Tulsi - the Elixir of Life
It is a belief that no disease visits the house that has a cow and Tulsi at its doorstep. Tulsi is itself worshipped, and its leaves offered to God in worship. The tulsi leaves are accorded primacy in religious rituals, in the ‘prasad’ offered to Gods, as also in devotional worship. It has been found that in Greece too people have a great faith in Tulsi worship. The Greeks celebrate a ‘Tulsi day’ every year in honour of Tulsi. Tulsi is used as a household remedy in Australia too. Tulsi possesses hundreds of medicinal virtues. It is even believed that the messengers of the God of Death (i.e. diseases) cannot approach a home where there is a Tulsi plant.
In the Vedas it has been said that God does not accept any offering if it does not include Tulsi leaves. In the Puranas Tulsi has been described as the consort of Lord Krishna. The other name of Tulsi is ‘Vrinda’. That has led to the hallowed region where Lord Krishna indulged in His childhood pranks to be known as ‘Vrindavan’.
In addition to all its spiritually uplifting qualities, it has been found to possess extraordinary powers of healing and promoting health. This fact has been confirmed by the researchers, who state that Tulsi possesses a special capacity of killing harmful micro-organisms. From the point of view of therapeutic effect, Tulsi is not merely a healing agent, not merely a medicine, but it is a medicine par excellence, the veritable elixir of life, because all the diseases that afflict mankind can be cured by Tulsi. A person that eats even five leaves of Tulsi a day is protected from a large number of diseases. There is no need of going to a physician for coughs, colds, fevers, toothache, stomachache, headache, sore throat, nasal discomfort, eye diseases, inflammation, itching, loss of appetite, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhoea, dysentery, heart disease, worms, rheumatism, boils, cuts, wounds, skin diseases, acne, irritation, pustules caused by plucking of hair, sunstroke, muscular pains, nocturnal emissions, fainting, poisoning, etc., and most common diseases of women and children.
Unless it is grown on a large scale, we cannot reap the full advantages of tulsi. Tulsi plants must be raised in every home. Every village must have its ‘Vrindavan’, so that Tulsi leaves are always easily available in sufficient quantities for preparing medicinal formulations. For ensuring the purity of air in our homes, we should plant a few Tulsi plants in pots and place the pots during the day in every one of the rooms we commonly use. This will keep the atmosphere in the house fresh, and a number of disorders and atmospheric pollution will be prevented.
Tulsi should be grown extensively so that it is available in sufficient quantities for medicinal preparations.
Health centres dispensing only medicines prepared from Tulsi should be established. Just as the standard Ayurvedic preparations like Chyavanprash, Drakshasav, etc. are freely available in the market, Tulsi tablets, Tulsi syrups, Tulsi powders, Tulsi extract, etc., should be made by modern standardized processes and sold in the market.
Tea is a stimulant, but it contains a harmful subance called tannin. But Tulsi contains no such harmful substance. Therefore, only Tulsi tea should therefore be taken in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Tulsi has the power of purifying the atmosphere. If some organization arranges to supply Tulsi saplings in pots at no, or nominal cost, it will be making a valuable contribution to the spread of this natural agency for de-polluting the atmosphere.
Any physical discomfort makes us think at once of medicines, such as tablets, injections, mixtures, capsules, etc. But in the past these modern forms of medicines were unknown. The only medicines known and used were some herbs.
Tulsi has a very good effect not only on the body, but also on the thoughts, tendencies and inclinations of the mind. Our scriptures enjoin us to estimate the worth of a substance not only from its easily observable characteristics, but also to take into consideration all its effects, the gross as well as the subtle ones. Tulsi helps not only in curing physical ailments such as fevers, coughs, colds, etc., but also in promoting purity, sanctity and faith.
The Indians have been experiencing the benefits conferred by Tulsi for thousands of years. It is for this reason that Tulsi has found a place in every temple, every place of pilgrimage . Tulsi plant is sure to act as a centre for spreading positive and ennobling thoughts. If we keep up a close association with Tulsi, we are sure to benefit physically, mentally and spiritually by the association.
Tulsi has been described as sharp in taste, but this quality is limited to a peculiar odour and its capacity to kill germs. Tulsi is a domestic plant with no harmful effects, and as such it is the best of all the medicinal herbs. Tulsi is taken generally with ‘prasad’ offerings, with water rendered holy by washing the feet of Gods, and with the salubrious mixture of five ingredients the ‘panchamrita’. Thus in a sense it is a part of our diet. As Tulsi is always used when it is fresh, and in its natural state, there is no possibility of its generating toxins in the body.
Thus the use of Tulsi as a medicine has no adverse side effects, nor does it result in the accumulation of toxins in the body. Tulsi improves the efficiency of all the organs of the body in a natural way and thus helps in the cure of diseases. This is a plant of such a benign nature that no harmful effect has been observed even on persons who have consumed ten or twenty of its leaves at a time.
Varities of Tulsi
There are two varieties of Tulsi : Ram Tulsi and Shyam Tulsi. The leaves of Ram Tulsi are rather lighter in colour, which has earned it the apellation of ‘Gori’, the fair one. Shyam, or Krishna tulsi is rather; darker in colour and is more effective as a destroyer of kapha (phlegm).
There is another variety of Tulsi, called ‘Vana Tulsi’, also known as ‘kutherak’. It has a much stronger aroma than the domestic variety, and its capacity to neutralise poisons is correspondingly greater. This variety is particularly useful in the treatment of toxaemia, leucoderma, eye diseases and obstetric diseases.
There is a fourth variety of Tulsi, called ‘maruvak’, the juice of this variety of Tulsi is beneficial when it is applied to cuts, wounds or bruises, as also to bites of poisonous animals.
A fifth variety is called as ‘Barbari’ or ‘Babui. The tender shoots of which have a penetrating odour. In the Hakeemi or Unani system the seeds of this Tulsi are referred to as ‘Tukhm Rehan’. This variety has the property described as Vajikaran, making a man as strong as a horse. It is used to make semen thicker.
Malaria is endemic to many parts of India. The disease spreads through mosquito bites, particularly in the latter half of the rainy season. Now Tulsi plants repel mosquitoes, and chewing a few of its leaves destroys the poisons that are responsible for malaria. This is why a drink of a decoction of Tulsi and pepper is believed to be the surest and the easiest remedy for fevers.
Allopathic doctors use quinine for this purpose. But quinine is so drastic in its action that though the temperature is brought down, many other harmful side effects such as headaches, singing in the ears, etc., are caused by internal conversion of heat. These make it necessary to take antidotes like milk, orange juice, etc., which however are too expensive for the common man. The use of Tulsi is comparatively quite cheap, and can cure most types of fevers.
The practitioners of the unani system regard Tulsi as hot in the initial stages and dry in the later stages, and believe that it stimulates the activity of the brain, reduces swellings, destroys gas, relieves congestion in the heart, stimulates the appetite, counters dilapidation of the skin and vitiation of the blood. The presence of a Tulsi plant in a house destroys insects, especially bedbugs and lice. It purifies the air. Ram Tulsi is hot and dry in action. It cleanses the nostrils, strengthens the heart, the liver and the stomach, helps digestion, reduces inflammation, has beneficial effects in all disorders related to mental distress.
Out of the many varieties of Tulsi, five are of special importance in different regions. And they are :
(1) Krishna Tulsi
This variety is found in almost all regions of India. It is used in the treatment of infection of the throat and the respiratory system, cough, enteric fever, nasal lesions, infected wounds, earache, urinary disorders, skin diseases, etc.
(2) Drudriha Tulsi
This variety is found mainly in Bengal, Nepal, and Maharashtra. Its use purifies the gaseous humour in the body known in Ayurvedic terminology as Apaan Vayu. It relieves dryness of the throat, lubricates the throat and reduces the viscosity of phlegm. It cures inflammation of hands and feet, and rheumatism.
(3) Ram Tulsi
This is found enormously in China, Brazil, Eastern Nepal, as well as in Bengal, Bihar, and the southern states of India. The plant is a highly branched shrub, growing to a height of 4 to 8 feet. All the parts of the plant emit a strong aroma. The leaves are 2 to 4 inches in length, pointed and with serrated edges. The plant bears inflorescences of a pale yellow colour. Ram Tulsi has a characteristic fragrance. This variety of Tulsi is used to treat major diseases like leprosy. The plants are of two types, male and female. Treatment with only the appropriate type of the plant will yield the expected benefit, depending on whether it is a man or a woman who is to be treated, and whether it is the left or the right side that is to be treated.
(4) Babi Tulsi
This variety of Tulsi is found mainly in the hot and the temperate regions of India, particularly from Punjab to Travancore. It is also found in Bengal, Bihar, etc. The plant grows to a height of 1 to 2 feet. The stem and the branches are green or light yellow. The leaves are about 1 to 2 inches long, oval, pointed and sharp. The ends of branches are laden with inflorescences. The ovaries are located in the inflorescences. The seeds are small in size, black in colour, slightly elongated, round at one end and flattened at the other, with thick edges. The plant exudes a pleasing aroma when dried. If an extract of all the parts of the plant (roots, twigs, leaves, etc.) is prepared, oil is found floating on the surface of the extract. This oil is yellowish in colour, and slightly volatile, and thickens and solidifies if stored for a few days.
It stimulates nerve-endings, thus causing a tingling sensation. It induces appetite, promotes digestion, benefits the heart, increases the secretion of bile, and is easy to digest. It reduces phlegm and gas, purifies the blood, reduces the burning sensation in the stomach caused by acidity, helps in the elimination of poisons, and has a curative action in cases of eye diseases, worms, itching, vomiting, earache, leucoderma and fevers. It facilitates delivery and cures all disorders incidental to confinement.
Its seeds have a soothing and cooling action. They possess stimulating, diuretic, and diaphoretic qualities, and are highly nutritious. They reduce inflammation and swelling. The seeds are usually eaten after soaking them in water.
This variety of Tulsi is found in western regions of India and in Persia. It finds use in the treatment of throat disorders, acidity and leprosy. It imparts strength to weakened muscles.
Usually malaria, cholera and many diseases that owe their existence to a weakened state of the body tend to spread more easily during transition periods between the seasons, when atmospheric conditions are changing. The threat of such diseases can be eliminated by using tulsi. The atmosphere is purified, and pure water and air are rendered even purer by the fragrance of the Tulsi plant.
The Latin name given to Tulsi in botanical terminology is ‘Ocirnum Sanctum’. Charak has described it as a destroyer of coughs, hiccups, poisons and pain in the flanks. It is used to promote the secretion of bile and neutralises kapha and vayu. As it dispels the unpleasant odours of decaying matter, Charak has termed it ‘Pootigandhah’.
According to Sushrut it cures asthma. Tulsi is beneficial for the heart, and Cures skin diseases, dysuria and toxaemja. One of the English names for Tulsi is ‘the Mosquito Plant’.
Another property of Tulsi is its ‘anti-stress’ action. Drinking Tulsi decoction daily or chewing a few Tulsi leaves regularly every day will relieve the mental stresses generated in our day-to-day struggle for existence, and increase the probability of a long and healthy life.
A special kind of vapour is released by a Tulsi plant into the atmosphere, which purifies the atmosphere. This is actually an essential oil present in the Tulsi plant, which evaporates and spreads through the air, rendering it free from bacteria and other substances which are likely to cause diseases.
A Tulsi plant reared at the doorstep of a house, or in its vicinity, ensures the health of its occupants, and keeps it free from poisonous insects. Tulsi is particularly effective in combating malaria, and has proved to be the best and easiest means of keeping the insects away which are responsible for the spread of malaria, viz, mosquitoes.
The emanations from a Tulsi plant are in fact fatal to mosquitoes. Even snakes cannot tolerate the aroma of Tulsi, and keep away from it.
It is beneficial in the ayurvedic treatment of various diseases such as fevers, sprains, piles, cataract, rheumatism, asthma, diarrhoea, eye diseases, tooth decay, pyorrhoea, burning sensation in the stomach, excessive thirst, toxaemia, scabies, eczema, pruritus, acne, catarrh, nocturnal emissions, leucorrhoea, syphilis, bladder stones, vomiting, coughs, loss of appetite, plague, hiccups, leprosy, jaundice, prickly heat, burns, burns caused by lightning, snake bites, stings of scorpions, poisoning, loss of hair, labour pains, etc.
It has been shown that it has adequate antipyretic properties and a soothing action on the throat, thus relieving coughs. It stimulates hunger and improves digestion. Tulsi is used in the treatment of fevers caused by kapha and vayu, colds, coughs, laboured breathing, pains, lack of appetite, slack digestion, crepitation, vomiting, hiccups, migraine, poisoning, headaches, sore throat, suppuration of the ears, skin diseases, flatulence, toothache, tetanus, dyspepsia, excessive thirst, urticaria, halitosis, cholera, smallpox, worms, chest pains, night blindness, liver disorders, etc.
Tulsi makes hemoglobin in the blood to increase, which prevents other diseases. The powers of the body to resist diseases develop to such an extent that minor ailments and even malaria, influenza and such other diseases cannot attack it.
Tulsi is too hot for women, but the adverse effects of this quality of Tulsi can be reduced by taking only 2 to 5 mashed leaves with one glass of buttermilk or 2 to 4 grammes of curds. Women should therefore make it a point to take Tulsi with curds or buttermilk. In fact, they should take the maximum possible amounts of curds and buttermilk every day. Women should also exercise caution in the use of jaggery and honey, as these sweeteners are also ‘hot’ in their physiological effects.