Herbs to Know- Tulsi or Holy Basil
These Healing Herb monographs are based on my experience and my research. Some are my common 'weed' herbs, and others are 'imported' herbs from Europe, Asia, etc, that are starting to pop up in more places like medicinal boxed teas and specialty supplements, so it's worth getting to know them.
In the introduction to David Winston's Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, he describes this class of plants simply: "...[they] help the human body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic processes, and restore balance." This is strong medicine.
Tulsi, or Holy Basil (so much fun to say! Holy Basil, Batman!) is an adaptogenic herb that is becoming more familiar to us Westerners, and is an important part of Ayurvedic medicine. It is closely related to the basils more familiar to us, including popular Italian Basil, and newly popular Thai Basil.
Adaptogens help your body adapt to stress, and by definition are non-specific. This means that Tulsi doesn’t just
Traditionally, people keep a Holy Basil plant outside their front door, and chew a leaf every time they pass. This practice qualifies as “food medicine,” and would give you a frequent, tonic-level dose of constant care. Tulsi powder could be added to your food as well, in smoothies or nut-butter herb balls or anywhere else a little powder could be tucked in, like butter or ghee- use your imagination!
How to Take Your Holy Basil:
Good quality Tulsi is available online, say from Herbiary in Philadelphia, and it’s easy to grow your own- it will be an annual, unless you live in a very tropical clime. I have found good seeds at Herbiary, and actually got some seedlings from my CSA this summer.
My sources for Tulsi information were: classroom lectures and discussions with Lynn Roberts (Ayurveda practitioner), The Ayurveda Encyclopedia by Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha, Herbal Therapy and Supplements by Winston and Kuhn, Adaptogens by Winston, and HorizonHerbs.com.
My meditations are based on Dr Deepak Chopra’s 7 Laws of Spiritual Success, and on the request of a loved one who once asked me to imagine, just for that night, what it would be like to love myself. Read the Laws, imagine it for yourself, and grow into your beautiful being.
This morning, I was prompted to consider the Law of Giving and Receiving. There was a sentence that piqued my interest: “Each time I meet someone, I will silently wish them happiness, joy, and laughter.” What a beautiful sentiment!
I love myself, and I share my love. I wish everyone happiness, joy and laughter.
Meditation allows us to imprint a new thought pattern of our choosing into our hearts, to stamp it on the very iron in our blood, and to engrave it on our conscious and unconscious minds. We often spend a great deal of time thinking negative, hurtful things, about ourselves and each other. This is a chance to break that habit and introduce a new one, even if it’s just for that mediation session. The universe will hear you when you think something once, or when you think it 100 times.
What a lovely morning! (By that I mean hot, muggy, buggy and hot.)
Truly, though, I really love living in a temperate climate. Our summers are very hot and VERY humid, our winters cold and wet (last January we had a windy day that was 12 degrees, and a night that was 9. Couldn't even breathe!)
But that's just it. I love the changes, the shifts, the adjusting. Going outside after a thunderstorm wouldn't feel so clean and fresh if it weren't for the humid day that led up to it. The crisp, cool, dry mornings of Autumn are best enjoyed after the baking we just endured for the last several months. So even though I would love to see a night time temperature in the 60's, I relish this heat knowing that I won't have it soon enough.
My Tomatoes are relishing this heat too, as are the Chamomile and Red Clover blooms. There's a St. John's Wort oil just beginning it's second solar infusion to make it double strength, the single Calendula plant is giving out flowers one at a time, and the Dill and Cilantro have started to flower.
I love this time of year.
Workday Weeds- Plantain
Plantain is a wonderful, sturdy, useful herb. It draws, it soothes, it cools, and it's so much fun to teach people about making a 'spit poultice' with it!
Like most of our common weed herbs, Plantain came along with European settlers, and many sources claim a folk name for it is "white man's footstep" since it appeared everywhere settlers did.
I've heard that the seeds, which are much easier to gather from Broad Leaf Plantain, P. major, are high in Vitamin B. I have P. major stalks ripening in my garden now, and I will be adding them to my diet after I've collected some! It is also rich in Iron, so it goes in my 'mineral vinegar' jug. I've also heard that Plantain will balance Kapha dosha.
But what I know, what I've learned and tried and seen, is that Plantain is a super-herb.
Plantain draws. This is powerful medicine. Think about what needs drawing, and you'll see that topical remedies almost always benefit from Plantain. Stingers, thorns, dirt, infections, mucous, most skin eruptions like boils, shingles and herpes, all will see relief. It also soothes and lowers inflammation, so cuts and scrapes, bug bites and stings, ulcers and the digestive tract, dry sinuses and sore throats will also be happier.
These are my notes from my first Plantain tasting, made with well-boiled plant: " dark and earthy- not “green”, mineral tasting, no mucous- clean, wiped everything."
My teacher Maia has said that Plantain has an affinity for warm damp places, like the head, mouth, mucous membranes, and genitals. This makes sense- since these areas readily absorb (think sub-lingual medicines), they can also readily extract or excrete and plantain will draw through them.
Plantain can be found everywhere. Just look at this map- the green indicates where P. major is present. Only the far northern, interior regions of Canada are missing out.
This means that it's simply a matter of identifying and collecting your local Plantain to make a simple preparation.
Teas are good for internal healing, as is a tincture, which can also be used externally. A vinegar tincture will be mineral rich, especially in Iron. Infused oils would be for topical treatments, and a salve or balm or even lotion will make application more even and precise.
But for pure ease of use, an old fashioned "spit poultice" works wonders. You can mash up the leaves with water and apply that to the skin, but an even easier method has been described perfectly by Rosalee de la Foret, in her Healing Herbs e-Book:
-Gather fresh clean Plantain from a clean area
-Place one leaf into your mouth and chew it slightly so that it releases its juices. Chew it into a ball and then spit it out.
-Place the Plantain spit poultice onto the affected area. I like to change the poultice every twenty minutes. If I notice it getting hot I change it sooner.
Really! Chew it up, spit it out, smear it on! And it works. The first time I was stung by Nettles, through the back pocket of my jeans (I was almost backing into her, and she took offense!), my teacher handed me a Plantain leaf and directed me to chew and smear. The sting went away, and as it reappeared I reapplied. After a few 'treatments' I was pain free.
Find your Plantain, nurture it in your flower beds and use this strong medicine to help move and soothe.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
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This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.