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  • Writer's pictureHeidi

Holy Basil

Tulsi, holy basil, sacred basil, Ocimum sanctum are all names I use to describe this amazing herb native to India. Just to make it a little more confusing, there are many varieties of tusli such as kapoor, vana, rama, amrita and krisha. This powerhouse plant is an annual in our zone 6, but has proven to be one of the most abundant plants that we grew this year. He was one of the first herbs to flower and continues to produce to this day. I just collected our 7th harvest and it is October! I did leave some flowers behind as the insects still seem to be enjoying his sweet nectar as well. With any luck tulsi will self seed and show up again next year....just in case, we will save his spot in the garden.

Katie planting Hooooooly Basil

I first learned about this adaptogenic herb when working at a local medicinal herb farm. Katie, the farm manager, just loved this plant. It has been years since I worked with Katie, but I every time I harvest Tusli, I can still hear her say, "hooooooooly basil" in her best old man voice. This herb is SO aromatic that I truly hope you get to smell it fresh at some point in your life. He really has a distinctive scent, completely different than your typical Italian basil.

Adaptogens are plants that adapt, or support the body's natural ability to deal with stress. They have this magical way of knowing what your body needs to create homeostasis and an uncanny knack for making it happen.  When our bodies deal with stress effectively we do more than just "get through" what life throws at us. Adaptogens can actually help your body (and brain) maintain its cool and thrive in the face of stress. Tulsi is the wise grandfather bringing you exactly what you need, where you need it. With what 2020 has thrown at us, I think we could all use a little extra support in this department.

When I was first taught about creating herbal remedies I was told that you wanted to harvest herbs right before they bloomed. The idea behind this notion is that the plant is putting all of its energy into creating a flower and we want to capture all of that power. While working on the medicinal herb farm with Katie, our boss Eli introduced me to the idea of collecting the herbs AFTER they flower as their energy is IN the flower. Many years later I have developed a hybrid approach; I allow holy basil to flower before we harvest but I try to capture other plants, including Italian basil, right BEFORE they bloom. And of course we always leave some flowers behind for our bee buddies that just swarm to these purple beauties.

harvesting holy basil

We harvest all of our basil with the same approach. Once the herb has established six sets of leaves, we snip the top 1/3 of the plant in the middle where the leaves meet. This style of trimming encourages the side branches to shoot off producing bushy, flower laden plants. Our holy basil blossomed very early on in the growing phase this year. We plucked all of the buds off right away to ensure that the plant would fill out and create an abundance of leaves and blooms throughout the growing season. We used these early flowers to garnish our spring salads and toss them in with our normal tea blends for an extra tasty treat.

We really love to use this flavorful herb dried in our Lymphatic Tisane. He might even find himself in our next batch of Chillax, our popular calming tincture. I lead the Green Medicine Guild within Maia Toll's Night School and this summer we created a tusli tincture and a tusli glycerite using the plant fresh. With so many amazing qualities, you definitely want this powerful herbal ally in your arsenal of home remedies. I would love to hear about your experiences with holy basil. Have you ever tasted this amazing herb fresh? Had it dried in a tea blend? Maybe tasted a tincture or glylcerite?

Tulsi 10.13.20

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