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Tulsi – The Holy Basil

Tulsi tea is made from the Ayurvedic herb tulsi or also called “holy basil.”  It is native to India where it is valued as an energizing beverage and sacred plant.  Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is a distant cousin to “culinary basil” but is an entirely unique species with different medicinal properties.

Revered for its remarkable healing qualities, holy basil has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and is one of India’s most cherished plants.

More frequently consumed in India than coffee, holy basil or tulsi tea is an energizing drink that is used to treat lung and heart problems, digestive disorders, mental fog, colds, headaches and inflammation.

Tulsi benefits to health are comparable to some of the Chinese tonics, like gynostemma, or other herbs like gotu kola and ginkgo.

What Does Tulsi Tea Taste Like?

The flavor of tulsi is uniquely spiced, resembling a blend of mint, licorice and clove. The leaves of holy basil contain essential oils that contribute to the fragrance and refreshing flavor.

Tulsi tea is made from the leaves of the plant. The most traditional way to prepare it is to infuse the fresh leaf, dried leaf or powder in hot water much the same way you would the previously mentioned herbs.

It can be served as an iced tea or as a hot tea by itself or with other herbs and spices.  In India it is also used in ghee or clarified butter.  Further below we will share our tulsi tea recipe, but first let’s discuss the health promoting elements of this renowned leafy herb.

Holy Basil Benefits

The properties of holy basil or Ocimum sanctum are antiviral, adaptogenic, immune modulating and antibacterial, specifically working with the digestive, respiratory and nervous systems.

Tulsi Benefits as an Adaptogen

Tulsi is known as an adaptogen and contains many phyto-chemicals that act synergistically to promote the bodies natural defense mechanisms toward disease and stress.

Adaptogens help to counteract the negative effects of stress, support the body’s natural immune response and help to normalize organ functions.  Tulsi does this by nourishing the nervous system in much the same way that other triterpenoid containing adaptogens do, like ginseng, eleuthero and reishi.

Tulsi has a natural energizing effect on the body, although it contains no caffeine and is considered an herbal stimulant.  Interestingly, when you brew the tea some varieties actually turn a dark brown color similar to that of coffee.  Some say it is actually a good substitute for coffee or caffeinated teas for those trying to reduce their consumption.

“Tulsi can be combined with other cerebral stimulants such as rosemary, bacopa, and ginkgo to help people with menopausal cloudy thinking, poor memory, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and to speed up recovery from head trauma.” 

David Winston and Steven Maimes from the book Adaptogens

Immune Modulator and Respiratory Tonic

“It contains hundreds of beneficial compounds known as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant compounds containing protective and health promoting properties.”  Dr. Mercola

Holy basil benefits as an adaptogen make it a powerful immune modulator, balancing and strengthening the immune response of the body in fighting antigens such as bacteria, viruses, microbes and allergens.

It can be taken to both assist and prevent upper respiratory viruses like colds or flus.  It is an expectorant herb with a special affinity for the lungs and has been long used for bronchitis as well as pulmonary weakness.

Taken over a period of time it can have a beneficial effect on asthma and has also been shown to be helpful in relieving allergies and seasonal hay fever symptoms.

Tulsi tea contains a rich amount of bio-available antioxidants that help to boost the immune system and protect the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, shielding the cell structure from “germs” and other foreign invaders that threaten our health.


Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

“Holy basil is classified as a rasayana, an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and promotes long life.”   David Winston and Steve Maimes from the book Adaptogens

Holy basil has shown significant results as an anti-inflammatory in lab animal research.  “Several experimental studies have confirmed its anti-inflammatory properties and its role in modulation of both cellular and humeral immunity.  Recently its efficacy against inflammatory response, hepatic injury and gastric ulcer has been elucidated in animal studies.”  PubMed study

In the book “Beyond Aspirin, Nature’s Answer to Arthritis, Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease”, it states that holy basil contains the phytonutrient ursolic acid which has been shown to have potential anti-inflammatory activity due to its “significant COX-2 inhibitory effect.”

Tulsi benefits also include many other antioxidant, anti-inflammatory compounds, such as eugenol, rosmarinic acid and apigenin, according to “Natural Cancer Cures: The Definitive Guide to Using Dietary Supplements to Fight and Prevent Cancer.”


Sacred Holy Basil Benefits

It is known in India to be very useful for achieving mental clarity and meditative states, working energetically with both the heart and the mind.  According to David Winston, author of “Adaptogens”, it strengthens compassion, faith and clarity.


First documented in the Charak Samhita, an ancient text written two thousand years ago, holy basil is classified as a “rasayana” and is known as an herb that expands happiness by promoting a youthful physical and mental state.

Three Types of Tulsi Tea

1) Rama Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) or the Indian name:  Lakshmi tulasi – is the original version, widely cultivated around the world and is usually a short growing plant compared to other varieties.

2) Krishna Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) or the Indian name:  Krishna tulasi – this kind of tulsi often has a purple-tinged leaf, stem and flower.  It is stronger in flavor and is quite high in triterpene constituents.

3) Vana Tulsi (Ocimum gratissimum) – this is the native wild variety of tulsi that grows throughout India as well as parts of Asia and Africa.  It is known to be particularly high in eugenol.

When choosing high quality dried leaves for tulsi tea it is good to try to use all three varieties as they each have different health enhancing components.  There are some tulsi tea companies that use all three in their prepackaged tea bag blends.

Tulsi Benefits Help To:

  • Enhance energy and physical stamina
  • Stimulate the mind
  • Balance cholesterol levels
  • Support eye health
  • Promote healthy metabolism
  • Normalize blood sugar levels
  • Relieve and protect from everyday stress
  • Boost the immune system
  • Heighten awareness and increase mental clarity

Other Tulsi Nutrients:

  • eugenol
  • triterpenoids
  • B-caryophyllene
  • sesquiterpenes
  • monoterpenes
  • ascorbic acid
  • carotene (vitamin A)
  • rosmarinic acid
  • ursolic acid
  • apigenin
  • calcium
  • iron
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • manganese
  • trace elements

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