Get to know: Tulsi, Holy Basil

I just returned from the Florida Herbal Conference, and soaked up so much cool information,  from plant walks and workshops and conversations –  that I had to share with you.  Today I’d like to introduce you to Tulsi and ways to use it.  It may be a less common ingredient than Italian or Thai Basil – but with a name like  “the incomparable one”  – I’d say it’s definitely worth knowing about!

Tulsi has been used as medicine for centuries. It has rich Ayuverdic roots, and made it way into western medicine. Its super useful when you’re battling a respiratory infection or the flu – thanks to its antibacterial, antiviral properties combined with its ability to move congestion. Known as an adaptogenic, it helps to counter negative stress on the body, both physically and mentally (1). It has a calming effect on the body, but at the same time its uplifting. Like a really good friend that’s going to comfort you and then tell you to get back out there, because “you’ve got this!”

Studies show that Tusli has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help the body repair from skin tissue and DNA damage. (2)  It’s also detoxifying, and in India it was used topically for snake bites. You might soak in a Tusli bath to help soothe and heal bug bites!

The minute your body has a problem, Tulsi is on it! Antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, adaptogenic, neuroprotective, radioprotective, antioxidant, decongestant and antidepressant – it’s no wonder it’s considered the “elixir of life.”

In India – Tulsi is considered sacred, revered as household medicine. Its often planted in the courtyard of homes in a special clay pot. The Tulsi plant is integrated into daily life through rituals, placing offerings, tenderly caring for the plant, and drinking tulsi tea from its leaves and flowers.

This daily human-plant interaction creates a special relationship. Its an exchange that nourishes you physically, mentally and emotionally. I was so charmed by Tulsi, that I brought one home with me! It was one single long woody branch, flowering at the very top. So I cut it down almost half way to encourage it to bush out. The freshly cut leaves and flowers, go into a mug with hot water poured over. It’s a delicous tea!

You probably won’t find potted Tulsi at your local big box store, but these days there are so many little nurseries growing medicinal plants, and will ship them to you. Have a look online – search for herbal nurseries in your area – it would be such a fun day out to meet the grower and learn more from them! From what I’m learning, Tulsi is one of those plants that soak up toxins in its environment, so you definitely want to check that your plant was grown organically.

If you live in Florida, leave me a comment below and I’ll pass you a list of nurseries that I’ve personally gotten to know.

I also buy dried Tulsi online. Starwest Botanicals’s dried Tusli is wildly fragrant! You can find it here. The scent is green and lemon and mint…. it’s so delicous and enjoyable to use!

Here a few simple ways to use and benefit from Tusli throughout your day:

1. Drink as tea. Pick the fresh leaves and flowers from your plant. Or, order a bag of dried Tusli online. I like to mix in a few dried rosebuds with dried tulsi, it makes a really delicous drink. As the weather warms up and starts to get hot – think about drinking more herbal teas iced. Pour into your water bottle and sip throughout the day. One of my teachers, John Gallagher makes the case that herbal teas are so nourishing and strengthening for our body we should be drinking it everyday!

2. Soak in a bath. The scent alone, is so elegant. It’s refreshing and clean, and at the same time it’s calming and soothing. Scoop dried tulsi into a cloth bag (or hanker-chief all tied up) and drop it into a warm bath. You can also brew a strong infusion and then pour that into the bath – soak in all those antioxidant, vitamin rich, anti inflammatory, fragrant goodness.

3. Mask. Herbal masks are superfoods for your skin. You’l see and feel the benefits of healhty skin, so much that I love doing an herbal mask at least 3 times a week!

To make a mask: Grind up dried tulsi and blend, equal parts with ground oats.

Drop in a few drops of a plant oil (to extract the oil-soluble properties too) and pour in droplets of hot water, just until it reaches a creamy consistency. We use hot water, to “brew” your mask. Let it sit for a few minutes and then apply this herbal, creamy paste onto your skin. Leave it for 15 minutes.

4. Essential Oil. Don’t use it topically, unless you are skilled in essential oils, and only then at .5% or less.

If you have the essential oil, the best way to use it is to diffuse it in your home for it’s detoxifying, purifying, cleansing benefits.

What you really want to do is, sip on tulsi tea, while wearing a tulsi face mask, soaking in a tulsi bath, with tulsi diffusing in the air….You’ll be supercharged! I hope this little herb charms its way into your day, it’s really beautiful and such a joy to use!

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Comments (3)

  • militza
    Sarvi Reply

    Hi Militza, thank you for this article. Love your site. Would you recommend an online store where I could buy the seeds only?

  • militza
    Maria Reply

    Dear Militza, thanks a lot for information!We are living in Mauritius, and we have Tulsi plant in our yard, now i know how to use it! :) HUGS!


    Hi Maria! Mauritius looks absolutley stunning, I’d love to visit!! I’m so glad you found good ideas here for how to use your Tulsi plant! :)

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