Guest Post: Tulsi

In spite of its focus on a single region of a single country, Overlooked Nature has a surprisingly international readership. So, to take advantage of my viewers’ wide-ranging knowledge, I’m introducing a new monthly-ish feature: International Featured Creatures! My first guest blogger is Anand from blabberwockying!, one of the most prolific, upbeat, and friendly bloggers I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with. — Bethany


Ocimum tenuiflorum, also known as Ocimum sanctumholy basil, or Tulsi, is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae which is native to the Indian subcontinent and widespread as a cultivated plant throughout the Southeast Asian tropics. It is an erect, many branched subshrub, with tall and hairy stems and simple green or purple leaves that are strongly scented.

The word Tulsi literally means “The Incomparable One.” Tulsi is one of the most used plants in Hindu Indian families. Hinduism has a great respect for this plant and it has been revered in scriptures and mythologies for at least last 5000 years. The leaves of this plant are used to worship deities.The stalks and branches of this plant are used in sacrificial fire rituals called Homams which purify the environment. They are also used to prepare beads of rosaries which are used to wear around the necks and also for chanting by devotees.

In Ayurveda, Tulsi is known as elixir of life, as it promotes longevity. It’s an adaptogen and it balances various processes in body. It’s consumed in various forms such as dried leaves, green leaves, powder, in herbal tea and in many cuisines. Thai cuisine uses it under name Thai Holy Basil. Some researchers have claimed that Tulsi has the capacity to help patients fighting with cancer.

It’s also a deity called Vrinda, Vaishnavi, Haripriya, Rama and by many other names in Indian mythology. Vrindavan is a place of pilgrimage in North India which was named so because it had a lot of Tulsi groves in ancient times. The word Vrinda is for Tulsi and Van is for Woods–so this place got its name from the groves of Tulsi it had.

The two varieties of Tulsi leaves grown in Indian subcontinent have green and purple leaves. It has an astringent taste and a distinct aroma which is sweet. This plant is kept in almost every house and serving it is considered very auspicious in Indian tradition. Every worship and ritual among Hindus is incomplete without Tulsi, especially amongst Vaishnavites.

Some rights reserved. Photographer: Vinayaraj
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0) Some rights reserved. Photographer: Vinayaraj

Anand is a retired blogger who likes to write on mysticism, astrology, films and life.

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Bethany Harvey

I’m a biologist, environmental educator, occasional firefighter and reluctant cubicle monkey living in North Carolina. I write literary short stories and SFF novels, and hope to someday figure out why it doesn’t work the other way around. You can find me yelling about politics on Twitter (@bethanyharvey) or about under-appreciated wildlife at OverlookedNature.com.

10 thoughts on “Guest Post: Tulsi”

  1. Thank you Anand of Blabberwockying for this informative post. I am not familiar with herbs but I guess, we have the same plant here which is just called Basil (I am not sure if there are many varieties) and is used for salads or other recipes. I am not very fond of its taste though but I know it is good for the health. 🙂

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  2. Thanks for introducing to me such an important herb and the uses for it in India. It is interesting that a blogger says it is the same as basil which I’m quite familiar with. Small globe we inhabit.

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