Tulsi (sometimes spelled Tulasi), or Holy Basil, is a plant native to the Indian subcontinent. This small, aromatic sub-shrub is a cornerstone of Ayurveda (traditional Indian herbal medicine) and is revered in the Hindu religion for its many medicinal uses. Every part of the Tulsi plant can be used in herbal remedies to treat a variety of conditions.
Tulsi in Ayurveda
According to Organic India, an organization dedicated to organic agriculture and sustainable development, one of the qualities that make the Tulsi plant such a potent medicinal herb is its ability to reduce stress. Tulsi is abundant in essential oils and antioxidants, which are tremendously effective in reducing the effects of stress on the body.
The Plant Cultures project of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of the United Kingdom notes that in Ayurvedic medicine the Tulsi plant has been used topically for skin conditions like eczema, ringworm and insect bites. It is also commonly used to reduce fevers, improve lung and digestion issues, reduce the effects of colds, eliminate toxins/poisons and as a preventative antibacterial for infections.
Tulsi in Modern Medicine
In modern medicine there has been research indicating Tulsi might potentially be an effective treatment for conditions like ulcers, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and compromised/suppressed immune systems (from conditions like cancers and AIDS). Plant Cultures says the traditional uses of Tulsi in Ayurveda might be due to some intrinsic properties in many varieties of Tulsi--such as the essential oils containing an anti-inflammatory compound called eugenol, and various acids with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could support the claims of Tulsi being a treatment for so many conditions, according to Ayurveda.
There are a few ways to eat the Tulsi plant. Since it has a pungent aroma and an astringent taste some people might be put off from just eating the leaves. The plant is not poisonous, but when used topically can produce a reaction for people with sensitive skin. It is not dangerous to eat any part of the plant cooked or uncooked.
Tulsi makes a refreshing tea (hot or cold) that can be sweetened with honey if the taste is too bothersome. Additionally, the Tulsi leaves can be cooked in butter or ghee (clarified butter), or combined with ginger, honey, or black pepper to treat a variety of conditions. For specific recipes it is recommended to consult a specialist for a treatment that would work most efficiently for your particular condition.
Tulsi in your home
The Tulsi plant, like most herbs, is a delicious way to enhance the flavor of your cooking, or make an excellent tea. This sub-shrub looks quite attractive in a decorative pot, is not harmful to animals and it is fairly easy to grow. Even outside of its medicinal properties, the Tulsi plant can make a great addition to your household either in your spice rack or in your garden.
While Plant Cultures lists Tulsi as being a safe plant, the MHRA cautions users to consult with a nutritionist or herbalist before taking Tulsi (or any other herbal remedy). Tulsi is documented in the MHRA guide as a plant used for aromatherapy and cosmetics, but not as a medicinal treatment, due to lack of hard evidence in medical studies.