Ocimum sanctum – Holy Basil

Ocimum sanctum - Holy BasilFAMILY: Lamiaceae

GENUS: Ocimum

SPECIES: Sanctum, Tenuiflorum

COMMON NAMES: Holy Basil, Tusli, Tulasi, Madura-tala

Ocimum sanctum, or holy basil, is an aromatic plant that is native to the tropics of Asia and Africa, and is widespread as a cultivated plant and weed. It is a small shrub with many branches and strongly scented green leaves. The leaves are ovate and slightly toothed.  The flowers are purplish to white.  There are two main types grown in India, green-leaved holy basil (Sri Tulsi) and purple-leaved holy basil (Krishna Tulsi) (Wikipedia 2011).

TRADITIONAL USES: O. sanctum is cultivated for medical and religious purposes and for its essential oil. In particular, it has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine for various types of healing. O. sanctum is considered an adaptogen, balancing the processes of the body and allowing it to adapt to stressful situations. It is regarded as an elixir of life and is believed to promote longevity. The seeds are  sometimes worn on the body as charms in order to bring balance and longevity (Voogelbreinder 2009, 249).

In India, O. sanctum is said to represent Vishnupriya, the consort of Vishnu, and is the embodiment of the goddess Lakshmi.  Therefore, it is seen as a link between the domestic and spiritual worlds.  Holy basil is celebrated in the Rig Veda and the Puranas, as well as the ancient Ayurvedic text, the Charaka Samhita. In much of Asia, O. sanctum is chewed as a substitute for betel quids, and it is even used in Thai cooking, imparting a powerful, astringent flavor (Voogelbreinder 2009, 249).

TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Holy basil is most often prepared as a tea or smoked alone or as part of a blend. The leaves and the seeds may both be used. Dried and powdered leaf and fresh leaves are also often consumed, or are mixed with ghee and taken in that way. The essential oil that is extracted from O. sanctum is widely used in skin treatments due to its powerful anti-bacterial activity, and the dried leaves have even been mixed with stored grain to prevent pest infestation (Voogelbreinder 2009, 249).

Native people living throughout the Himalayan highlands and elsewhere on the Indian subcontinent are known to grind O. sanctum seeds and leaves and mix them with Hemidesmus indicus (Sugandi root), Aegle marmelos (Bel Fruit), Nelumbo nucifera (Blue Lotus), Picrorhiza kurroa (Katuka) and Carthamus tinctorius (Safflower), and then smoke the resulting blend. This induces visions and acts as a catalyst, launching the user into profound waking dream states (dreamherbs.com 2011).

MEDICINAL USES: In Ayurvedic medicine, O. sanctum is used to treat common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, poisoning and malaria. Recent studies have also shown that O. sanctum contains high levels of eugenol and therefore is effective as a painkiller. The plant has also been shown to reduce blood glucose levels, making it an effective treatment for diabetes. It even lowers cholesterol, and may also be helpful in protecting individuals from radiation poisoning and cataracts (Bhattathiry 2011).

In Indonesia, O. sanctum leaves are used to make baths for the purpose of its sedative, nervine and antipyretic effects. Indigenous tribes in Queensland, Australia have been reported to drink a tea made of O. sanctum leaves as a tonic to cure fevers and other sicknesses (Voogelbreinder 2009, 249).

TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Although many modern ethnobotanists claim that O. sanctum has no psychoactive effects, according to Ayurvedic texts, O. sanctum “opens the heart and the mind and distributes the energy of love and devotion.  Basil is sacred to Vishnu and Krishna and strengthens faith, compassion, and clarity. Tulsi stalks are worn as garlands and strengthen the energy of attachment. Basil imparts divine protection by purifying the aura and invigorating the immune system.  It contains natural mercury that, as the seed of Shiva, imparts the germinative power of pure consciousness” (Lad and Frawley 1987, 156 cited in Ratsch 1998, 573).

O. sanctum is undoubtedly very good for the health, and also seems to be a powerful tool in the induction of vivid and lucid dreaming. Adding holy basil to a dreaming smoking blend, or consuming a tea made from the leaves or seeds before bedtime not only supports the health but helps the individual to be more conscious and aware inside of his or her dreams (dreamherbs.com 2011).

 

Purchase Holy Basil Seeds to grow this beautiful plant in your own garden or home.

 

REFERENCES

Bhattathiry, M.P. “15 Benefits of the Holy Basil (Tulsi).” Hinduism.about.com, 2011. http://hinduism.about.com/od/ayurveda/a/tulsibenefits.htm.

“Ocimum Sanctum.” Dream Herbs, 2011. http://dreamherbs.com/herbal-products/ocimum-sanctum/.

“Ocimum Tenuiflorum.” Wikipedia, 2011. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocimum_tenuiflorum.

Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.

Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.

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2 Comments

  1. I have grown three types of tulsi with good results in Brasil. /the rama tulsi is the most vigorous and produces the finest essential oil for healing. Krishna tusli is delicate and does better indoors in temples and protected gardens. Viana tusli has the nicest flowers and attracts the most polinating insects…
    It should be eaten like a vegetable. Smoking the seds seems to me to be a waste because the plant is so benifical that all seeds shold be planted… and dream yoga is easy with training and does not need chemical/vegetable stimulation…

  2. A. Szostek says:

    Thank you for your comment, Randy! I’ve been growing Rama tulsi, and it’s very easy to grow indeed! I’m hoping to grow some other varieties soon. Do you eat the other varieties of tulsi like a vegetable as well?

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