Few remedies are so perfect for the present time,
and so universally beneficial, that they can almost be recommended to everyone, as Holy Basil. Known in India simply as
The Incomparable One
Holy Basil, Tulsi as its known in India, was as beloved by the ancient yogis, as it is by modern herbal healers. It’s easy to grow, tastes great and its effects are gentle, but profound and deeply healing directly beneficial to many of the world’s modern ills. Principally among these is that current state of mind that many are experiencing right now, tension, unresolved stress and a conscious feeling of contraction. It is so good at doing this, that it is associated with spiritual practice and planted in temples throughout India.
Tulsi also has far-reaching effects throughout the physical system as well, with supportive science and a long history of historical evidence, being particularly useful for the nervous system, immune system, digestion and lungs.
But what makes this plant so remarkable is not just its physical and mental/emotional effects but rather what goes beyond these, which is it’s unique effects that I call it’s superpower.
An herb’s superpower, which is as I define it, is a unique feature that only it possesses. Did you know that herbs have superpowers, akin to Marvel characters, that make them truly unique and specific to some aspect of human healing that sets them apart from all other remedies? Most people don’t know that as the majority of herbal information is something that people or hear about from others. That is, its someone else’s perspective and someone else’s knowledge.
To know an herb well enough to be able to understand its deepest gifts, is to know the superpowers. And this can only be learned by using the plant, and feeling its effects inside your own body.
Every other way of knowing a plant, reading about it, hearing about it, watching someone’s video about it, is all derivative. Its someone else’s knowledge.
And most books are written as compilations of other peoples derivative information that may have itself been derived from other sources, so that the original author might have gotten their work telephone gamed by 10 others is that much more problematic.
Do you know the telephone game? When you have a circle of people, and one person starts with a short story whispered to the person next to the originator and the story is whispered from person to person and the joke of it is, how different the last person’s version of the story is, compared to the original. A lot of what’s taught about herbalism is basically an herbal telephone game which is why we’re very careful to speak from our experience or identify when we’re not, AND empower our students to do the same. (TELEPHONE WHISPERING)
This is why we send all of the herbs that we use to students to experience so that they can personally have the understanding of how herbs work.
Before we get into Tulsi’s superpower that defines its magnificence, that we learned from working with it in our community, lets touch on some of the more typical and general information about it.
Traditional Understanding from Ayurveda
This remedy has a long history of use in Ayurveda, and is considered a ‘Sattwic” herb, which one that supports clarity, and a spiritual consciousness. In addition it is used for supporting lung function as it relaxes spasm, and breaks up lung mucous. It also is used to tonify and relax the spasm in digestive tract. And lastly, its effects on mind, particularly on easing anxiety, is an age-old application.
Traditional Actions of Western
HerbalismCarminative: Relaxant to the gut muscles for the very common condition of bloating, and cramping.
Diaphoretic: Helps to reduce fever.
Nervine: Affects the mind, both the mental aspect, thinking, thoughts and memories, and the emotional, how we feel.
Metabolic Disease such as lipid dysregulation (cardiovascular disease) and metabolic syndrome/diabetes is improved with Tulsi.
Immune Function-Oxidative Stress and Inflammation which are at the root of all chronic disease are improved by tulsi in the research.
Neurocognitive-Mood, anxiety, depression and cognition are all benefitted according to modern trials, and if you’re part of the ‘lets shoot the messenger and lower cortisol crowd’ without addressing the root cause then this remedy has gotten support for being able to assist.
The specific secondary metabolites, which is a fancy term meaning what the plant contains that we think of as important constituents will vary, like they do in all plants, depending on the species, growing conditions, soil composition, and preparation but generally speaking consists of:
Aromatic Terpenes like eugenol, linalool and others that have a host of beneficial effects including relaxing smooth muscle tension, being anti-microbial and uplifting to the mind.
Polyphenols, those all-stars of the anti-oxidant class, including rosemarinic acid.
Tannins-Actually a type of polyphenol, that gives wine its astringency, and tones smooth muscle, and astringes mucous membranes while being anti-inflammatory.
Bitter compounds-These lead to a host of beneficial stimulatory effects throughout the body.
And others, and varies, as all plant secondary metabolites do, based on growing conditions, process, harvestings etc.
those used by cultures such as the Greek, Roman, Perso-Arabic, Ayurvedic, Tibetan, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, among others would define this remedy as:
Warming 2nd degree, Drying 2nd degree, and Tonic 2nd degree.
For a more extensive class on this way of viewing remedies, and to see how it can be effectively integrated into the modern scientific approach, you can take a class at Vital Ways institute where the ancient wisdom is taught, as part of our comprehensive approach to most effectively help people heal.
The Superpower gained from experience.
Herbalism is a living medicine, that needs to be experienced to be understood.
The above information, history, science, energetics, herbal actions etc., begins to tell the story, and this section, brings it life.
To truly know an herb, to know it in a way that unlocks its most powerful healing effects, we need to experience it. Every herb that you will have a very distinct impression on you. But you can’t read and understand that impression, you can only experience it.
And once you have, the indelible experience, impresses upon you the unique signature of the plant, that makes it
And that’s what makes a Vital Ways Trained herbalist a unique healer. Any other method of learning herbs, is useful but only intellectual. Its only a collection of ideas.
As an herb is felt, seen, smelled and then tasted, a transformation begins to take place in your body and mind. Once the rest of the constituents are exposed to your gut and microbiome, then you start to get signals that originate from the complex sensory system that lines your gut.
And lastly, the constituents enter the cells of the gut, then the bloodstream, and circulate around the system and affect various tissues. This entire process can take from an hour to more, but generally averages about 30 minutes for tea, and 15 for tinctures for full effect.
But Holy Basil, being very aromatic, has some constituents, notably the aromatic monoterpenes that will bypass the gut, and cross over the nasal mucous membranes to have an immediate effect.
Imagine waking up,
like I used to with my dog, very early, and beginning your day with a walk outside on a rainy morning, as the sun just begins to show some color in the east. Your mind is slow, contracted, busily internalized about the challenges that your day holds, as your muscles are contracted against the cold and wet, and your mindset somewhat tensely circulating on some pressing challenge that awaits, or some angry reply someone made to you yesterday on social media that has you a bit angry and frustrated.
And then, looking down, you see a little plant that you’re familiar with, it has a single central stalk around which are single stalked leaves, arranged opposite to each other, and each has a pretty purple green hue. Unconsciously you reach down, without words or thoughts, ask for permission and then harvest a few leaves, gently crushing them as you pick them, smelling them deeply, and the transformation begins. Your lungs expand effortlessly, and you take a deep inhale, the first truly deep one of the day, and then as you nibble on the leaves, a subtle but obvious extension of your awareness unfolds, and you are immediately transported from the circular, tense place deep in your mind, to the world around your, the drips falling from the sky, form a magic twisting list mist, and the color in the east is remarkably beautiful shades of a very slight hint of pink, mixed with dark blue, that brings you the ineffable enjoyment of seeing beauty in the natural world. You are externalized, uplifted, but not stimulated, as if your energy relaxed and then was encouraged by the shift in breathing, the reduction in tension, and the nourishment that your surrounds constantly offer if you’re able to take it in.
That’s the flow state.
That’s what Holy Basil offers you. The feeling that your energy is flowing, your mind is clear, uplifted and calm, and your body is strong but flexible. And that those challenges that you earlier worried about, were now seen as minor, and easily addressable and that bitter feeling you had about the interaction from yesterday, was now see with a wider perspective and compassion.
And that’s what the ancient yogis knew when they were searching for which specific plant superpower that they were after in the moment. Of course, they, like us, had a whole collection of plants, and other remedies that they used, based on what specific influence that they wanted to benefit from.
Holy Basil, brings on the essence of the flow state. Its the state of mind that most people want, most of the time, but that most of our influences in this world, block.
And, to know what this really means, its required that you try the herb. Try it for days at a time. It can be subtle or it can be obvious. But remember that herbs act at a very subtle level sometimes, particularly in the mind, and that as a culture who has not practiced quiet self-awareness, many herb gifts go unnoticed and unappreciated.
Appreciatively, for the gifts of plants, and our luminous consciousnesses that can receive them.
Negar Jamshidi, Marc M. Cohen, “The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2017, Article ID 9217567, 13 pages, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/9217567
Ayurvedic Healing by Pole
Ayurvedic Healing by David Frawley