I'm joining this month's herbal blog party at http://fieldoftansy.blogspot.com/2009/10/october-blog-party-call-for-submissions.html.
This month the topic is morning ritual beverages. Usually I am drinking coffee, but for those who are abstaining or unable, holy basil is a nice uplifting morning beverage to wake you up and energize you for the day.
I would love to introduce everyone to my friend holy basil, or Ocimum sanctum. She is very generous with her gifts and loves to bring joy to others. A spicy, sweet herb, she has the interesting combination of a mix between bubblegum and cloves.
Holy basil, also known as Tulsi, is revered in India as an 'elixir of life' and believed to promote longevity. This herb is so important to Hindu culture that it is believed to be a physical incarnate of the gods, and different species are named after them (Rama, Krishna, and Vana). It is common to have holy basil plants in pots around houses and temples in India. The tea is drunk before meditation as a way to get closer to god.
Tulsi has been used medicinally in India for thousands of years for colds, headaches, inflammation, stomach problems, and in cosmetics. The western world is just starting to catch on to the delights of this plant. It has recently been classified as a mild adaptogen, which means it helps the body to adapt to stress. Modern studies have shown that it helps lower cortisol levels (one marker of stress response), has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and may help balance blood sugar. It is one of my favorite herbs to recommend to people because it makes them feel so good.
For those who tend to be anxious and excitable in the morning or are just plain stressed, holy basil is an herbal ally. The tea is comforting, calming, focusing, relaxing, and uplifting. It is usually available in health food stores in tea bags, sometimes mixed with other flavors. I love the delicate flavors, so I always get the original kind.
After this summer, I will not need to buy holy basil for a while. I planted many plants, and being from the proliferative mint family, they all grew wonderfully for me. It even outgrew my regular basil, so I started making holy basil pesto. This has been a delightful addition to my diet, a wonderful garden friend, and a great way to get herbal medicine into the food supply. I can't sing enough praise for this wonderful plant!