Holy Basil: The Queen of Stress-Reducing Herbs
If you’re dealing with stress and interested in natural healing, you may have heard of the term “adaptogen.” If not, such as the name implies, adaptogens are a class of herb that literally helps you to adapt; to become more resistant to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue. These days, who isn’t looking for something to help them weather the storm?
So, where to turn in a sea of natural remedies? I don’t claim to know the right herb for every person, but my favorite adaptogen and ‘the Queen of Herbs’ is Tulsi – also called Tulasi or Holy Basil (I will use all three terms interchangeably throughout this article.) There are three types of Tulsi mentioned in ancient Indian text: Krishna Tulasi (purple leaf Tulsi,) Rama Tulasi (green leaf Tulsi), and Vana Tulasi (wild leaf Tulsi.)
These holy plants have been revered in India for over five millennia; so much so, that at one point, almost every family had a plant growing at home, which they prayed to on a daily basis. Ancient Sanskrit teachings say that respecting and honoring the Tulasi plant will bring peace and happiness into your home life, awaken harmony in nature and create pure love and devotion in your heart.
When you hear about the reported benefits of Tulsi, it’s easy to understand why it is so revered. Tulsi is not just an amazing adaptogen, it has also been said to sharpen the memory, build immunity, support blood sugar levels, relieve fever, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, improve digestion, and fight the common cold, as well as being an effective expectorant. It can also be used to treat sore throats, respiratory disorders, kidney stones, heart disorders, stomach issues, mouth infections, insect bites, skin disorders, teeth issues, headaches, eye issues, and more… Phew! Honestly, the list goes on and on.
So, now you can see why Tulsi is one of my favorite herbs. In fact the name ‘Tulasi’ loosely translates to “the incomparable one”.
Tulsi can be found on the market in many forms including tinctures, capsules, essential oils, flower essences, and as a loose leaf or bagged tea. Personally I experienced great benefits from the use of a potentized encapsulated tincture. These days, I tend to enjoy Tulsi as a tea throughout the day, either from a tea bag, or fresh from the garden. My go-to company for bagged Tulsi* is Organic India, both for their blends and their ethics. (Leesa’s too!)
As stated on their website: “Organic India actively promotes sustainable agriculture and pays a premium market rate to our farmers.” In countries such as India, where industrial agriculture has wrought havoc on the natural environment, efforts such as these are invaluable. *Organic India also has encapsulated Tulsi, which can be an effective way to get a stronger dose, but I have not had a chance to test their capsules.
Three of my favorite Organic India blends are Tulsi Sweet Rose, Tulsi Green Tea, Tulsi Peppermint.
Tulsi Sweet Rose: Don’t be fooled by the smell of this tea bag before you brew it. It has a strong floral note before steeping, but after brewing it becomes mild, sweet and rather yummy. A strong brew of Organic India’s Sweet Rose is particularly wonderful chilled on a hot day.
Tulsi Green Tea: Although it may seem counterintuitive to mix a stimulant like green tea with an adaptogen like Tulsi, Organic India’s Tulsi Green Tea mix is one of my favorite blends for when I need a little morning encouragement. I find caffeine jarring to my system, but this blend seems to make me coherent without the jitters. (This one is Leesa’s favorite! So good and good for you!)
Tulsi Peppermint: Particularly good for an upset stomach or if you’re dealing with a cold. One of those teas I always like to have in the cupboard.
From my research and personal experience there is some disagreement on the level of difficulty in cultivating Tulsi. All sources do agree though that these plants like it hot and can be difficult to grow in a temperate climate. However, with a bit of love and energy they have been known to flourish even in unfamiliar climates.
Here is the plan of action I came up with for planting my Tulsi seeds:
1. In the late Spring/early Summer, create or buy a rich, vegan-organic potting mix.
2. Fill a tray or small seedling pots with this mix, and lightly press seeds into the soil. (If you have some around, spray EM on the seeds first to give them a boost.) One seed per six inches of soil, or one seed per pot will do. If you can still see the seeds, gently sprinkle a small bit of dirt over the top of them.
3. Keep the Tulsi seeds moist and warm until they germinate, which can take anywhere from one to six weeks.
4. Like all basils, Tulsi will branch out when pruned correctly. After the first six sets of leaves appear, pinch off the top set of leaves. This action tells the plant to put its energy into branching out instead of reaching higher.
5. Water your plant as needed, but do not be afraid to let the soil dry in-between watering. Tulsi likes well draining soil and will not do well if left sitting in water.
6. If your plant starts to go to flower, you can either pinch off all the flower tips (so that the plant will put its energy back into growing) or you can allow part of the plant to flower and then go to seed – either way it is better not to let the entire plant go to flower.
However you decide to enjoy your Tulsi, I wish you the best of luck with your health, growing and tea brewing!