Posted by admin | Posted in Holy Basil | Posted on 19-05-2010
Tags: Holy Basil, ocimum tenuiflorum
Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is of the Labiateae family. The leaves range from dark green to almost purple and have uneven edges. They are small and very ornamental. The whole plant has a green, woodland perfume and the leaves taste peppery, almost like a cross between ginger and mint. The branched, erect plant grows up to 2 ½ feet high and has small, fragrant leaves. It bears spikes of tiny purple or scarlet flowers. It develops into a subshrub (the base becomes woody).
There appears to be some confusion about the status of certain forms of Ocimum called “holy basil.” One form of basil has purple leaves and stems and this variety has brown seeds without mucilage while the all-green form has black seeds with a little mucilage. According to Richters much of what is sold as ‘sacred’ basil is actually spice basil. Holly Shimizu, of the US Botanic Garden, notes that in India spice basil has been accepted as a holy basil.
All basil grows well in light, well-drained, fertile soils. The best substrate is a sandy loam enriched with well-rotted manure. The plants have a relatively high nitrogen and water requirement but does poorly if the roots are in water-logged soil. A pH tolerance range of 4.3-8.4 but it’s recommended at 5.5-6.5. It is susceptible to frost and cold temperatures so should be seeded or transplanted into the field in late spring after danger of frost has passed. It can be cultivated as a perennial by continually removing the flowers and harvesting frequently. It requires full sunlight. Holy basil can be reproduced from seeds or by division. The best way of preserving it is to dry the leaves and seeds by wiping them gently and then spreading them thinly on a plate to dry in a warm, shady place. The leaves are delicate so do not crush them or leave them to dry in the sun or they will turn black. Store the dried leaves in a clean dry jar. Any trace of water will produce a fine, cottony fungus on the herb. Dried holy Basil is too fragile to sustain long period in the cupboard, so use up within 2-3 months.
Holy basil has been grown for nearly 3000 years in Indian gardens, courtyards and temples. It is the most celebrated of the bails in history and legend and the most sacred plant in Hinduism. It is the important holy “Tulsi” or “Tulasi”, considered to be a reincarnation of the wife of Vishnu, and a symbol of fidelity or pure divine love. The plant is dedicated to the Hindu god Krishna and is therefore planted in sacred places. When the British colonized India, they allowed Hindus to swear in court on holy basil, because they had nothing equivalent to the Bible. In Curacao, leaves of holy basil strewn on the bed or stuffed behind the ears are thought to induce a good night’s sleep. Holy basil is a symbol of love and fidelity and is woven through many daily rituals. Touching and contemplation of the plant are said to free an individual from sin. Washing the dead with basil water is believed to assure their entrance to heaven.
The tulsi plant is venerated by all householders as a symbol of their love for Vishnu or Krishna. There are 3 myths that explain the love Hindus have for this ordinary, wild-growing plant. The Padma Purana says that Tulsi was a gift the Gods received from the mythical churning of the cosmic ocean. Another legend says that Tulsi was a tribal woman in love with Vishnu. The third legend concerns the marriage of Tulsi with Krishna, which is celebrated during the Tulsivivaha festival. The tulsi plant is a repository of devotion and love. Its leaves decorate any gift given in generosity. It is the abode of all deities. The parents of a bride give away their daughter in marriage together with a tulsi leaf, sometimes made of gold It also has great medicinal qualities and is said to purify the atmosphere around the home.
Next post will discuss its amazing medicinal aspects.