Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is one of my favourite herbs. It can be used for cooking, herbal remedies, as well as insect repellent. It’s quite flexible and easy to grow. With very little effort, you are able to grow and harvest enough to keep you going the whole year.
Tulsi, also known as Holy basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum, Ocimum sanctum, or sacred basil, is a plant indigenous to India. It gets 12-24 inches tall and smells strongly of cinnamon or clove, which is probably because of the large amount eugenol, rosmarinic acid, and linalool. It’s commonly used in religious ceremonies, thus the title “holy” or “sacred” basil.
The leaves and flowers are somewhat hairy which can make it hard to cook , but varying amounts of taste can be accomplished by sauteing in oil before using. The leaves can also be steamed or put into soups or stews before serving.
How to Grow Tulsi?
Holy Basil is extremely easy to grow in many areas of the world and does not need plenty of care. In warmer areas it can be thought of as a shrub while in temperate regions, it’s more of a yearly. It does reseed easily, so there’ll be more the next year.
To grow, sow the seeds in a pot early in the year or straight in the ground after the threat of frost has passed. The seedlings will be little, but will soon grow. Pinch back the centers to encourage branching out instead of taller growth. Harvest the leaves when you want them. If left for a month or longer, the leaves may become tough.
You can dry the leaves (find out more about how to dry herbs) and keep them to use later. I’ve also chopped the leaves and saved them in the freezer. They’ll be wilted when you dehydrate them, but will be perfect for cooking.
Tulsi Benefits for Health
Holy basil has been used for several years in Ayurvedic cooking. It’s thought to promote long life and great health. It’s considered that the “elixir of life” Some of the additional health benefits include:
- Holy basil is an adaptogen. It can help your body cope with stress and other things like illness.
- Holy basil may help with weight loss. Even only 1 cup of holy basil tea (keep reading for recipe) was said to help people lose up to ten pounds annually, without doing anything else.
- Holy basil is antibacterial. You may use the foliage on wounds to help accelerate recovery.
- Holy basil is a tonic. Make a tincture by massaging leaves in alcohol for a couple weeks. Strain and take 5 drops per day.
- Feeling as if you may be getting sick? Holy basil is a great antiviral. Take 10-15 drops of the above tincture per day to help get on the path to recovery.
- Feeling anxious? Holy basil is a terrific antidepressant and reduces tension and anxiety. Drink a cup or two of the tea every day.
- Holy basil can help improve digestion.
- Holy basil helps to support the immune system.
- Holy basil helps to clear the mind and enhance memory. It’s been used by some to treat symptoms of ADHD.
- Holy basil can help balance hormone levels. It’s been used to help alleviate PMS and menopause symptoms.
- Holy basil can help repel bugs naturally.
While making teas may be thought of as simple, there are a few actions to take when making sacred basil tea which will make it even better.
Ingredients & Supplies
- fresh holy basil leaves, about 1/4 cup
- hot water
- a cup, a spoon, some ice, and a saucer
- honey or other sweetener
- Wash the basil leaves well and then put in the cup. With the back of a spoon, press the leaves against the side of the cup. This bruises them and allows the essential oils to escape.
- Pour hot (not boiling) water over the leaves and stir fry. Place the saucer on top of the cup, right side up. This will trap the critical oils and keep them from escaping.
- Place a few ice cubes on the saucer. This will, in effect, make rain. Condensed steam will fall back in the cup and then take the critical oils accumulated on the bottom of the saucer with it.
- Wait about 5 minutes. Remove the saucer, strain the leaves, and sweeten the tea as you enjoy it.
- Drink hot. This tea may also be iced.
Holy Basil Bug Repellent
You can make a simple bug repellent using the identical method above. However, omit the sweetener and pour the finished tea into a spray bottle. Add about a tablespoon of vodka to discourage mold growth.
To use, shake well and use on bugs in the garden or around the house. Spray counter tops and round windows. Flies will be discouraged by the cinnamon and clove scent. Because the vital oils will evaporate, you might want to spray every few hours. I spray this repellent in my mind while gardening since it also seems to keep the gnats away!