried tulsi from an on-line source. They had several sub species/varieties to choose from. I can only speak for the one I ordered. It has an amazing taste that is really hard to describe as there are so many “notes”(sweet, fruity, floral, spicy) that I can detect. Surprising given that the dried product I received had so little color and scent to it. I swoon to imagine what it would have been like as a living plant.
This tulsi syrup tastes a bit like Coke or Pepsi which originally had ingredients/essential oils such as neroli, cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, lavender, vanilla, and coriander. So far I have used it added to carbonated water, regular ice water, and to milk for a boba tea type drink. It has a rich caramel color just like other soft drinks but without all the bad stuff.
To a large stockpot add….
1 cup of coconut palm sugar
2 cups of water
1 medium lemon sliced into quarters
1/3 cup of dried tulsi leaves
1 inch of a large fresh ginger root coarsely chopped.
Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Lastly-strain, fully cool, pour into bottles, cap and refrigerate. Will store for several months.
I don’t have a photograph for living tulsi at the moment. I did successfully grow several small plants from seed. I did harvest and use them. But they were mixed in with my Italian and cinnamon basil so I could not get a good, clear, distinct image.
I have dozens of books on herbal medicine. Many of which are well known and popular. I also have a few books on Ayurveda. I was very disappointed that there was so little about tulsi in my home resources.
A far as a physical description, all varieties of basil will be frost tender annuals. Leaves will be oval shaped and opposite. These will not be downy. “Basil” leaves tend to be smooth and flat, same color top and bottom. Tulsi leaves will be much smaller than cultivated Italian basil, they may be slightly serrated. Tiny flowers will grow in whorled clusters or along a spike at the ends of stems past the large mature leaves. Light pink/purple or white petals are fused, the flower funnel shaped, with a large bottom lip. Hence why it is popular with bumble and native bees. Like other members of the “mint family” , tulsi will be high is volatile oils with a distinctive scent. It will have have square stems. Coloration of leaves and stems will vary just like other “mints” with lots of cultivated varieties. You may see hints of red or purple.
I have decided not to describe the medicinal qualities of tulsi as it it were Italian basil. You can read about that in other posts were I have featured that specific plant. Rather I will only list what is unique or special to tulsi based on internet research.
Tulsi reduces the inflammation associated with viral and bacterial infections. It is thought to purify the blood and remove serious toxins. This plant has a history of being used to treat heat conditions related to the eyes, skin, heart, liver or lungs. As herbal medicine it has been used for kidney stones, migraines, fevers, dental disease, gout, arthritis, stress, anxiety, fatigue, gas, bloating, parasites, poor appetite, ulcers, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bronchitis, flu, allergies, asthma, swelling and pain. It may support weight loss by boosting metabolism. It may have anti-aging properties like reducing memory loss and boosting vitality.
As a poultice it has been used to remove venom from bites or stings. As an external wash it may help when there is acne, eczema, scars, hair loss, dandruff, rashes, fungal infections, and aging skin It can be burned as a disinfectant to purify or remove negative energy.
Latin name: Ocinum tenuiflorum/sanctum
Parts used: leaves and flowering tops
Energetics: pungent, bitter, warm, dry. In Ayurveda or vitalistic traditions, Tulsi is used to cool heat conditions.
Spiritual/Emotional uses: Mastery and accomplishment through self control hard work and confidence. An expanded state of awareness that is positive, protective and supports achieving goals or manifesting dreams. Inspiration. To release any inner tension that constricts the spirit. Helps to increase self-esteem or courage. Can be used in a mild tea, external wash or bath to ease transitions or remove sorrow.
Contraindications: individuals experiencing diabetes, infertility, or who are pregnant. Large quantities may cause diarrhea and nausea.