Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil and by its Latin Name; Ocimum sanctum, is considered a sacred herb in India. The plant is not only known for its medicinal value but is also among the most highly honored gifts that can be given. Tulsi has its own holiday in India called Tulsi Vivaha. This is the honoring of the marriage between Tulsi and Lord Krishna. Yes, Lord Krishna marries a plant! The story is symbolic of course and comes from a story about how Lord Krishna was taken away from his wives to do the service of fighting the forces of darkness. After sometime, his wives wanted him back and so, one of them offered up gold and jewels but Krishna would not return. The other offered up several tulsi leaves with love and Lord Krishna returned.
In another story Lord Vishnu tricks the wife of a demon, who is causing great havoc, into believing that her husband, the demon is dead. He then appears to heal the dead body and Lord Vishnu himself takes the form of her husband. She embraces him with passion. In India, it is a disgrace to embrace a man who is not your husband, even if tricked. This is necessary to weaken the demon as his strength came from the purity of his wife. This new impurity within her weakens her husband and he is defeated. His wife then commits suicide. This causes Lord Vishnu to become depressed. He did not intend to harm the demon’s wife. To alleviate his depression the other Gods plant Tulsi on the cremation ground. Tulsi is considered one of Lord Vishnu’s favorite herbs and this lifts him from depression.
It is the leaf of the Tulsi plant that is most commonly used as medicine. Tulsi is light, dry, rough and sharp. These qualities increase in the body when the herb is ingested. Because of this, tulsi is an excellent herb to take when you have a mucous cough and stuffed sinuses. Tulsi helps dry up the mucous so you can breathe freely. It also reduces the formation of new mucous. People with asthma who cough up a lot of mucous also benefit from taking this herb. Tulsi is classified as an expectorant (makes it easier to expel mucous), cough suppressant (reduces the intensity of a cough) and a bronchodilator (makes it easier to breath). However, the benefits of Tulsi go even further. Tulsi has antimicrobial properties which help the body defeat bacteria and viruses. Naturally, this makes it even more effective as a part of complete treatment program for the common cold and flu.
The benefits of Tulsi go beyond the body. Tulsi is a wonderful herb for the mind. A study published in 2008 in Nepal followed 35 patients taking tulsi. The results showed tulsi to be effective in the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression. It decreased the effects of stress and improved attention (1).
Given the story of Lord Vishnu above and the recent studies on Tulsi, it is clear that taking Tulsi will support your mind. It eases anxiety and it lifts you out of depression. Tulsi takes your mind into a good place, a place where you can reach toward the divine, a place where you can reach your full potential, a place where you can fly.
Tulsi by itself is best for alleviating kapha dosha. Mixed properly with other herbs, it can be a part of a formula to bring any dosha into balance.
1. Nepal Med Coll J. 2008 Sep;10(3):176-9. Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders.