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What is Tulsi?

Tulsi "Tea" & Its Benefits

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An image of Green Tulsi herbal

There are several varieties of tulsi (or "holy basil") consumed in India. Rama Tulsi / Green Tulsi (pictured above) is the most popular.

Lindsey Goodwin
Also known as "tulasi," "Holy Basil," "The Incomparable One" and "Elixir of Life," tulsi is a powerful herb used in Ayurveda, and in some "herbal tea" / tisane and true tea blends.

Types of Tulsi

The tulsi plant (Ocimum sanctum L. or Ocimum tenuiflorum L.) is a close relative of culinary basil (Ocimum basilicum, but it is differentiated by its medicinal properties and some physical characteristics. There are three main types of tulsi plants:
  • Rama Tulsi (also known as Green Leaf Tulsi) -- a green tulsi with light purple flowers and an aromatic, clove-like scent (thanks to its chemical component of eugenol, which is the main aroma in cloves) and mellower flavor
  • Krishna Tulsi (also known as Shyama Tulsi or Purple Leaf Tulsi) -- a purple plant with a clove-like aroma and peppery flavor
  • Vana Tulsi (or Wild Leaf Tulsi) -- a bright, light green tulsi plant that grows wild and is indigenous to many areas of Asian and North / East Africa; it has a more lemony aroma and flavor
Health Benefits of Tulsi

Of the three types of tulsi, Krishna Tulsi is often considered to be the most beneficial to health, followed closely by Rama Tulsi. Vana Tulsi has less potency, but it is sometimes blended with other types of tulsi for a more pleasing flavor. In Ayurvedic practice, common uses of tulsi include treatments for:
  • Asthma, bronchitis, colds, congestion, coughs, flu, sinusitis, sore throat and similar ailments
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Headaches, earaches and eye disorders
  • Skin diseases and insect bites
  • Cramping, gastric disorders, indigestion, intestinal parasites, mouth diseases, ulcers and vomiting
  • Diabetes and blood sugar imbalances
  • Joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Kidney stones
  • Malaria
  • Cancer
Scientific medical research has confirmed that tulsi is:
  • A powerful adaptogenic herb (an herb that reduces stress and increases energy)
  • Able to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • High in antioxidants
  • Immuno-modulating (able to increase or decrease the immune system's activity to the optimal level)
  • Protective of the liver, and more generally protective against certain chemical toxins and radiation, but not contraindicated by chemotherapy (so it's safe to use while receiving chemo)
Tulsi is also sometimes used to decrease fertility in men and women, so it is not recommended that those who are trying to conceive drink large amounts of tulsi.

For more information, see health benefits of tulsi on About.com Alternative Medicine.

Tulsi "Tea"

One easy way to consume tulsi is to make it into an herbal "tea," or an herbal infusion. To make tulsi "tea," boil one cup of filtered water and pour it over one teaspoon of fresh tulsi leaves, one-half teaspoon of dried tulsi leaves or one-third teaspoon of tulsi powder. Cover the water in a pot or mug and let it steep for 20 minutes (or longer, if you want to maximize the health benefits). Then, strain out the leaves, add honey if desired, and enjoy.

Tulsi "tea" is caffeine free and can be safely consumed up to six times a day. For more benefits, increase the ration of tulsi leaf to water and steep longer.

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