In this episode of Mother Earth News and Friends, Joanne Bauman discusses Tulsi or holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), its history and medicinal uses as well as tinctures, teas, and infusions.
Joanne Bauman, a Kansas herbalist, shares the gift of the green nations (healing food and medicine plants) in the Wise Woman Tradition of healing. Bauman (of Prairie Magic Herbals) teaches herb classes, grows and wildcrafts medicine plants, creates herbal preparations, and does consultations. Her love of the plants and easygoing teaching style make learning and using your own herbal remedies accessible to everyone. The Prairie Magic Herbals website conveys her thoughts about plants and herbalism. She first learned about plants from her pharmacist father, has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and applied her personal experiences to counsel others in a physical rehabilitation hospital. Bauman serves as coordinator of the Herbalists Without Borders (HWB) Community Herbal Apothecary Project and as coordinator of the Kansas Chapter of HWB.
Cautions/Contraindications of Tulsi
Tulsi might have an anti-fertility effect on both men and women and thus should not be taken by couples wishing to conceive or by pregnant women. It is slightly blood thinning and should not be taken by those who are currently taking warfarin. Those who are taking insulin to control their diabetes may need to adjust their insulin levels while taking tulsi.
The most common way to prepare holy basil is as a tea. Tulsi combines well with rose petal, lemon balm, ginger, and lavender.
1 cup of water
1tsp-2tsp dried tulsi, 4tsp fresh
- Bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the tulsi in a heat-safe container.
- Allow the tea to steep, covered, for 10-15 minutes.
- Strain tulsi from tea and enjoy daily.
Holy basil can help ease insomnia related to anxiety, a busy mind, hectic schedule. Brew as regular tea or in milk 1 tsp-2 tsp dried or 4 tsp fresh tulsi. You can add a dash of any of these if you like: rose petal, chamomile, or lavender.
For colds try adding cinnamon, ginger or honey and lemon to tulsi tea.
Holy Basil Cocoa
Heat 1 C. milk in a saucepan, turn off the heat, and steep 2 tsp. tulsi in the warm milk for 5 minutes. Strain the milk and put it back in the pan. Add 1 T. good-quality cocoa, a dash of vanilla extract, and sweetener of your choice (honey, stevia, sugar…). Blend and heat until warm to drink.
Fresh Tulsi Juice
1/2 cup water
1 cup fresh tulsi leaves
- Wash the fresh tulsi leaves.
- Add tulsi and water in a food processor or blender and mix until a fine paste has formed.
- Strain mixture into a cup using a fine-mesh strainer, pressing to release the juice from the plant matter.
- Enjoy daily!
Just Eat the Fresh Leaves
This one is simple! If you care for a tulsi plant in your home or garden, having access to the fresh leaves in abundance is natural. Eating the fresh leaves of tulsi is an amazing way to get phytonutrients and boost your immunity. In India, a common practice is to chew 3-4 leaves first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
Tulsi/Holy Basil Tincture (alcohol extract)
I prefer using fresh tulsi in tea as well as a tincture. I allow the tulsi to bloom, rather than deadheading blossoms, as usual, to keep the plant leaves more fragrant and bushy. I snip the aerial parts (in bloom flower tops and leaves), coarsely cut the plant up with scissors, and pack a jar full. Add at least 80 proof alcohol, such as vodka, to cover all the plant. Place lid on jar, label and shake daily for several days. Store out of direct sunlight in a cupboard or kitchen. Do not refrigerate. I wait the 6 weeks, then strain off the plant, squeezing out any liquid from the plant, compost it or return it to the earth.
Tulsi Infused Ghee or Honey
A traditional Ayurvedic preparation of using tulsi every day is to take dried tulsi powder and mix it into a spoonful of ghee, oil, or honey. This helps it move down through the digestive tract.
½ teaspoon ground tulsi leaf powder
1-2 teaspoons ghee, oil, or honey
- Mix the ground tulsi leaf powder with the ghee, oil, or honey until well combined. Adjust the amount of ghee, oil, or honey used for your desired taste and consistency.
- Traditionally, a tulsi paste is taken 1-2 times per day.
enough fresh tulsi flowers and leaves to fill the jar.
Everclear or vodka/brandy to fill the jar 3/4 (I prefer lower proof alcohol for this preparation)
glycerine or raw honey to fill the jar 1/4 (I like local raw honey best).
Fill the jar with the tulsi blossoms/leaves– snipped up a bit. Add raw honey or glycerine, then fill with alcohol. Shake well. Let sit for 3-6x weeks, shaking regularly. You can strain the plant off at the end of that time or you can just pour off the amount of elixir liquid you want to use a little at a time.
Rosemary Gladstar suggests using raw apple cider vinegar and fresh tulsi to make an herbal vinegar. Simply pack a wide mouth quart jar about three-quarters full with holy basil leaves, then cover nearly to the top with raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Cap it, shake gently, and allow to infuse in the sun for 3-4 weeks. Once it’s ready, strain out the herbs and use the infused vinegar
Herb/plant infused vinegars are popular mocktail concoctions, or shrubs and switchels. A sipping vinegar or shrub is basically a combination of vinegar, sugar or honey, and plant matter. You can use any vinegar you’d like: apple cider, champagne, red wine, etc. I prefer to use an organic apple cider (like Braggs) for herbal infusions. The herb vinegar syrup (shrub) is used as a mixer in water, sparkling water, club soda, or even cocktails. A Switchel is made with cider vinegar and sweetened typically with molasses, or maple syrup.
Here is one recipe from Mountain Rose Herbs:
Krishna Holy Basil Sipping Vinegar
(with optional Strawberries)
Basil and strawberries are an interesting and delicious combination and this blending makes for a wonderful beverage. Feel free to experiment with other fruits or go with just the Holy Basil.
Using a clean quart jar, put 1-2 cups organic Holy Basil (Krishna) into the jar and cover with 3-4 cups vinegar (your choice), making sure to cover the herbs entirely. Cover with a plastic lid or wax paper or wrap plastic wrap and let sit to infuse 1-6 weeks. You may infuse these in a cool, dark place, or in the sunlight if you’d like.
Using a strainer or several layers of cheesecloth, strain the vinegar and compost the herbs. While the vinegar is straining, mash ½ cup organic strawberries (if I don’t have fresh, I thaw strawberries that we’ve frozen from our garden and use those). Add 2-3 Tablespoons of raw local honey or organic cane sugar to the strawberries and smash up together. I like to let them sit for at least an hour, but usually several hours before mashing and combining with the strained vinegar. Combine the vinegar and sweetened strawberries in a clean jar and shake to fully incorporate (you can also blend in a blender or use an immersion blender for extra smoothness.) This is best stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.
For one beverage, add an optional ice cube or two to a glass. Add ¼ cup sipping vinegar and fill the glass with sparkling water, club soda, soda water, seltzer, bubbly, etc. (or you can just add water, juice or your organic tea of choice.) If you’d like a little alcohol, make room for an ounce or so of liquor or white or rose wine.) ¼ cup of this vinegar with sparkling wine or champagne is delicious too! You can also take this as a tonic by the tablespoon or shot glass.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. Storey Publishing, 2012.
Jirsa, Amy. ( 2015 ) Herbal Goddess.. Storey Publishing.
Metzger, Jane Cookman. “A Close Study of Holy Basil.” Mother Earth News, 2015.
Winston, David and Maimes, Steven. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief.
Wood, Matthew. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants.
Links from Tulsi podcast episode:
JoAnne’s Website: Prairie Magic Herbals
JoAnne’s Facebook: Prairie Magic Herbals
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Haley Casey and Charlotte French
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