As an Adaptogen, Tulsi is a highly versatile remedy backed by both scientific study and centuries of empirical data from its use in Traditional Herbal practice. Tulsi has a particular affinity for helping the Mind-Body-Spirit find balance, which is reflected in both the science and traditional use. In the modern world, where we’re often tossed from one crisis to the next and thus in a perpetual state of stress, tension, and exhaustion, herbs like Tulsi are particularly attractive as general panaceas because they seem to handle so many conditions with ease. The problem is, we need to formulate intelligently to make the best use of any herbs, Tulsi included.
How to Use Tulsi in Formulas
I favor a Body-Mind-Spirit approach to formulating. Sometimes, I’m formulating with a focus on physical symptoms. At other times, the focus is on mind or thought forms and at still others it’s about unlocking the Spirit. It helps to look at what a plant ally like Tulsi can do to help one at each of those three levels before you add it to your formula.
Tulsi for Physical Health – Body
Tulsi’s core energy is about creating balance and making space for balance. In general, longer use of Tulsi and Tulsi formulations have proven more effective than short durations in prevention of digestive and other complaints, making Tulsi a good daily choice for a lifetime but not a bad friend in a pinch.
Tulsi for Digestion, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome
For the Digestive System, Tulsi is helpful in formulas designed to restore balance to a system that’s worn out or not functioning optimally. Traditionally, Tulsi has been used in formulas to both prevent and recover from chronic digestive imbalances. Modern science attributes Tulsi’s effectiveness to eugenol and rosmarinic acid alongside other phytochemicals in Tulsi’s leaves. Traditional energetics connects Tulsi with fire or Pitta and Mars or warrior plants, although European traditions have recognized that sweet basil tends to emphasize the aggressive nature of Mars and fire more than does Tulsi.
Conditions like Diabetes, which is at its core about managing balance in insulin-blood sugar levels, can be helped by Tulsi’s ability to reduce inflammation and encourage healthy blood-levels. Here, Tulsi may serve well as the primary herb in preventative formulas. A daily tea of Tulsi with Black Pepper and Tumeric to aid digestion and prevent against metabolic syndrome, for instance, would serve such a purpose. Such a blend is designed to warm cold conditions, like diabetes, where the system is slow to respond and gets stuck more easily. If the condition is hot in nature, pair Tulsi with cooling, diaphoretic herbs, like Spearmint or Peppermint, to both cool or slow the system and release waste or heat effectively.
Other herbs that would support Tulsi in preventing digestive imbalance could include chamomile or wood betony to soothe the gut nervous system and repair leaky gut, neem or curry leaves to manage or reverse already active diabetes symptoms, or dandelion and licorice to balance and support endocrine and liver function. Tulsi may be helpful in conditions connected with systemic inflammation, such as diabetes, leaky gut, and Irritable Bowl Disorder (IBD or IBS) and related chronic digestive disorders.
Tulsi for Flu and Colds
As a First Aid herb, Tulsi is good in a crisis, too. Traditional use backed by science includes Tulsi as a support herb in formulas for colds, flu, and related symptoms. Tulsi’s anti-microbial prowess is likely related to Tulsi’s effect on the Respiratory system as well as the Immune system. Here, Tulsi has traditionally served as an ally or support to other leading herbs in both prevention and recovery formulas.
As a daily tonic, Tulsi pairs well with immune stimulating herbs like echinacea, lavender, oregano, lemon balm, and elderberry. Taken daily, Tulsi formulas tend to help the body by both stimulating and relaxing the immune system, making it stronger and better able to fight off invading microbes. If conditions are more hot and drying, consider adding a mildly dampening or cooling herb, like spearmint or marshmallow leaf to the formula to promote balance.
Partnered with herbs like ginger and black pepper, usnea, or skullcap, Tulsi helps strengthen the respiratory system and bring balance even to those who suffer from conditions like seasonal allergies and asthma. According to K. P. Khalsa and Michael Tierra, Tulsi has been traditionally taken as a tea with black pepper and ginger daily to prevent and mitigate asthma. As a system-strengthener for seasonal allergies, consider adding nutritious herbs like oat tops or oatstraw and nettle to the formula. If your constitution tends toward dry or hot conditions, consider adding cooling herbs like blueberry or bilberry, lychee, spearmint, marshmallow leaf or licorice root to the formula to promote balance.
Once illnesses like flu and cold have set in, Tulsi has traditionally been partnered with symptom-specific herbs to support the body’s immune system and bring balance back to the digestive and respiratory systems. Here, Tulsi can be paired with febrifuge herbs like yarrow or elderflower to reduce fever. To clear and balance the lungs and respiratory system, Tulsi partners well with elecampane, sage, mullein, or usnea. For diarrhea and vomiting, Tulsi may be partnered with herbs like ginger or Oregon grape.
Through the recovery phase, after the primary symptoms have passed, Tulsi paired with borage, or Saint John’s wort may be useful in helping the body rejuvenate. Rosalee de la Foret suggests a traditional blend of Indian spices including Tulsi, ashwagandha, licorice, ginger, and cardamon to strengthen the respiratory system, citing a supporting study to back the traditional formulation for preventing and recovering from chronic cough and recurrent colds. Tulsi’s energetically balancing nature can assist in most formulas designed to restore and renew the respiratory and digestive systems.
Tulsi for Mental-Emotional Health – Mind
Tulsi’s adaptogenic and balancing properties make it a good ally in combating stress and improving both mood and cognition. Traditional use of Tulsi tea by yogis and students of meditation to both relax the nervous system while stimulating the mind has been supported by more recent scientific study. The effect Tulsi has on the nervous system is akin to that of rosemary, in that it helps the nervous system stand down from stress-related tension by reducing or balancing the body’s cortisol levels. Rather than sedating, though, Tulsi works with brain chemistry to improve the mind’s ability to think.
Tulsi for Cognition
Tulsi is a terrific study partner and may be helpful through the aging process in preventing cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. Paired with herbs like hibiscus and rooibos, one of Rosalee de la Foret delicious formulations, Tulsi nourishes the nervous system. Other potential partners to help Tulsi reduce stress and ease the mind include skullcap and sage, both of which help ground and still thoughts. Spearmint or wood betony would also be helpful, particularly for cases where anxiety or stress is felt in both the mind and stomach.
Tulsi for Anxiety and Depression
For anxiety and depression as well as other mood disturbances and disorders, Tulsi may be both a safe and healthy daily tea. Tulsi’s ability to balance the nervous system both in the gut and elsewhere makes it a good ally for combating the ups and downs marked by transition and life change; hormonal transitions including gender transition, menopause, PMS, and adolescence; and to support chronic conditions alongside more aggressive modalities including therapy and pharmaceutical interventions.
As a daily preventative, Tulsi paired with herbs like gotu kola, lemon balm, or vervain to support, strengthen, and balance the digestive and nervous systems. Strengthening these systems can help ease the current stresses and fortify one to get through the next crisis or challenge with less emotional stress. Rosemary Gladstar suggests using Tulsi for vitality and energy, which can help you adapt to the challenges life offers.
Folks who are working with more aggressive treatments, including pharmaceuticals and therapy, may benefit from a Tulsi, too. However, be aware Tulsi has been shown to change how the liver processes toxins, including medicines and metabolic wastes. Tulsi’s tendency is to support the liver in processing and removing those chemicals from the body’s system. This can help ease symptoms including excessive anger, depression, and mood swings, but it may also affect how more aggressive therapies work in the body. If you’re taking pharmaceuticals in particular, it is wise to consult with your physician and test your drug levels regularly to ensure the pharmaceuticals are working as desired.
Tulsi for Spiritual Enlightenment – Spirit
For centuries, Tulsi has been planted in or near sacred sites and temples in India. It’s long been recognized as kin of the Gods in part for the way Tulsi helps open one’s heart. You’ll find potted Tulsi in many Indian households placed around or near both the altar and the front door. Tulsi has long been honored as an herb of Lakshmi, Goddess of Light, Wealth, and Abundance, and as such Tulsi is considered a Sacred Plant and Protector who bestows those around her with strength and health. Tulsi’s medicine is centered around balance and making space in the Body-Mind-Spirit so we can move with clarity and focus in our daily lives.
Maria Noel Groves suggests using Tulsi to “feel less helpless and more in-tune with the world around us.” She’s right. Tulsi helps us move into a state of peaceful openness, allowing us to accept the world as it is without fear or constriction and to be able to move through our world peacefully.
Tulsi for Meditation
As a meditation aid, Tulsi works well on its own as a tea or partnered with heart-healthy herbs like arjuna or hawthorn. Herbs that stimulate the mind without charging the nervous system, like green tea or rosemary, are other potential meditation enhancing partners for daily use. A topical oil made of Tulsi, bacopa moneri, and sesame can be used both internally or externally to enhance the meditative state. Together, they center and still the mind and support the mind-heart connection. Or, consider adding Tulsi to your incense blend to promote expansion and heart-centered balance in your practice.
For deeper spiritual healing, consider taking Tulsi daily before bed paired with herbs like passion flower or hops to aid sleep and elderflower or mugwort to aid in dreaming in the evening. Try rose, hibiscus, and hawthorn flower paired with Tulsi in the morning to gently detoxify and replenish the system through out the day. Be aware it is wise to make extra time and space to process whatever arises, using tools like journaling, therapy, Shamanic Journey, meditation, dance, or whatever resonates with you. Tulsi can help you expand to the edges of whatever blocks your progress and bring into the open so you can clear it from your Spiritual space.
Caution for Taking Tulsi
Tulsi affects how the Liver processes wastes, including some pharmaceuticals. If you’re taking a prescription drug, consult with your doctor before adding Tulsi to your daily routine. You may want to work with your physician to check your drug levels regularly to ensure the medicine you’re taking is functioning properly for you.
Tulsi may thin the blood slightly. If you’re taking a blood-thinner, consult with your physician before adding Tulsi to your daily routine.
Tulsi may affect fertility and libido. Studies are unclear on how or how much. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, consult with your physician or a trained midwife or doula before adding Tulsi to your daily routine. Be aware that Tulsi may affect libido for both men and women, as well. Again, consult with your fertility specialist before adding Tulsi to your daily routine if you are trying to conceive.
- The Clinical Efficacy and Safety of Tulsi in Humans: A Systematic Review of the Literature
- The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: A Contemporary Introduction and Useful Manual for the World’s Oldest Healing System
- Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care
- Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal
- Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Men: Remedies and Recipes for Circulation Support, Heart Health, Vitality, Prostate Health, Anxiety Relief, Longevity, Virility, Energy & Endurance