Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tulsi (Holy Basil)

"Tulsi" (Ocimum tenuiflorum) also known as 'Holy Basil' in English (not the same as 'Basil' found here in the US), is a very sacred plant to the Hindus. I remember we would have at least 5-6 plants of the two varieties of tulsi in our balcony back in Bombay,where I grew up. One variety had purplish-green leaves,which my grand mom said was called "Krishna" tulsi and the other had light green leaves and was referred to as the "Laksmi" tulsi. Both varieties have medicinal properties,but my grandmother believed that the "Krishna" tulsi was superior in it's healing properties.
It's generally believed that eating the leaves first thing in the morning is good for general well-being.We never used the leaves for any recipes as such, but it was used as a home remedy for coughs and colds. I still remember being given some sea salt and black pepper corn,wrapped inside a couple of tulsi leaves whenever I caught a cold/ sore throat (and how I hated chewing on it). Well,I wasn't much of a believer in natural remedies at that age, and popping a pill seemed like a more 'civilized' thing to little me! There was also a concoction of the leaves which was known as 'tulsi tea' with some honey and lime juice.
Ayurveda refers to tulsi as an "elixir of life" and believes it can promote longevity. It's used in a number of ayurvedic remedies including inflammation and malaria.
I've seen basil (Ocimum basilicum) here in the US (which is also supposed to have some anti-bacterial properties),but haven't really used it. In the past couple of days 'tulsi' has been popping up in conversations/emails .I even read about it in an article in the Times Of India's online edition.
India seems to be in the grip of swine flu and the author of the article(who happens to be a firm believer in natural and alternative remedies) lists 'tulsi' as one of the 10 home remedies to strengthen the immune system.
Right now strengthening the immune system to prevent getting infected from the swine flu sounds like the best option. I don't pooh-pooh the idea of natural remedies anymore(though I still would love to see studies to support the theory) and would not think twice about eating the leaves,if it means that I would be taking one less medication!

Question: Do you think plants have the ability to cure/prevent an ailment or do you feel that when it comes to curing, only 'modern' medicines do the trick?

26 comments:

KennyT said...

Sweta, I have heard of tulsi from my krishna devotee friends too. Heard that they use tulsi to make japa beads.

It will be a wonderful news for everybody if tulsi leaves can help strengthen our immune system against those viruses, including but not limited to swine flu.

Jenn said...

I love basil. I wish I had a plant of it on my porch. I just used up a big batch recently for some basil oil I made.

I'd like to think that certain herbs and plants have healing powers in them to alleviate certain symptoms, but not all.

doggybloggy said...

I completely believe in the healing powers of plants. I will take an herbal remedy long before I will take a pill or a medicine...I wonder if all basil has this ability - there are plenty around.

kittymatti said...

Nice article...

A lot of research is on regarding the use of yulsi to cure various heart related diseases and cancer


also in all Vishnu temples, tulsi water is always given as it boosts immunity...resists cold etc...one of the chief ayurvedic medicines...

Joy said...

Thanks for such an interesting post. I love using natural things for health and remember that all the modern medicines grew out of natures gifts. But I am also grateful for the strength and accuracy of modern medicines which have saved so many lives.

Pavithra said...

Wow thats really wonderful and informative post dear

Yasmeen said...

I definitely believe in herbal remedies because most are free of any harmful side effects.I did get to taste tulsi few times ,back then I never knew of its benefits.

Gina said...

I truly believe in complementary medicine, and the healing power of botanicals/plants. Ayurveda, right? I think many of these therapies warrant more research, much more, but I do believe there is something there, for sure. I wish I knew more, I love learning from you!

Chow and Chatter said...

very interesting sure plants make medicines right like foxglove and digoxin. lol

Parita said...

we always have a tulsi plant in our home and pooja is done of the plant on special occasions too. Recenlty it was discovered basil can protect one against swine flu and other diseases as well, it has grt healing powers, no wonder is called Holy Basil

Trendsetters said...

I heard about this fighting against swine flu too ... I wish I get them in US

eatingRD said...

Very interesting, I've never heard of it before. I love using regular basil on lots of things. I'm not opposed to natural/alternative remedies, but I'm not as aware of those. My grandma is really into oils and non-conventional things. And like you I'd like to see something to back them up. I wish more research could be done on alternative medicines.
You were in Vegas?! How cool! Did you have a good time? I bet you were hot! But, you guys got quite the hot spell yourselves :)

Gina said...

I would love to take an Indian Food class, or at least take lessons form my friend Smita who is an amazing Indian food chef :) One of these days I will get into Indian cooking, for now I'm just adding turmeric to some dishes, and easing Nick into the taste of curry!

angiesappetite said...

Sweta - so good to see you back!!

Thanks for your great comment on my post today!

I totally believe in complementary medicine. I think that food itself in many cases can prevent the need for medicine later in life...of course, along with exercise!

Sweta said...

Kenny-tulsi is actually considered sacred in Hinduism.
Jenn,DB-I've heard 'Basil' too has some anti-bacterial properties just like 'Holy Basil'!!
Kittymatti- only time and more research will tell :)
Joy-well said.
Pavithra-thanks :)
Yasmeen-now you know.
Reb-I'd love to read a post from you.
Gina-I'd love to see more research on them too!BTW,can't wait to read about your experiments with Indian cooking ;-)
Parita- hmmmm,I guess you're right!
Trendsetters-me too!!
Kristen-we loved Vegas and it looks like we got the heat back home with us ;-)
Angie-oh yes,I believe exercise needs to be as important as "brushing one's teeth"!!

Hari Chandana said...

wonderful post... gr8 job.. :)

Emmett said...

Nice blog!

lisa said...

I've been hearing a lot about tulsi lately too. Definitely some herbs have healing powers.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance said...

I've heard of holy basil, but wasn't sure why one would take it. So it's for helping general immune function? Interesting. I definitely think herbs have a place in healing, and the less drugs the better!

Sophia said...

hey, isn't a lot of medicine made from plants, too? I definitely think that when God created the Earth, He created such magical plants to sustain and heal us, too!

Lori said...

When it comes to herbal remedies for me I think the key is that they can prevent ailments. If we would include them more then we wouldn't have the conditions to treat in the first place. I'm sure they can cure ailments as well, but I just don't have any personal examples. I try to focus on them for prevention.

Diana H said...

A lot of medicines are based on the properties of plants that seem to work. I've heard of Holy Basil, but I don't think I've tried it anything yet. Now might be the right time.

eatingRD said...

For the blossoms, I just pick out the middle stem and fill them with a ricotta, goat cheese, parm, garlic, pine nut and lemon basil mixture and then dropped them in the tempura batter before frying them :) You can also do pretty much any kind of filling you can whip up! Let me know if you make them.

Diana Bauman said...

Hi Sweta! Love the post :) I definitely believe herbs can heal and alleviate ailments. I like to go the herbal route before the medicinal.

Katherine Aucoin said...

I am a believer in the healing power of natural elements such as plants. they don't have the nasty side affects that a lot of pharmaceuticals have.

n33ma said...

When I was India I used to eat these leaves.Good post.Thanks