Holy Basil is also called Tulsi (Hindu for “the incomparable one”), or Ocimum tenuiflorum. In Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil is considered an adaptogen, which is a medicine that helps your body defend itself against stress. It can be used to treat a host of afflictions, including cold, flu, stomachache, malaria, tuberculosis, mercury poisoning, ringworm, and snake bites. Holy basil has concentrations of eugenol, which makes it operate in the way conventional painkillers do. It can also benefit people with type 2 diabetes by reducing blood glucose. Antioxidant properties in holy basil repair damaged cells, promoting longevity. Research is being done to test the effectiveness of holy basil oil in curing cancer as well. If you want to use it in cooking, it’s sometimes sold as hot basil because it has a peppery taste and is often used in stir-fries.
photo credit: gstuff.co.nz
The best part about holy basil is the Indian tradition of using the plant. Holy basil is the embodiment of the Hindi goddess Lakshmi, who represents wealth, prosperity, fortune, and beauty. In the Hindu tradition, holy basil is planted in the doorway to homes and temples so as you brush past it on your way inside or outside, you get a whiff of the plant’s fragrance cleansing bad spirits coming and going. I couldn’t get my hands on any holy basil plants this weekend, but I decided to experiment with this herb the American way and picked up some holy basil pills at Whole Foods. According to the bottle (I selected gaia brand), it “supports a healthy response to stress”. They forgot to mention all the other things holy basil does!
Dr. Jaclyn Chasse recommended holy basil as a stress-reducing herb because it induces calm clarity and awareness. The herb has been used to purify the body, mind and spirit, which makes it a great complement to a mediation practice. Her patients have said they really notice a difference when they miss a dose. Jaclyn mentioned that it is great to use for an iced tea, adding some lemon balm in the summertime, which sounds divine indeed.
I don’t know about you, but I get stressed out easily in the winter. I get cranky and depressed when I don’t get enough sun. My recipe for wintertime stress is basically: gray days + cold weather (ew, layers) + not enough outside time + “holiday season” chaos + end-of-semester projects. I am trying holy basil this winter to see what happens and I’m crossing my fingers that this will help me be more peaceful and content in the dark days of January.
I have a new mantra too, to help me with stress season: Don’t just do something, sit there.