The ancient Vedic scriptures include many references to tulsi. They tell how Brahma is believed to reside in its roots, Vishnu in the stems and leaves, and Shiva in the flowering tops. According to some legends, tulsi is especially sacred to Vishnu, who was quite fond of it. Two of the three varieties of the herb are therefore known as Krishna tulsi and Rama tulsi. (Krishna and Rama are the human incarnations of Vishnu.) The third, Vana tulsi, is named after the sacred forest where Krishna was believed to have lived.
Women throughout India worship tulsi (or tulsi-devi, as they often refer to it) as an embodiment of the Mother Goddess. Some perform a puja (an elaborate daily ceremony) that involves praying and singing praise to the Goddess while pouring holy water on the plant. They invoke tulsi to open the heart and mind, increase prana (life energy), and foster greater love, devotion, faith, compassion, and clarity. Through puja, the Goddess is believed to clear the aura and provide divine protection. Tulsi is so revered that both men and women wear necklaces of 108 beads carved from its stems to provide them with spiritual protection and nourishment, as well as to bring lightness and consciousness into their being.
A simple tea infusion is the best way to absorb tulsi’s benefits, which include overall well-being, improved stamina and endurance, and increased sattvic (spiritual) energy. Tulsi is available in tea bags at Indian and Ayurvedic markets; its sattvic properties are more pronounced when it is grown organically.
Contributing Editor James Bailey practices Ayurveda, Oriental medicine, and herbal medicine.