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Holy Basil, The Queen of Herbs: Benefits, Effects & Uses

Holy Basil, The Queen of Herbs: Benefits, Effects & Uses

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Holy basil has been used for centuries in various cultures around the world, but this herb is more than just a kitchen staple. Also known as Tulsi, it is a plant steeped in a rich history, spirituality, and medicine.  Many call it the incomparable one because of its profound therapeutic properties.

In this article, we look at the origins of holy basil in the Ayurvedic medicine system, its legends in the Hindu religion, and its potential benefits for the mind and body.

What Is Holy Basil?

field of holy basil flowers

Holy basil is a peppery herb that belongs to the mint family. There are three well-known types of holy basil:
  • The Rama tulsi, which has green leaves
  • The Krishna tulsi, which has purple leaves.
  • The Vana, or wild forest tulsi, which has dark green leaves.
These varieties of Holy Basil all exhibit unique phytochemical properties and thus offer nuances in their aromas and tastes. The herb is mainly grown in India and Southeast Asia and is not to be confused with the more common basil that we mainly use for cooking. Holy Basil, instead, is a small perennial herb with hairy stems and small toothed leaves. It produces white or purple flowers during mid-summer or early fall.
 
The herb’s scientific name is Ocimum sanctum, but it is called by different names depending on the region. For instance, based on the legend of Vrinda, some call it brinda. It is also known as sacred basil, Tulasi, Krishna Tulasi, or Manjari because of its medicinal properties.
 
In Ayurveda, it is called the Mother Medicine of Nature, the Incomparable One, and the Queen of Herbs. Holy Basil is used for various rituals, like prayers and offerings. People also drink it in their tea for stress relief, to revitalize the body, and as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a substance that helps the body adapt to different forms of stress.

 
Tulsi is clearly a powerful herb, so what is its origin, how was it used in days gone by, and does it have any interesting historical significance?

The History of Holy Basil

A sculpture of the Indian supreme god Vishnu on the banks of the Ganges River in Rishikesh

Holy Basil has a long history in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine. It's revered as a Rasayana, or rejuvenating herb, and is also believed to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that can treat various mental and body conditions.
 
The herb is not only esteemed in Ayurvedic medicine; it also has spiritual significance. It symbolizes auspiciousness and purity and is believed to cleanse one’s surroundings, bringing about positive energy.
 
In India, there are several well-known legends about the creation of the Tulsi, or Holy Basil, plant, including one in which Jalandhar, a demon king, was married to a very devoted woman called Vrinda. Her piety and loyalty were the sources of his power.
 
Lord Vishnu, to defeat the demon king, tricked Vrina. When she lost her chastity, her husband was defeated. In anger, she cursed Lord Vishnu, turning him into a stone. However, when she realized what she had done, she was filled with remorse and sacrificed herself on her husband’s funeral pyre, for which Lord Vishnu allowed her to be transformed into the Tulsi plant. 
 
It is believed that from that day on, tulsi became sacred and symbolized purity and devotion. Many Hindus plant it at the entrances of their homes and temples and use it for different religious rituals. The plant is also worshipped as an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. It is usually planted at the center of a courtyard to ward off spirits and protect the household. 
 
With these breathtaking legends and symbols in mind, let us look at what Holy Basil, or Tulsi, offers, and how you can add it to your daily routine.

Potential Health Benefits and Effects of Holy Basil

pouring Holy Basil or Tulsi Tea in transparent glass cup with saucer. Popular Ayurvedic medicine from India
Holy Basil is known as the “elixir of life” because of its numerous potential health benefits. When consumed daily, it is believed to prevent disease and promote general well-being and longevity. It is also credited with a sweet voice, calm emotions, beauty, and stamina.
 
Let's take a look at what science has to say about the benefits and effects of Tulsi.

Holy Basil Is an Adaptogenic Herb

As an adaptogen, Tulsi may help your body deal with different forms of stress in order to maintain a state of balance, or homeostasis This can include mental, physical, and metabolic stress. 

Improves Stress 

Tulsi may reduce mental stress and anxious thoughts by calming the mind. According to the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Holy Basil has antidepressant and antianxiety properties, and in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, holy basil extract was found to reduce stress while improving mood and sleep in adults experiencing stress.

Revitalizes the Body

Holy basil has antioxidant and detoxifying properties. As a result, it may cause you to feel relaxed and revitalized. By helping the body detoxify, it creates a sense of well-being. 

May have Cholesterol-Lowering Properties

Holy basil helps the body adapt to metabolic stress, which may result in weight loss and the lowering of cholesterol levels in the body. Metabolic stress is caused by poor diet, low physical activity, and high psychological stressors in our daily lifestyles. Animal studies have shown that the Holy Basil may promote good cholesterol while lowering bad cholesterol.

May Improve Sleep Quality

study done on the effect of Holy Basil on sleep, mood, and stress showed that the herb may improve the quality of sleep. Its effects on stress and blood pressure may directly correlate with its effects on sleep. While more research on its effects on stress is required to support this finding, the herb may be a good addition to your relaxation regimen.

Liquid Yoga

Yoga has quickly become an important wellness practice for many people. Its holistic benefits to the body, mind, and soul are a fascination for the scientific community.
 
When consumed regularly, holy basil is compared to the practice of yoga. It causes a feeling of clarity, relaxation, and well-being. Unlike coffee and tea, which may cause arousal and agitation, tulsi promotes clarity of thought and calmness. It also has no proven addictive tendencies or withdrawal symptoms.

How to Include Holy Basil in Your Daily Routine

A bottle of tulsi essential oil with fresh tulsi, or holy basil plant

You can enjoy Holy Basil in a variety of ways. As a beverage, it can replace your morning dose of caffeine. It can also be used as a nightcap, as it will not hinder your beauty sleep.
 
Tulsi essential oil can also be used in aromatherapy or as a massage oil for an extra hit of relaxation.
 
Holy basil or hot basil can be a great addition to your cooking, as its peppery taste adds a unique, slightly spicy, and aromatic touch. Some great places to add it are in your marinara sauce, pork dishes, and Thai dishes like Pad Krapow.
 
You can also experience Holy Basil’s unique benefits with a blend of nootropics and adaptogens in our Magic Muscaria Gummies. Each piece contains 100mg of holy basil, specially curated to ground your creative flow in a sense of well-being.

Add Some Liquid Yoga to Your Life

The fast pace of everyday life can be detrimental to our overall well-being. Adaptogenic herbs like Holy Basil can help us deal with these everyday stressors and allow more calm and a feeling of well-being in our lives. 

In turn, this has the potential to make us more productive, healthy, and happy.
 
Until next time, happy liquid yoga times, and mind your mind!

FDA Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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