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Holy basil - The queen of herbs!

No other plant in Ayurveda has a status comparable to tulsi (Ocimum sanctum). Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is native to India and has spread throughout the Southeast Asian tropics. In Ayurveda, tulsi is known as ‘The incomparable one’, ‘Mother medicine of nature’, ‘The queen of herbs’ and ‘ elixir of life’. Within India, tulsi is a sacred plant for Hindus, regarded as the holiest of all plants. It is worshipped as the avatar of the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Ayurveda regards tulsi as the tonic for the body, mind, and spirit with solutions to many modern-day health problems. Tulsi is considered a potent adaptogen. Adaptogens include several herbs that support the body’s natural ability to deal with stress, they adapt their function depending on the specific needs of the body. Modern medicine has revealed that tulsi indeed possess many phytochemicals that promote the body’s well-being and resilience. In Ayurveda, tulsi is used as an immune tonic, liver protector, antidepressant, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal. It is also recommended for a wide range of treatments that include cough, anxiety, indigestion, asthma, arthritis, and skin diseases. Many of these benefits are attributed to its unique combination and high content of phenolic compounds and antioxidants.

The physical, mental, and spiritual benefits make tulsi a must grow plant in your garden. Tulsi grows as a perennial in mild winter and tropical areas, and as an annual in colder climates. It can grow from USDA growing zones 7 to 10. It is most commonly stated from seed, you can also propagate it from cuttings. Seeds can be sowed in late spring or early summer when the temperature is around 60-70 F, germinating in about 2-3 weeks. It grows well in loamy and fertile soil with good drainage. Tulsi is a plant of the tropics and thrives in full sun, however, it can grow in partial shade as well.

Encourage a bushy habit by pinching the top of the plants when the plant has formed four to six pairs of leaves. Once the plant reaches a height of 1 foot, the leaves and flowers are ready for harvest for its various uses. The leaves and flowers of tulsi can be consumed fresh or dried for future use. The simplest way is to munch on a few fresh leaves to use as a mouth freshener or add it as a herb in salads and stews. The most common way to use tulsi is in the form of tea called tulsi tea.

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