Tulsi: The most powerful adaptogen known to man

As the name clearly specifies, holy basil (or tulsi) has an almost god-like status in India. We keep it in our courtyards and temples. Some of us start our day with a little prayer and offering of water to this wonderful plant. And we also add it to teas and tinctures. Yes, our tulsi is really a magical herb. 


A few years back I met Professor Marc Cohen at the launch of one of India’s most luxurious wellness centres called Vana. Prof Cohen is one of Australia’s pioneers in integrative and holistic medicine. He is currently chair of the Australasian Spa and Wellness Association, a board member and former-president of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA), and a board member of the Global Wellness Summit among other things.Over a cup of tea Prof. Cohen spoke about his love for this herb, and how it was equal (if not better) than green tea. He said the only reason it wasn’t as popular was because it wasn’t marketed as well. He explained to me that tulsi is a potent adaptogen, which helps the body cope with stress. And that’s just one of it’s powerful qualities. 

In India, we consider it to be the queen of herbs. A tincture of tulsi boiled in water with cloves, black peppercorns and ginger helps improve a cold and flu. We chew the leaves because the lovely fragrance works as a wonderful breath freshener. Those who eat raw turmeric in colder months consume it with a couple of leaves of tulsi because it works as an activator of curcumin, so it gets absorbed easily into the body. It’s antibacterial, antiviral and anti-carcinogenic. But don’t just take my word for it, have a look at the scientific research that proves holy basil deserves to be revered. 

We all know that radioactivity is on the rise. The use of nuclear energy and leaks in Fukushima andChernobyl have put us all into relative risk. However, the solution lies in this wonderful plant. In a paper written by Prof Cohen he mentions that of all herbs tulsi is most studied for its radiation-protective effects. He says that various laboratory and animal tests have found that it reduces oxidative and chromosomal damage induced by radiation.

Tulsi also helps reverse the effects of pollution. There’s always a reason behind most Asian traditions. Ancient Indians knew it’s protective powers and so every household in the subcontinent has this aromatic shrub planted in the courtyard. In fact, there are many tulsi shrubs planted around the Taj Mahal to protect it’s beautiful white marble from oxidising. Needless to say that it also helps purify and detoxify the body. You can plant a tulsi tree at home and eat a few leaves everyday. Or you can boil 10-15 leaves in a litre of water and drink it though the day. You can use it to flavour soups, or add it for an exotic zing to your bliss balls. And even if you can’t grow tulsi at home, you can always buy tulsi teabags from Organic India - they’re my favourite. In a world where we’re constantly rushing to meet deadlines, bombarded with pollution and radiation this plant is a gentle and soothing ally that you can trust.

I first wrote this post for www.irmasworld.com