Herbal Impressions: Tulsi

Tulsi offers incredible benefits, not least of which are the aromatic scent and warm spicy flavor that alone work their own magic.

For me though, Tulsi feels like home.

It feels safe, comforting, warm, familiar.

Right after our birth, our unexpected hospital stay and subsequent evacuation to Washington to stay with family left me feeling really disoriented. But part of that feeling of disorientation was simply the experience of birth.

I just didn't feel myself. 

When I said that to my sister-in-law, she wisely told me, "When we give birth, we also give birth to a new version of ourselves." We shed our maiden self. While our bodies change physically, the deepest parts of ourselves are also forever altered.

We become Mother. 

Tulsi has been supportive of this self-birthing and becoming process for me. And not just simply by sipping on tulsi tea (though I have been enjoying the Demeter blend of tulsi and chai spices). The plant's spirit and energetics have been instrumental in re-orienting me in my body and psyche.

Otherwise known as Holy Basil, Ocimum sanctum is native to India. In the “Charaka Samhita”, the quintessential text on Ayurveda written around 1000 BC, Tulsi is described as “the incomparable one” and is considered to be an incarnation of Tulasi or Vrindavani, a consort of Lord Vishnu. It is considered a symbol of fidelity and helpful in attaining spiritual enlightenment. Because of its sacred nature, it is grown near temples as well as in home courtyards to invite the presence of the gods and, like many aromatic herbs, purify the air.

As an "adaptogen," Tulsi supports a healthy response to stress, while calming the mind and lifting the spirit. As Rosalee de la Foret says, "Adaptogenic herbs, by definition, are herbs that are non-toxic and used to generally support the health of a person under stress in non-specific ways. Adaptogens influence the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and are used to positively address many nervous system issues, including the negative effects of excessive stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, overwork, and more.

As an aromatic herb and a member of the mint family, I think of Tulsi as, among many things, a carminative, which is an herb used to warm up stagnant digestion that shows up as bloating and gas.

Among its many attributes, it is said that Holy Basil opens the heart and brings harmony to the mind. I often suggest Tulsi to my clients struggling with grief and fearing elements of the unknown as its effects on the emotional body can be very strengthening when dealing with fear or loss and the accompanying exhaustion.

The aromatics of the plant itself as well as the essential oil are useful for connecting with your Third Eye, the 6th chakra, an energy center of intuition and soul knowledge. It aids in learning how to trust your intuition, your voice, and your soul's natural expression. The herb as well as the oil heighten awareness and invite a sense of calm focus and mental clarity.

As both a hydrosol and essential oil, Tulsi exhibits anti-oxidant, purifying, awakening, grounding benefits to skin, respiratory passages, and psyche. Used topically, Tulsi balances all skin types, but has a particular affinity for cleansing, rejuvenating and purifying blemished skin and decongesting clogged pores. 

This particular clarifying action of Tulsi is another reason I love using the Persephone Facial Oil as an anointing oil - while both the Palmarosa and the Tulsi are calming and grounding, they aren't specifically heavy or sedative. Instead, they invite a kind of focus that allows you to have presence and grounding.

Here's a recipe for a spicy + sweet autumnal brew:

  • 1 c. Rooibos
  • 1 c. Tulsi/Holy Basil (any variety)
  • 1/4 c. Hawthorn Berries
  • 2 Tbsp. Cinnamon Chips
  • 2 Tbsp. Ginger Root
  • A handful of Cardamom Pods
Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a big spoon. I personally like to use one particular spoon for my tea blending, infusing each blend with its own particular magic, whispering seasonal spells over the plants and setting intentions for the months ahead.

Once it's fully blended, put your blend in a jar, label it, and brew by the tablespoon.

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