Holy Basil: The Zen Herb

Flavorful and medicinal, this unique basil is loved by gardeners and herbalists all over the world.


| Spring 2017


As you pore over seed catalogs and do drive-by seedling snatches this spring, consider adding a new herb to your garden: holy basil (Ocimum sanctum, synonym O. tenuiflorum), which is also commonly called tulsi or sacred basil. This basil with benefits hails from India, where pots of the fragrant herb grace sacred temples. In the past decade or two, tulsi has infiltrated the American herbal lexicon and dietary supplement shelves, quickly becoming a favorite among herbalists and gardeners alike.

Medicinal Benefits

All species of basil offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and digestion- and cognition-enhancing properties (who knew pesto could do all that?), but holy basil takes it a step further than common garden basils. Holy basil’s clove- and mint-like fragrance pulls people into a relaxing, Zen state. Most famously, tulsi acts as an adaptogenic herb, helping the body adapt to stress and find deep reserves of energy. Holy basil is the easiest of all adaptogens to grow and harvest in abundance, and its ability to both calm and energize makes it appropriate for almost anyone.

Holy basil specifically balances cortisol, a stress hormone that increases blood sugar. This benefit makes it useful as a hypoglycemic aid for people whose blood sugar and food cravings wobble with stress. Having holy basil with a meal or lightly sweetened with honey can help prevent hypoglycemia. That said, people taking medicine for diabetes or who are prone to hypoglycemia should monitor their holy basil intake closely and consult with a physician before making any big changes.

Holy basil is also considered a “great protector” and is used in India to fight respiratory infections and ulcers, as well as to protect against radiation damage and ease grief, mood issues, and depression.



Growing and Harvesting Tulsi

Grow tulsi as you would regular basil but with a little more pampering: full sun, rich soil with good drainage, and regular moisture. It will do best in warm-to-hot temperatures and growth will stall on cold nights. The plants will die when kissed by frost (no matter which type you grow), yet can be cranky in the greenhouse. Holy basil can be grown in pots but won’t tolerate being too dry or waterlogged. Treat tulsi as an annual.

Harvest the leaves and flowers often, and pinch back blossoms to encourage more vigorous growth. Where I live, in New Hampshire (Zone 4), I get three to four harvests from June through August of ‘Kapoor’ tulsi, which allows me to make a half gallon of tincture and to fill a gallon jar with dried, cut, and sifted herb from a dozen plants. Tulsi is a juicy herb that can take a week or longer to dry, and it loses a significant amount of volume in the process.







mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on natural health, organic gardening, real food and more!

LEARN MORE








Subscribe today

Heirloom GardenerCultivate your love of historic plant varieties and traditional recipes with a subscription to Heirloom Gardener magazine today!

Don’t miss a single issue of Heirloom Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Heirloom Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Subscribe today and save as much as 38% off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95!




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265