|Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil or Sacred Basil|
All plants are made the same, yet some are elevated to “extraordinary’ by the reverence and importance given to them by culture and history. Tulsi is one such a plant. Native to India, Tulsi is sanskrit for “incomparable one” and is also called holy or sacred basil and is believed in India to be the physical manifestation of the divine. They love it so much over there that they have 108 different names of it and and it is a Hindu custom to have a pot of tulsi growing out the front of one’s home to bless all those who cross the threshold, and keep evil spirits out.
India is where I personally got to know Tulsi, and my tale for how I met her is very much how I think of using this plant for others. Tulsi as the soulful girlfriend you call up when the world is looking a little grey, or you’re trying to figure out the deeper meaning to a problem that you know she will have just the right insightful words for you.
Throughout university I took a year long break to gain some perspective and get to know myself better beyond my identity as a student. A favourite Irish poet of mine, John O’Donohue once wrote “when the secret is not respected, the sacred vanishes”…an eerie concept to behold when you’re waist deep in a science degree and intellectualism is the currency you’re banking on day in day out. I was forgetting about all the “secrets” of the plants, of healing, of human nature that first attracted me to studying naturopathy. And so the sacred was vanishing out of my life and I was feeling dried up and yearning for something I couldn’t put my finger on.
During that time away, I traveled to a number of herb farms in Australia and overseas to meet the plants first hand. Amongst them was a tulsi garden, which was part of a wider medicinal garden of an Ayurvedic hospital in Kerala, India. For two weeks, I would rise at 4:30am, just on sunrise, and ride a bike through a tiny bumbling town on a very bumpy road. I would spend the morning with a number of others tending to the expanse of tulsi garden beds until it became too hot to work any longer. The monotony of the work was therapeutic in itself (transplanting three hundred tulsi seedlings does tend to send the mind to some interesting places!).
I began to start understanding this plant and this curious land a bit better….I also began to understand a bit more of this sacredness I had been yearning for. Amidst all the chaos, the seeming hopelessness of many situations, the injustices that abound, you can have a garden, and you can pray, and you can create rituals that tap you into something bigger than yourself. And this is the medicinal quality tulsi imparts to us.
|And just as sacred as tulsi are these little ones!|
|A sweetheart in the tulsi garden|
|You can't always take yourself on a trip to the mountains, with temples and frangipani trees atop,|
but it’s fairly easy to make yourself a tulsi tea!