My master gardener training this year included sessions at the Memphis Botanic Gardens led by garden employees/experts. At the end of a tour of the new herb garden, the leader shared her favorite if-she-could-only-have-one herb: tulsi, or sacred basil.
Back home, with my copy of Horizon Herbs’ catalog, I wasn’t going to quibble with the president of the local herb society. I got some seeds and planted them, along with plain ol’ Genovese basil, lime, and anise basils, my favorites at the time.
Folks, I have a new favorite. I am smitten with tulsi. I don’t cook with it, i.e., put it in my marinara sauce, but I make tea with it every single day, sometimes all day long, and I don’t know where it has been all my life.
I don’t think I have had a conversation all summer of more than two minutes duration which hasn’t segued, awkwardly, into a proclamation of my adoration for tulsi. I kid you not, I toyed with the idea of giving a handful to the UPS man. I won’t drag you through my entire train of thought, but in the end I decided the chances were slim he had a teapot in his truck.
The list of tulsi’s beneficial properties is long and impressive. Tulsi is used for:
- combating stress
- lowering cholesterol and blood sugar
- reducing the effects of radiation
- reducing inflammation
- fighting colds and flu
- improving energy and endurance
- promoting healthy skin, hair, teeth & gums
It has even been used to reduce the amount of fluoride in drinking water.
The flavor of the tea made with fresh herbs is mellow and floral, with caramel undertones. Great with or without milk. With the dried herb, the flavor is a bit different, but still very good. It also comes in pill form, as an extract or tincture, and powdered.
To dry, I lay the branches out on screens until completely dried, then remove the biggest stems, put the leaves in glass jars and store them in the dark.
To make the fresh herb tea, I do it the way I described in this post, which is basically to make an herbal infusion.
The key to keeping this herb from going to seed is to use it; pick daily or almost daily. If you don’t want to use it right away, dry it or give it away. I have a friend from India who always appreciates a few sprigs. It is used in worship and also ayurvedic medicine in her culture. To show how important it is to keep up with this plant, here is a pic of one of the plants I pick from constantly:
And here is a plant I let go.
Both were planted at the same time and given the same amount of water and the same kind of soil. I kind of forgot about the scraggly one and stopped picking from it for a while and it leaped at the opportunity to sail into maturity and go to seed.
In conclusion, please plant this herb, use it constantly, and share it with others.