Holy Basil, ocimum sanctum
Lord Shiva described the power of Tulsi to the rishi Narada, saying: "Oh, Narada! Every house, every village, every forest, wherever the plant of Tulsi is grown, there misery, fear, disease and poverty do not exist. Tulsi in all aspects and places is holier than holy. Where the breeze blows through Tulsi plants, it spreads Tulsi's fragrance making the surrounding area pious and pure. Lord Vishnu and other gods shower their blessings on the people who worship and grow Tulsi. Through the worship of Tulsi, the souls of all our ancestors are pleased and our path to the heavens is opened. Oh Narada! The three gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra reside in the roots, middle parts of the plant and in the flowering tops respectively. This is why the plant of Tulsi is the most holy plant of the earth.”
Ocimum sanctum,Ocimum tenuiflorum.
I. Plant Name- Official Botanical Name: Ocimum sanctum, O. tenuiflorum L.English: Holy BasilFamiliar name: Holy Basil, Sacred Basil
Latin: Ocimum sanctum (“sacred fragrant lipped basil”)
or Ocimum tenuiflorum (“basil with small flowers”)
or Ocumum gratissimum (“very grateful basil”)or Ocumum viride willd
Hindi: Tulsi, Sanskrit: Tulasi, Tulsi, Surasa
* more recently Ocimum tenuiflorum, and Ocimum gratissimum (Vana Tulsi variety). Belonging to the Lamiaceae/Labiatae mint family, these and other closely related species and varieties (e.g., Ocimum canum) are cousins of the familiar sweet basil cooking herb Ocimum basilicum.
Parts Used-Aerial parts; Leaf & Flower in full flower, as well as root, seeds, stems and essential oil.
II. Botanical description- Physical Features; Holy Basil is an upright bushy shrub that grows to a height of 16 to 22 inches tall. It's hairy stems sprout oval leaves with serrated edges, and depending on the variety, range in color from light green to dark purple. Roots are fine, white and hair-like. The blooms are erect purple to reddish flowers producing tiny rust-colored fruit. There are three main varieties of Tulsi – Rama, Vana, and Krishna. Each has its own unique flavor but all three are used interchangeably. Ocimum sanctum has a strong, pungent aroma that is highly aromatic, different varieties of Holy Basil may smell and taste of peppermint, cloves, licorice or lemon ~ more clove like than that of culinary basil. Seeds are oval with pointed tips at each end, dark brown in color.
USDA - Perennial growth cycle .
III. Taxonomy- Queendom - PlantaePlants Subkingdom Tracheobionta - vascular plantsSuperdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants DivisionClass Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants Magnoliopsida – DicotyledonsSubclass - AsteridaeOrder - LamialesFamily - Lamiaceae – Mint family GenusGenus - Ocimum L.– basilSpecies - sanctum / tenuiflorum L. – holy basilIV. Plant History / Ethnobotany- Holy Basil is commonly grown in homes and it is often considered sacred plant to this day. Ocimum sanctum has only recently become well known all over the world, but it has always been a cornerstone of Ayurvedic practice. It is said that the plant is so holy, even the ground beneath it is sacred. The dried stems of the plant are made into beads for prayer necklaces in India and most every household has a Tulsi plant outside its door.Tulsi, Queen of Herbs, the legendary "Incomparable One" of India, is one of the holiest and most cherished of the many healing and health-giving herbs of the Orient. The ancient ayurvedic texts, the Charaka Samhita (appx. 200 BCE) and Sushruta Samhita (400–100 BCE) both mention the use of this herb to treat people with snakebites and scorpion stings.The Padma purana and the Tulsi Kavacham describe Tulsi as a protector of life, accompanying the human being from birth up till death (Dymock et al , 1893). The Pauranic mythology calls Tulsi Vishnu Priya , "Beloved of Lord Vishnu."Hindus revere Tulsi as a goddess in the form of a plant bestowed with great spiritual and healing powers. According to the Bhagavataand Mahabharata (ancient holy epics and scriptures), no amount of gold could outweigh Krishna, but a single Tulsi leaf placed on the pan in loving devotion tilted the scale.In Europe, as the herb traveled west along the early trade routes from the Orient, Tulsi became known to Christians as sacred or holy basil, and was hailed as “The King of Herbs.” Holy Basil became routinely included in legends, offerings and worship rituals and was looked on by many as a gift of Christ.“The history of Holy Basil in the Western world is now being written and experienced. It will be documented by science. Believers and users of the herb will find increased health and vitality.” ~Deepak Chopra, M.D.
V. Cultivation and Propagation-Tulsi germinates in 14 days at 55 F at night and 70F day. Tiny dark brown seeds are pressed into the soil surface. Tamp securely and keep evenly moist, in well-drained to dry soil, warm and rich, light. The most optimal pH is pH5-8. Pinch out growing tips to encourage bushiness and delay flowering. Ocimum sanctum dislikes transplanting so is best sown in situ. Basils cross very readily between varieties, so seeds saved in a mixed planting will not grow true to type in the following year unless cross-pollination by bees is prevented. You can also take cuttings from side shoots. As a tropical plant, basil grows rapidly at temperatures in excess of 60°F (16°C) and is frost-sensitive. Direct sow or transplant after last frost. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer during the active growing period and discontinue during the cooler months when the Tulsi plant goes dormant.
Pests and Diseases- A fungal disease called fusarium wilt can attack plants, causing sudden wilting. Remove and destroy affected plants (do not compost them), and do not replant basil in the contaminated soil. Consider planting basils among other plants, rather than en masse. Slugs, aphids, whitefly, spider mites, and Botrytis may attack plants.
VI. Wild crafting and domesticated harvest- Tulsi seeds are usually easy to germinate then grow. Small seeds are gown in early spring indoors or in the greenhouse for an early start, or sow Holy Basil seeds directly in the spring or summer garden. In temperate regions such as northern India this plant is said to grow well as an annual, however basils are truly perennial plants in their native habitats (they grow continually for many seasons). Tulsi does well in pots or window boxes.
There are three distinct varieties of Tulsi: Vana, which grows wild in the forests, Krishna, which is entirely purple, and Rama, the most commonly found type in India or other subtropical growing locations like Ecuador, Himalayan foothills and areas of the Middle East. “ORGANIC INDIA” trains indigenous villagers in India to sustainably wildcraft forest Brahmi, where Tulsi-Holy Basil is organically and biodynamically grown in their optimal and autochthonous habitats.* Most herb companies import a blend of three.
VII. Preparation Methods- Tulsi is traditionally taken in a variety of forms, including fresh or dried leaf tea infusions (herbal teas), ground or powdered leaf, alcohol tinctures, poultices and oil preparations, mixed with ghee. Additionally seed, root and stem formulations are prepared for both internally and topically purposes.
Leaf & Flowers: Fresh and dried.
Fresh:leaf & flower; Charanamrita made of cow's milk, yogurt, honey, Ganga: water and leaves. Juice of the fresh leaf is put in the ear. Fresh roots utilized externally.
Dried:Leaf, flower, seed. For extracts, powdered, ground into snuff.
Beads: made from the woody stalks, are commonly strung in necklaces, bracelets, and meditation malas or rosaries, (for spiritual as well as physical protection).
VIII. Pharmacognosy- The chemical composition of Tulsi is highly complex, containing many nutrients and other biologically active compounds. The nutritional and pharmacological properties of the whole herb in its natural form, result from synergistic interactions of many different active phytochemicals.
Constituents:Aldehydes, alkaloids, antistaphylocoagulase, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, alpha-ocimene, beta-ocimene, carvacrol, cineole, various essential oils, eugenol, glycosides, linalol, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, methyl-chavicol, mucilage, oleic acid, phenols, saponins, stearic acid, tannin.Essential oils such as eugenol, carvacol, linalool, caryophylline, and methyleugenol as well as triterpenes such as ursolic acid and flavonoids.
Vitamins A and C
IX. Properties& actions- Adaptogens, antibacterial, antidepressant, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue (promotes the flow of mother’s milk), and immunomodulator.
X. Indications -XI. Administration and dosage strategies-
Fresh: Leaf -Cut, chopped or ground. The powdered/dried leaves have been used as a snuff, and the juice of the fresh leaf is put in the ear. Fresh roots and leaves is applied to bites and stings.
Tincture:Weight to Volume Ratio (Strength): 1:2.5 (a mix of 1:1.5 fresh and 1:4 dried leaf & flower), (1:5 or 1:2): 40–60 drops, three times per day.Alcohol-Free Extract contents: Kosher vegetable glycerin and Tulsi extractives.Weight to Volume Ratio (Strength): Dry herb 1:5Dose: Take 30-60 drops 3-5 times daily in a small glass of warm water.
Tea: Add 1 tsp. dried leaf to 8 oz. hot water, (1 oz. bulk herb per quart of boiled water) cover, steep for 30 minutes to 6 hours. The longer steeped, the stronger the infusion and more medicinal. Take 4 oz. up to three times per day. Drink at room temperature or slowly reheat without boiling. Can be store in refrigerator for 18-36 hours.Holy basil can also be taken as tea (2 grams a cup). A cup of Tulsi tea simply from an infused tea bag is an excellent for many mild therapies.
Capsules: Various forms of capsulated Tulsi include extracts in gel caps, dried or powdered herb in capsules, and standardized extracts (2 percent ursolic acid) in capsules.
Charanamrita:Cow's milk, yogurt, honey, Ganga water and Tulsi leaves, are offered by worshippers to the deity, blessed during the ritual and, returned afterwards by the Hindu priest. This prasad (offering) is later consumed by the devotee.
Beads: made from the woody stalks, are commonly strung in necklaces, bracelets, and meditation malas or rosaries, which are believed by many to have spiritual as well as physical protection benefits.
*As an adaptagen this herb is sutable for long term use and is recommended for one month for every year of dis-ease and as an aid for chronic daily stress adaption.
XII. Side effects- Research indicates that Tulsi has a very high safety margin with exceptionally low toxicity, providing general beneficial effects without adverse reactions or other undesirable side effects.
XIII. Contra-Indications- Holy basil is generally a very safe healing herb. Studies from the 1970's suggested that holy basil might have a mild anti-fertility effect in animals. Although this has not been shown to occur in people, if you are pregnant or trying to be, or lactating do not take medicinal doses of holy basil. Preliminary studies indicate that holy basil might enhance CYP-450 activity, thus speeding up the elimination of some medications.XIV. Toxicity and Regulatory status- AHPA regulatory status: Ocimum basilicum. Basil Class 2b ; 2c; 2d - not recommended for infants or toddlers or for extended periods of time. (according to the American Herbal Products Botanical safty handbook)2d. Note the classifications and concerns for this herb are based upon theraputic use and may not be relevant to it’s consumption as a spice.
XV. Personal Commentary- The plant has lively energy with a complex range of qualities, as an Adaptogen Holy Basil enhances mental clarity and physical vitality. The plant seems to thrive with little attention and is fairly easy to reseed for continuous growth in temperate climates. An excellent addition to tomato sauces as well as a fragrant herbal in tea blends. Ocimum sanctum truly embodies the qualities that give it the reputation of "Mother Medicine of Nature", "the incomparable one" .The author finds Sacred Basil a suitable simpler’s herb for developing a synergetic relationship with the plant world and considers Ocimum Sanctum is truly a “divine” herb. Tulsi’s many observable effects have occurred after several years of use of fresh as well as of tincture and at times New Chapters gel caps taken daily, from 2006 - 2011. Improvements in mental clarity, mood and stabilized sugar levels during high times of stress have been noteworthy.
Namaste', Kalin M. McGuire
Wellness Guide, Earth Fairy's Dream ~ Holistic healing from~Home to Soul. ~firstname.lastname@example.org ~ earthfairysdream.vpweb.com
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