Man is a simple creature. That which is beneficial to him is deemed sacred and often finds a place in mythology, folk tales or religion. So is the case with the holy basil also known as tulsi.
Holy basil or tulsi is a herb endemic to India. It is used in rituals to worship deities and is worshipped as well. The plant is believed to be the earthly manifestation of the god Tulasi.
Before you walk out of a Hindu temple, priests will offer you theerth jal i.e. tulsi infused water and a tulsi leaf along with flowers and sandalwood paste. You apply the paste to your forehead and neck, drink the water, eat the tulsi leaf and keep the flowers.
In traditional Indian households, you will often find tulsi planted in the balcony or at the entrance. It is considered auspicious and believed to shield the house against negative energy.
Unearthing the science
The holy basil is a medicinal plant that has been used in Ayurveda, a natural and holistic healing system, for close to 3000 years.
The bioactive compound Eugenol in tulsi gives it insecticidal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-fungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Eating a few tulsi leaves or drinking tulsi infused concoctions can improve your immunity and overall health. Eugenol has shown the ability to ameliorate diabetes by targeting insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress. Topically applying a paste of tulsi can treat a plethora of skin conditions from acne to wounds.
Insects are the cause of many vector-borne diseases. Keeping a tulsi plant in the house or near windows will keep them at bay.
By integrating tulsi with religious beliefs and practices, our forefathers guaranteed the preservation of traditional ecological knowledge.