Last week, we transplanted the Tulsi babies into the garden. We grow about one thousand plants of Tulsi in our garden each year, which makes it the biggest crop in the herb garden. Because of this year's cool spring, the Tulsi plants were really young.
Although it is very well known among yogis and herbalists, Tulsi is not known to most of the people I meet at markets. I sample the Tulsi tea frequently so people get to know this wonderful plant. I also bring Tulsi plants so people can meet it in its living form.
Being part of the mint botanical family or Labiatae means that Tulsi has a square stem and its leaves grow opposite to each other. Like all other mints, it is an aromatic herb which eludes to the warmth that it contains. The leaves are wide and open and their color is green with a tint of silver. Tulsi leaves contain lots of water. We get to harvest the Tulsi three times each season. Each harvest will yield about one hundred pounds of fresh Tulsi. After drying and stripping the leaves from their stem, however, we will get only about ten pounds of dried tea.
Tulsi was brought to the United States from India where it is considered to be a sacred plant. You might hear it called by its other name: sacred basil. In Hinduism, Tulsi is considered to be an embodiment of the Goddess Lakshmi the Goddess of abundance, fortune, and prosperity. She is the wife of Vishnu, the preserver, and protector. A Hindu household is considered incomplete if it does not have Tulsi plants planted in its garden. The female of the house creates a small temple to Lakshmi nearby the Tulsi plant and burns incense around it twice a day.
In the Ayurvedic tradition, Tulsi was used for over 3,000 years. The name Ayurveda was given to the ancient healing tradition of India. Ayurveda literally translates to “wisdom of life” and is an attempt to bring about the union of physical, emotional and spiritual health – a state of harmony with the universe. The daily use of the herb is believed to help maintain the balance of the chakras of the body. It is acclaimed as possessing Sattva, or purity, and as being capable of bringing on goodness, virtue, and joy to humans.
Tulsi, like many other mints, brings its aroma from the flower (where we usually find scent) into the leaves that serves as the rhythmical part of the plant, much like the heart and lungs in the human body. Tulsi is considered to be a good noninflammatory herb for the cardiovascular system, improves blood circulation, is a powerful antioxidant, and balances blood sugar. David Winston uses Tulsi for “stagnant depression”, a type of depression that follows a traumatic event after which the person feels that his life is stuck and revolves around the trauma. Interns that worked in the garden alongside the Tulsi plant told me that they felt emotional after spending a couple of hours near the plant. One of my customers who drank Tulsi tea every evening before bed told me that he started to have very vivid dream experiences.
Tulsi is considered to be an Adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens were defined during the late 50’s as herbs that allow the body to adapt to adverse physical, chemical or biological stress. When the body experiences stress, be it physical, emotional or environmental, it releases cortisol into the bloodstream. Cortisol activates the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism which includes a chain of physical reactions including high blood pressure, fast intake of oxygen, the release of sugar for energy, and proteins being broken into amino acids. While this process is very important to the survival of the body in an acute situation, if stress becomes an ongoing condition it depletes the body, weakens the immune system and speeds the aging process. Tulsi was found to reduce stress hormones in the blood. It also has an immunomodulating activity. Meaning, that it will enhance the immune system if that is what the body needs but it will also suppress the immune system if it is over stimulated.
I find that Tulsi can remind us of the abundance we have in our lives. When we acknowledge the richness and fullness of life, stress levels decline and we are able to face the challenges in our journey with courage, joy and an open heart.
We love our Tulsi tea and Tulsi infused honey. Lion’s heart tea is our tea bland that aims to promote courage, joy, and love. It brings Tulsi together with other herbs that are known to open the heart and uplift the spirit like Lemon Balm, Rose, Chrysanthemum Morifolium, St John’s Wort and Hawthorne berries.