June 15, 2009

Tulsi: the holy herb of India

As a lover of all things “spice” I am always on the lookout for new flavors to add to the kitchen. And a week ago I found the holy of holies (literally). Our local Indian grocer carries a live herb called, Tulsi or “Holy Basil.” Full disclosure, I have not had the opportunity to test the remedies mentioned below. The seedling looks very much like basil and hence the name. But in Sanskrit tulsi (tulasi) is much more. It means ‘the incomparable one’ and is literally worshiped in many Indian homes for its medicinal qualities. Tulsi gets its name from the equally auspicious Tulasi Devi, one of the formost devotees of Krishna. All that aside the tulsi leaves have a remarkable flavor, something of a cross between mint and basil, sweet and refreshing.

Even better, if you should have malaria, dengue fever, any acute fever, cough, bronchitis, asthma, sore throat, influenza, kidney stones, stress, mouth infections, insect stings, ring worm, skin diseases, gum disease and teeth disorders, headache, sore eyes, or night blindness, then Ayurvedic medicine says, Tulsi is the plant for you. Also known as “The Queen of Herbs,” Tulsi is an adaptogen, meaning it has the ability to help the body adapt to stress and mental tension. Tulsi is also a rich source of antioxidants. You can find Tulsi in pill form, as tea, or an extract. Or you can go to your local plant store or online and try to track down seeds or plants. I would recommend the latter after experiencing the thrill of watching this remarkable herb flourish in our living room.

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