Holy Basil, the “Elixir of Life”
Holy Basil, or Tulsi, sometimes known as “The Elixir of Life” or “The Incomparable One”, has lately enjoyed a surge in popularity among tea and health enthusiasts. Tulsi has been used for thousands of years for its diverse healing properties, being classified in Ayurvedic medicine as an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and promotes long life. It is considered an adaptogen, balancing different processes in the body and helping our systems to ‘adapt’ to multiple stressors or harmful influences by helping to re-regulate, normalize, and enhance function. Studies indicate that it may be helpful for adapting to stress, reducing both stress and levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. We at B. Fuller’s Mortar & Pestle have fallen under its spell both for its health benefits and for its pungent, spicy taste.
Holy Basil is an aromatic plant indigenous to the Indian subcontinent, found throughout the lowlands of India, as well as the rest of the Southeast Asian tropics. It is widely cultivated in India around temples and in courtyards for daily use, being especially revered by Vaishnavas, devotees of one of the major branches of Hinduism. Tulsi leaves are an essential part of the worship of Vishnu and his avatars Krishna and Rama, used in morning prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and wellbeing.
There are at least three types, the green leaf variety Rama being the most common, Krishna, bearing dark green to purple leaves, and Vana, a green leafed forest variety that often grows wild. B. Fuller’s uses both the Rama and the Vana varieties of organic Holy Basil in our herbal Tisane blends because they wonderfully complement and further our mission of awakening an awareness in people of their connection to the plant kingdom, and its beneficial healing aspects, as well as bringing a completely unique flavor profile to our herbal infusions. All varieties of Holy Basil are astringent, pungent, warm and sweet, with notes of peppermint, cloves, licorice or lemon, with Rama being more ‘spicy’ or ‘clovey’, and the Vana variety having more of a fragrant, sweet, anise taste. Often we find that Holy Basil will give a mouth ‘sensation’ as well, a refreshing tingling or brightness that is reminiscent of the menthol effect of good quality mint. We use the Rama Holy Basil in our WellBerry blend, where it pairs well both therapeutically with Elderberry, Hibiscus, and Rose Hips to warm the body and combat colds and flu, and in terms of flavor, giving a sweet counterpoint to the tart Hibiscus and twining a spicy garland around the slightly bitter, deep structure of the Elderberry.
Holy Basil brings an amazing set of values, flavors, and effects to our tea line. This gentle plant ally is a charming aid in reducing stress, balancing our bodies’ processes and energy, and reminding us of our interconnection to the living systems all around us. A fresh breath from an exotic locale, a hint into a different culture, a break from the pressures of the modern world, Tulsi is a wonderful ambassador for the healing power of herbals to the wide world of tea drinkers.