Holy basil or Tulsi is an herb which is well known for its medicinal properties. An important ingredient in Ayurveda medicines, it has played a great role in the health system of India. Tulsi, a perennial shrub, belongs to the mint family called Labiates and is believed to have originated here in India. It can be grown from the seed or from the tip or root cuttings.
The Tulsi plants have a very important position in the Hindu culture. The plant is considered the most scared and holy of all other plants as it’s believed that it is the middle point between heaven and earth. The entire plant from shoot to root has been in connotation with various god and goddesses in the Hindu mythology. It’s believed that god Brahma lives in its branches and all pilgrimage centers are considered to be in the roots. The stems are leaves have the deities with the Vedas found in the upper branches of the plant. Therefore tulsi is considered as the central sectarian symbol of Hinduism. The plant is grown in every Hindu household especially in the houses of Brahmins. The structure where they are grown is called vrindavan which is a brick structure placed in the middle or front of the house. The daily worship of the plant is considered both holy and important and is mostly done by the females of the household. Though worship is not compulsory all through the week but Tuesdays and Fridays are important days of worship. The ritual of worship is also done in a particular style which involves watering of the plant followed by cleaning its surrounding with water and cow dung. Finally we have the offerings made in the form of flowers, fruits and incense and Ganga water. All this is done while chanting mantras simultaneously. In many houses we find pictures of gods and goddesses made near the foot of the structure. One of the beliefs is that a person can receive moksha or salvation just by watering and taking care the plant, even if he does not worship it. Hindu prayer beads are made out of tulsi steams and roots which are then used as a rosary. In many religious sites, garlands made of tulsi leaves along with food items with tulsi are given out as offerings to the gods. Even Shiva, is some areas is worshiped with tulsi leaves although it’s believed by most that bael leaves are offered to Lord Shiva. The Linga, an important symbol in Hinduism, is considered to have been originated from the black soil from the roots of the plant. Various communities use tulsi leave to protect themselves and their community from the attacks of evil spirits. The starting of the marriage season in India is also related to tulsi. A ceremony known as tulsi vivah which represents the wedding of tulsi with Vishnu as per the Hindu traditional method of marriage marks the end of the monsoon season which is not considered auspicious and the start of the marriage season.
Coming out of culture and tradition, there are other benefits that the plant offers. Tulsi is famous for its medicinal properties and is therefore used to cure different ailments. The leaves help in improving our memory and also help in strengthen our stomach. During the rainy seasons, we have high level of diseases like dengue, malaria and common cold. During such times it’s recommended to consume tulsi tea or juice which improves immunity and helps fight the disease. In case of cough and cold mixing tulsi leaves and powdered cardamom in water or milk or honey can be helpful in bringing down the temperature. Tulsi leaves with honey can help in giving relief for sore throat. There are many people around us suffering from kidney stones and various heart disorders, the main reason being the modern lifestyle with fast foods and low exercises. Doctors claim that the consumption of these leaves help in reduction of cholesterol levels and the juice taken with honey can help in curing the problem of stones. The herb is also beneficial in the treatment of respiratory disorders when taken after boiling in water with salt. Tulsi leaves are often called ‘adaptogen’ or anti-stress agent which is why many people believe in taking the leaves early in the morning. Many people have problems with bad breath; chewing tulsi leaves ensure a healthy and ulcer free mouth. Apart from this, chewing on tulsi leaves also promises excellent dental health by preventing detrimental effects on the gum and enamel quality. The leaves are beneficial in treating all kinds of skin diseases, insect bites and rashes when applied locally. It cools the skin and gives respite from redness and burning sensations. Further, the miracle leaves also help by providing an effective remedy for sore eyes and night blindness. Headaches, in some cases might be caused due to weakening of eyes; in such cases, a paste made of tulsi leaves and sandalwood when applied to the temples is known to provide much relief.
Although we can grow tulsi at home but still if we visit the market, the key to select best quality leaves is to choose leaves which are vibrant and deep green colored with no dark spots and is mostly advised to explore the local spice stores for purchasing purposes as the product found there is natural with no adulteration.