In the midst of a significant life transition, Christina Reinhart came to Rasa Ayurveda to experience and learn Ayurveda. A recent graduate of Bastyr University in Washington, U.S., Christina lives in Fargo, North Dakota. The photo shows her blooming in Rasa’s medicinal plants garden, wearing a beautiful Indian sari, nestled close to her favorite plant companion, Thulasi (Ocimum tenuiflorum/Holy Basil). (See her monograph below.)
Christina felt inspired to write this blog entry about her experience during her therapies here at Rasa:
A magic resides here that spirals within this healing family, cuisine, medicine, treatments, and community.
Here, my senses are awakened, illuminated. Dreamy nights and sleeping beauties awaken each morning to melodies dancing from the nearby temple. Aromas of each meal fill the air with an invitation for nourishment and healing. The cuisine here is an art form, awakening and transcending the soul of its receiver.
Each afternoon gifts us with a breeze, brushing the leaves of the coconut trees. The yard is full of life! Bala, Thulasi, Shariba, Shankapushpi, and Shatavari… A butterfly perches for a moment. To enjoy and revel in the beauty and power of each being! A stillness resides here that calms and nourishes the spirit.
Pranayama, the uniting force, offers liberation from our minds, our bodies… and brings us close to a state of bliss. Brilliant blue skies render a constant sense of peace, a freeing from the physical plane, expanding our awareness into the ultimate reality.
This truly is a journey, a beginning, and an end.
MONOGRAPH: Tulsi/Thulasi/Holy Basil/Ocimum tenuiflorum
Authored by: Christina A. Reinhart
Mother Medicine of Nature & The Queen of Herbs
Ocimum tenuiflorum (L.) syn. Ocimum sanctum (Taxonomic information)
tulsi (Hindi), holy basil, tulasi (Hindi) (Winston)
Tulsi was long known as Ocimum sanctum but as of recent became known as Ocimum tenuiflorum. (Ocimum- fragrant lipped tenuiflorum- basil with small flowers)
This species includes both the Sri and Rama varieties. A third type, Vana Tulsi (forest Tulsi) is identified as Ocimum gratissimum very grateful basil. (Singh and Hoette)
Lamiaceae (Taxonomic information)
Aerial parts are most commonly used. Root and seed are less frequently used.
Tulsi grows as an herb or subshrub perennial that may grow to a height of 1 meter. The root grows as a branched taproot. The stem has a square or quadrangular shape characteristic to Lamiaceae plants, and is branched, green to red in color with a fine layer of pubescence. The leaves are opposite, simple, ovate, serrate and petiolate. The flowers grow in a verticillaster inflorescence and are complete with a blue to purple color. (Singh and Hoette)
Rama and Krishna Tulsi are commonly cultivated throughout the plains of India, as well as private homes and gardens throughout all of India. Both varieties require special attention and warmth for proper growth. Vana Tulsi is found in the Himalayas as well as the plains of India, where it grows as naturalized plant. Vana Tulsi is also cultivated and grows wild throughout Asia and Africa. (Singh and Hoette)
katu (pungent), tikta (bitter)
Virya (action): ushna (heating)
Vipaka (post digestive effect): katu (pungent)
Guna (quality): ruksha (dry), laghu (light)
Dosha effect: VK-, P+
Eugenol (main pharmacological ingredient), Carvacrol, Cineole, Limatrol, Sterols
(Dr. Dukes Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Database, Sebastian Pole)
Vitamin A, C, Iron (Fe), Zinc (Zn) (Singh and Hoette) (Dr. Duke)
*ingestion of 1 g of dried Tulsi leaves daily provides approximately 8.5 mg vitamin C, which is superior to synthetic vitamin C in terms of bioavailability within the body.
Expectorant, Febrifuge, Diaphoretic, Antispasmodic, Antibacterial, Nervine, Carminative, Aromatic (Sebastian Pole) (Winston)
Tulsi has an uplifting and stimulating action on the body.
*the root is also used in fevers
*the seed can be used as mucilaginous demulcent
Ayurvedic Actions and Uses:
Jwarahara (alleviates fevers); Svedala (diaphoretic); Swasakasahara (benefits breathing and alleviates coughing) + clears kapha and mucus from lungs and upper respiratory tract + used in asthma, bronchitis, rhinitis and other respiratory allergies; Deepana- enkindles the jatharagni (digestive fire), + clears dampness and toxic ama through pungency and penetrating nature, + helps move vata through intestine and calms fermentive digestive tract, + increases appetite through aromatic stimulation of digestion; Hrdaya- specific affinity for the heart; Kashta- alleviates skin disorders; Prabhana- specific power of use in fevers regardless of origin, + increases vital force and prana, + moves apana vayu downward, + mild nervine for heightening awareness and mental clarity, + relieves tension headaches from increased vata and congestion headaches from excess kapha
Tulsi is considered an herbal tonic or rasayana and is used in various formulas originally created by the sages (rishis) of the past. According to the Charak, Tulsi is also useful in hiccups, coughs, poisoning, backaches and arthritis induced by pitta.
The Sushrut speaks of Thulsi as useful in treating impotence and halitosis, while the Dhanvantari Nighantu describes Tulsi as energy-inducing. (Sebastian Pole)
Currently Recognized Potential:
Recent research on Tulsi by Dr. Narendra Singh and his colleagues unveils an impressive array of health benefits which authenticate the extensive breadth of traditional uses. Tulsi protects against and reduces stress, enhances stamina and endurance, increases the body’s efficient use of oxygen, boosts the immune system, slows aging, and provides a rich supply of antioxidants and other nutrients. Benefits continue to inflammation reduction, prevention of gastric ulcers, protection against radiation, lowering of fevers, cholesterol and high blood pressure, enhancement of periodontal health. Significant antibacterial , antiviral and antifungal activity offer health benefits as well as natural repellent towards mosquitoes and other potentially harmful insects. Acting on the gastrointestinal tract, Tulsi improves digestion and absorption of nutrients. Researchers believe Tulsi offers remarkable preventative and curative potential for many degenerative disorders currently plaguing our population, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and neurological dementia. (Singh & Hoette)
The best way to use Tulsi is in its fresh plant form. If raw plant is not available, dried or powdered is recommended. Tulsi is also commonly taken in capsule and tincture form. Socially, Tulsi is prepared as a prasadam or hot water infusion. The fresh juice is also used in treatments.
According to ancient scriptures the Padmapurana and Tulsi Kavacham, Tulsi is a protector of life, accompanying an individual from birth until death. Tulsi has been considered a sacred plant in Ayurvedic medicine for years enumerable. According to Winston, it is sacred to the Hindu god Vishnu and is used daily each morning to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being. (Winston)
Krishna loves thulasi. Prepared from the stems of the thulasi plant, a thulasi mala helps to balance vata and kapha. Thulsi helps to improve devotion and love in the heart.
According to Pauranic mythology Thulasi is Vishnu Priya, Beloved of Lord Vishnu. The Bhagavata and Mahabharata tell of how Thulasi, a goddess and devotee of Lord Vishnu, was ultimately re-incarnated into the plant Thulasi in order to express devotion to her beloved Lord. As the plant form she is able to offer herself in worship and service.
Thulasi is worshipped and venerated daily by traditional Hindus. The leaves of three
Thulasi varieties (Krishna, Rama and Vana) are included in the Charanamrita of the puja. Charanamrita or Nectar from the feet of God traditionally includes cow’s milk, yogurt, honey, Ganga water and Thulasi leaves. The Charanamrita is received by the devotee when he forgets his ego and touches the feet of God.
+ Pippali, Anthrapachaka, Pushkaramoda- for lung congestion with sticky mucus
+ Pippali, Vasaka, Pit shirish- in nasal allergies and increased kapha
+ Ginger, Fennel, Cardamom- in digestion malabsorption and flatulence
+ Brahmi, Vacha, Gotu Kola- for mind and clarity
300-600 mg dried leaves daily for preventative therapy
600-1800 mg dried leaves daily in divided doses for curative therapy
Thulasi is contraindicated in respiratory infections in a pitta individual without the use of other cooling herbs.
Endangerment is not an issue in the case of Thulasi. It is widely cultivated around the world.
Singh, Dr. Narendra and Hoette, Dr.Yamuna. (2002). Tulsi: The Mother Medicine of Nature. Gomti Nagar, Lucknow. International Institute of Herbal Medicine.
Taxonomic information. Retrieved September, 2 2008 from http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=507863
Sebastian Pole Website: http://www.herbalayurveda.com
Dr. Dukes Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Database. Retrieved on September 2, 2008 from http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/duke/farmacy2.pl
Winston, David and Maimes, Steven. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Rochester, VT. Healing Arts Press.