1) Plant History & General Information:
A) Scientific Name:
Ocimum sanctum (“sacred fragrant lipped basil”). More recently this species has become known bybthe name Ocimum tenuiflorum (“basil with small flowers”) or Ocumum gratissimum (“very grateful basil”).Botanical Family: Lamiaceae (mint) Hindi: Tulsi, Sanskrit: Tulasi
B) Region of Origin: India
C) General History:
Holy basil is highly aromatic and different varieties may smell and taste of peppermint, cloves, licorice or lemon. The clove-like odor comes from its high eugenol content. The plant grows abundantly in India, Malaysia, Australia, Central and South America and western Asia.
Tulsi in Sanskrit means “one that is incomparable” – one that does not tolerate or permit similarity. Prof Shrinivas Tilak, who teaches Religion at Concordia University, Montreal has made a historical citation. In a letter written to ‘The Times,’ London, dated May 2, 1903 Dr George Birdwood, Professor of Anatomy, Grant Medical College, Mumbai said, “When the Victoria Gardens were established in Bombay, the men employed on those works were pestered by mosquitoes. At the recommendation of the Hindu managers, the whole boundary of the gardens was planted with holy basil, on which the plague of mosquitoes was at once abated, and fever altogether disappeared from among the resident gardeners.”
In the Hindu mythology, Tulsi is very dear to Lord Vishnu. Tulsi is ceremonially married to Lord Vishnu annually on the 11th bright day of the month of Karttika in the lunar calendar. This festival continues for five days and concludes on the full moon day, which falls in mid October. This ritual, called the ‘Tulsi Vivaha’ inaugurates the annual marriage season in India. In the Vedic tradition there is a rishi by the name of Narada who is the son of Brahma, the creator. He takes the role of cosmic instigator. He is always sneaking in and out of these stories, usually starting things off by making devious suggestions which his unsuspecting target eagerly agrees to. Of course there are all sorts of interesting consequences and they are what make up the core of these stories.
During the time that Krishna was here on earth, the gods in heaven decided that he had been away long enough and that they missed him. They wanted him to come back to heaven. So with Narada, they hatched a plan to get Krishna to return.
While here on earth, Krishna had 2 wives; Satyabhama and Rukmini. Queen Satyabhaama enquired of the Rishi Narada how she could ensure that she would have Krishna as her husband in her next life. Narada told the Queen, and truthfully so, that you receive in the next life that which you give away in this life as charity. So Satyabhaama immediately gave Krishna away to Narada and they left immediately so that Krishna could go back to heaven.
But Krishna’s wives Rukmini and Satyabhama sorely missed their husband, and both requested Narada to bring Krishna back. Narada said that they would have to give the gods something equal to the weight of Krishna if he was to return from heaven. Proud of all the jewels and valuables that Krishna had given her, Satyabhama set up a large weighing balance scale. Krishna came and sat on one side. Satyabhama, who as befits a Queen, is arrogant. She brought out all her jewels and gold and silver pots to weigh against Krishna. But the more she piled onto the balance scale, the lighter her side became. Krishna just became heavier and heavier. Reduced to angry tears, she finally gave up.
Satyabhama asked Rukmini to do what she could. Rukmini removed all the gold and gems from the scale and plucked a few leaves of the wild tulsi plant growing nearby. She put them on the scale with all her love. The leaves proved to be far heavier than Krishna. With a smile, Krishna returned to earth to be with his wives. Since that time, adding a Tulsi leaf is amiable to any auspicious gift.
2) Plant Uses:
a) As Food:
The leaves of holy basil, known as kraphao in the Thai language, are commonly used in Thai cuisine. Kraphao should not be confused with horapha normally known as Thai basil, or with Thai lemon basil. The best-known dish made with this herb is phat kraphao – beef, pork or chicken, stir-fried with Thai holy basil. Traditionally, people take Tulsi in many forms: as herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee.
b) As Medicine or Other Uses:
Tulsi has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for its diverse healing properties. It is mentioned in the Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text. Tulsi is an adaptogen, which counter acts the negative effects of stress, supports the bodies natural immune response, and helps normalize organ function. Marked by its strong aroma and astringent taste, it is regarded in Ayurveda as a kind of “elixir of life” and believed to promote longevity.
You can use Tulsi extracts in ayurvedic remedies for common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning, and malaria. Essential oil extracted from Karpoora tulsi is mostly used for medicinal purposes and in herbal cosmetics. Its wide uses include skin preparations due to its antibacterial activity. For centuries, people mix the dried leaves with stored grains to repel insects. Tulsi tea contains anti-inflammatory properties and is therefore beneficial to those suffering from IBS, Chrohn’s disease, and digestive disorders. It also assists in maintaining a healthy metabolism and improves levels of stamina. Tulsi herb is full of free radical fighting anti-oxidants and beneficial phytochemical compounds.
3) Growing Instructions
- General: Tulsi seed is easy to germinate and grow. Tulsi does well in pots or window boxes, and people grow it near the front door of the house for good luck.
- Best time to Harvest: Anytime in Hawaii
- Sunlight Requirements: Tulsi prefers full sun, rich soil, and plenty of water.
- Soil Requirements: Well draining soil
- Controlling Spread: Propagate to control
- Propagation: Sow the small Tulsi seeds in early spring indoors or in the greenhouse for an early start, or sow Tulsi seed directly in the spring or summer garden. Sow Tulsi seeds just under the surface of the soil and press in firmly. Keep Tulsi seed watered and warm until germination, which occurs within 2 to 3 weeks (faster for Kapoor). Thin or transplant to 1 to 2 feet apart.
- Difficulties with this plant: Adverse to cold and frost will kill your tulsi.