Holy Basil

Holy basil is an aromatic herb that belongs to the Lamiaceae family. This herb is popularly known as Tulsi in India. This useful herb has got many names in different regions in India. It is mainly cultivated because of its medicinal and religious purposes. In is largely used to make ayurvedic medicines in South Asia.

Holy basil Scientific Name

The botanical name for Holy Basil is Ocimum tenuiflorum.

Holy basil Description

This erect plant grows around 2 – 3 feet tall. The small scarlet or purple colored flowers are arranged in spikes. The color of the Holy basil leaves may range from green to light purple. They are around 5 cm long and the edges are slightly toothed. The seeds of holy basil are mucilaginous.

Holy basil Distribution

This herb is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of South-Asia. At present people around the world has started to grow this herb, mainly due to its medicinal uses.

Holy basil Habitat

In its natural habitat, this plant can be seen anywhere up-to 2000m altitude starting from the sea level.

Holy basil Picture
Picture 1 – Holy basil

Holy basil History

Holy basil has been used for more than thousand years for its medical benefits. Traditionally it has been used as an Ayurvedic medicine. In the Indian sub-continent, this plant is considered as sacred.

In South Asia, especially in India Holy Basil is grown by the Hindus at their homes. The leaves are used to worship Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

Holy basil Cultivation

This plant is grown in almost every Hindu household as it is very easy to grow-

  • Weather and Soil Condition : Spring is the best time to sow the seeds of Holy Basil. First choose an area in the garden that receives full or partial sunlight. Plant the seeds in well drained and well composted soil. The pH range of the soil can be around 7 – 8. It grows well in moist soil which is spongy and soft.
  • Watering : For the first one or two weeks, water the plant twice on a daily basis. Excess watering may damage the plant. In cold weather, water the plant only to keep the moisture in the soil.
  • Pruning : Pruning is another important part of cultivation as it helps the plant to grow in a more compact manner. The plant will grow bushier and bigger, if it is pruned properly in the first few months.

Holy basil Harvest

The plant must be harvested after every 3-4 weeks. Cut the leaves with a sharp knife. The best time to pluck basil leaves is early morning. Leave enough leaves on the basil plant to keep it growing. Cut off the damaged leaves.

Holy basil Usage

Holy basil is largely used to make ayurvedic medicines. In South-Asia it is used in worshipping Gods and Goddesses. The leaves of Holy basil contain oil that has anti-bacterial properties and it is used as an insecticide. Holy basil oil is sometime used as ear drops. The seeds of this plant are used to cure urinary problems.

At present, parts of Holy basil tree is also used in making soaps, shampoos, cosmetics and perfumes. Because of its flavor, this herb is used in many cuisines. An herbal tea is made from the leaves of this plant.

Holy basil Medicinal Facts

This plant is full of calcium, phosphorus, carotene and vitamin C.

Holy basil Health Benefits

Holy Basil is an important herbal remedy and can be used in very simple ways to get relief from different kinds of diseases :

  • Fever and Cold : The leaves are used to make an herbal tea that is known to cure fevers. The extract of the leaves are also used to cure fevers.
  • Coughs : Holy basil is an important substitute of expectorants and cough syrups. Chewing raw and fresh leaves of holy basil is good for flu and cold.
  • Healing Power : The holy basil plant has a lot of medicinal properties. The leaves of this plant are used to sharpen memory and also as a nerve tonic.
  • Stress : The leaves are anti-stress agent. If raw and fresh leaves are chewed; it prevents stress and purifies blood.
  • Mouth Infections : Basil leaves are effective against the infections of mouth. Raw leaves are known to protect these conditions.
  • Heart Disorder : This herb reduces the cholesterol level in blood. It is effective against cardiac diseases and other weaknesses related to it.
  • Insect Bites : The leave extract is curative and preventive against insect bites and stings. Small amount of leave extract can be applied on affected parts and small wounds. The paste of the roots can also be used for the same.
  • Headaches : The decoction of Basil of leaves can cure headache. A mixture of sandalwood paste and pounded Basil leaves are applied on forehead to get relief from headache.
  • Sore Throat : In case of sore throat, basil leaves boiled in lukewarm water can be used as a drink and can be used to gargle.
  • Respiratory Disorder : A liquid is made by mixing basil leaf extract, ginger extract and honey that are effective against influenza, cough, bronchitis, asthma and cold.
  • Kidney Stone : It has a very strong effect on kidney. If the leave extract and honey is taken for continuous six months; it eliminates the renal stone through the urinary tract.
  • Skin Disorders : Basil extract is known to cure skin diseases. Some naturopaths have applied it successfully to cure leucoderma.
  • Teeth Disorder : A kind of powder is made from the dried leaves of basil to use it for brushing teeth. It helps to keep away bad breath and maintain healthy dental condition.

Pictures of Holy basil
Picture 2 – Holy basil Picture

Holy basil Culinary Uses

There is a variety of Holy Basil that is called Thai Holy basil or Kraphao in Thai language. It is used in Thai cuisine. Kraphao is sometime confused with Thai basil and Thai lemon basil. The most popular cuisine made with this herb is Phat kraphao.

Holy basil is sometimes used in stir fries along with chili and garlic.

How to Store Holy basil?

Dried leaves of Holy basil can be kept in a properly sealed dark colored glass jar. To ensure freshness, it must be kept in a refrigerator. The leaves can be kept for one year. After that, the leaves will start to lose its flavor.

Holy basil Availability

This popular herb is available throughout the year. Holy basil can be easily found in South-Asian markets.

Holy basil Side Effects

This herb is not known to cause serious side effects. One has to take doctor’s advice before using any medicine that has Holy basil in it otherwise it may cause ill effects in certain conditions like-

  • If one is having anti-clotting agents, the person must not consume any herbal infusions, which has holy basil in it.
  • Even though there are no known side effects of this herb on pregnant women, consulting a doctor is a better option before consuming it.
  • If anyone is having diabetic medicines, the person should consult the physician before having Holy basil as this herb may decrease the blood sugar to an alarming level.

Holy basil Interesting Facts

Here are few interesting facts about Holy basil:

  • Holy basil is popularly called the “Queen of Herbs” in ancient texts.
  • In Ayurveda, this herb is regarded as an “elixir of life” which helps to live longer.
  • According to Ayurvedic literature, Holy basil is effective against snake bites.

Holy basil Pictures

Here are some picture of this useful plant and its leaves:

Images of Holy basil
Picture 3 - Holy basil Image

Photos of Holy basil
Picture 4 - Holy basil Photo

Holy basil is rightly the most popular herb as the use of this plant is increasing across the world in some way or the other.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocimum_tenuiflorum

http://www.organicindia.co.in/tulsi.php

http://www.organicindia.com/tulsi-holy-basil.php

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