Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum, often known as “holy basil”, is a plant that has been used in the ayurvedic system of medicine for thousands of years. For those who hold the plant sacred, it functions as a representation of the goddess Lakshmi and is considered to be an “elixir of life” promoting longevity.
Holy basil is used in the ayurvedic treatment of many conditions including common colds, headaches, digestive disorders, inflammation, heart disease and malaria. A 2013 study published in Nutrition and Cancer journal has shown it to possess anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, anti-diabetic and anti-stress abilities, as well as immune function modification or regulation.
Tulsi, indigenous to India and the nearby tropic regions of Asia, grows as an annual here in the Northeast. When it finally arrives each year, bright green leaves emerge from the soil, looking not quite like peppermint or Thai basil, but rather something altogether special.
In the heat of the emerging summer, the volatile oils lift off the plant and infuse the air around it with a warm and spicy, delicate, floral fragrance. The herb can be gathered just before the flowers unfold and dried for a tea, wherein the steam once again releases its calming scent.
Lindsay Napolitano is the co-owner of Fields Without Fences, an organic farm outside of Frenchtown, New Jersey, that offers CSA shares featuring medicinal and culinary herbs, tea blends, salves, plant extracts and other herbal products for the natural medicine chest. Connect at FieldsWithoutFences.org. April 2015.