Known as "tulsi" in India and "bai ka-prow" in Thailand, the fresh leaves are excellent for making a soothing tea and for flavoring soups, drinks, and vegetables.

The tulsi or tulasi plant (Ocimum tenuiflorum), also called holy basil, is an herb native to the Old World tropics especially South Asia. It reproduces both asexually and sexually, through cuttings or seeds. Tulsi is an aromatic herb in the mint family (Lamiaceae or Labiatae), which includes culinary herbs such as basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, thyme, lavender, and perilla. The tulsi plant is unusual in the mint family, since it has a circular, hairy stem while most other mints have stems with a square cross-section. These stems of healthy older plants grow large enough to make rosary beads, used in Hindu prayer rituals. Given proper care, the plant can survive for many years and plants are commonly passed along over family generations. Two main morphotypes are cultivated in India, the green-leaved (Sri or Lakshmi tulsi) and purple-leaved (Krishna tulsi) varieties.

Tulsi grows as a branched shrub 30–60 cm tall with round stems and simple opposite green leaves.The ovate l eaves have petioles, are ovate and up to 5 cm long. Small teeth grow around their edges and curl upwards. Flowers grow from the highest stems, similarly to other basil plants. Given proper care, plants can survive for many years. Fertilized flower stalks produce small seeds which are available widely through online stores.

The plant produces tannins (4.6%) and essential oil (up to 2%) {WHO}, depending on varieties and growing conditions. Some active compounds include{Wikipedia:Tulsi}{Joshi et al.} {Nair} {WHO} {Simon}:

A long history of anecdotes suggest an exhaustive list of health benefits ranging from decreased negative effects from radiation and heavy metals, cholesterol reduction, tumor suppression and antimicrobial activity. What a surprise! Something with a pleasant taste and aroma which has been promoted as a general tonic and panacea by a thousands-year old culture would of course include at least all the known diseases. Just the right thing for what ails you! Test subjects would certainly report benefits from taking even small amounts of this innocuous herb! However, clinical studies do support a wide range of benefits: {Luthra} Whether this is due to the placebo effect or the combination of tannins and essential oils is questionable. Most of the studies compare a control group with one receiving tulsi extract or leaves, but do not compare tulsi to a simple preparation of eugenol and thymol, two of the main ingredients in Listerine. The plant is revered in Indian culture and used in Hindu religious ceremonies, wedding and ayurvedic medicine. It is associated with the gods Krishna and Vishnu. Devotees grow it in front of their homes, and tend the plant daily. During a daily morning ritual, prayers are offered, the plant is watered and leaves are picked. In ayurveda, the plant is known as a an adaptogen, meaning that it balances different processes in the body and helps people adapt to stress {Wikipedia:tulsi}. Tulsi finds increasing popularity outside Indian culture, especially in tinctures, extracts or herbal teas. Revered in Hindu culture, care of tulsi plants is highly structured and has a number of prohibitions {Sharma}. While the plant needs to be watered as needed, giving too much water is considered an offense. Watering in general is also prohibited on Sundays {}, the twelfth day of every Hindu month (Dwadashi) and any time the plant is seen as sleeping, between 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. to about 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. {Sharma} {} . Worshippers are also prohibited from picking leaves or even touching the plant on these days and times. Ritual care also includes chants or prayers offered while watering the plant or harvesting {}
One should clap the hands three times before picking 
Tulasi and pick in such a way that the branches do not shake.

One should say:

tulasy amrta janmasi sada tva kesava priya
kesavarthe vicinvami barada bhava sobhane

tvad anga sambhavaih patraih pujayami yatha harim
tatha kuru pavitrangi kalau mala vinasini
Oh Tulasi, born from the ocean of nectar, you are eternally 
the dearmost of Kesava. For His worship I now pluck you. 
Please bestow blessings on me.
Other cultures parallel the reverence for this simple herb. For example, many Native American cultures revere tobacco as sacred, placing it in prayer sachets offered to gods and smoking it only at designated times. The Greek Orthodox Church uses basil to sprinkle holy water when priests give blessings, or place leaves on deceased during funeral rites. However, the Church does not have such a rigorous set of rules for growing the herb, and does not view it as a sentient being as some Hindus consider tulsi. While Native American cultures revere tobacco and may see it as having a spirit or life force, it is not raised to sentience. Instead, rules apply to its ceremonial use.



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