What is Holy basil?
If you ever go to the gardening center I am sure you are bombarded with all the different basil varieties out there; Dolce Fresca, Sweet basil, African blue, perfectly pesto and many other types.
Well, there is one variety that may not be commonly available at the gardening centers, but it worth taking a look and learning more about called Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi. Unlike other basil varieties which are best known for making pesto or other edible dishes, Tulsi is more known for its medicinal properties.
Tulsi is native to Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent. It has a strong history in Indian culture where it has been documented as a medicinal herb for over 5000 years. Before being transported west on the silk road, the name of this herb was “ the queen of herbs.” When it made its way to the Christians, they began calling it holy basil or “ the king of herbs.” In the Hindu culture, this plant is the incarnation of the goddess Tulsi, hence where it received its name.The goddess Tulsi was known for divine protection.
This name is fitting when you research all of the potential health benefits of the herb. To be even more specific, the leaves, stems, and seeds are all said to have different medicinal qualities and uses.
The leaves can be dried or brewed fresh into a tea that has been used to treat bronchitis, common cold, influenza, H1n1, asthma, upset stomach, and even Viral Hepatitis.
When processed into a salve or as an oil extract, it is used for treating acne, inflammation, and eczema.
When processed into an essential oil, it is used for treating all insect bites, ringworm, eye infections, and diseases.
When ingested, this plant acts as a natural substance that helps the body cope with stress and produces mental balance. It is known to contain anti-depression properties while reducing stress and anxiety. Also it has been shown to help with cognitive skills, increases memory function, and increase metabolism.
How to grow
Since this basil is a native of the Indian subcontinent, it is safe to say it likes hot humid temperatures. You have the capability of starting this herb from seed or directly sowing in the garden. If starting from seed and growing transplants, begin the process 8 weeks before you plan on planting out into the garden. Basil cannot tolerate cold temperatures so so not plan on placing out in the garden until well into the spring. If you are in zone 9 then the ideal time to prepare for is April. By then the temperature should be well into the 90s.
If you are planning on directly sowing the seeds into the garden, wait until soil temperatures have warmed up. To increase germination success rates, you can soak the seeds overnight, or you can place the seeds between moist paper towels for 24 hours before planting. Since the seeds are small, you only need to plant them half an inch below the soil.
If the soil temperatures are correct, you should see a sprout break the soil within 2 weeks of planting. Basil prefers full sunlight and plenty of water.
Like other basil varieties, constant harvesting will help stop the plant from flowering. If the plant has already flowered remove them to keep the plant from going to seed. If left to go seed, basil has the tendency to reseed itself profusely throughout the garden.
Common Companion plants:
· Hot Peppers