Ocimum tenuiflorum, also known as Ocimum sanctum, Holy basil, or tulasī, is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae which is native throughout the Eastern World tropics and widespread as a cultivated plant. It is an erect, much branched subshrub, 30–60 cm tall with hairy stems and simple opposite green or purple leaves that are strongly scented. Leaves have petioles and are ovate, up to 5 cm long, usually slightly toothed. The flowers are purplish in elongate racemes in close whorls. The two main morphotypes cultivated in India and Nepal are green-leaved (Sri or Lakshmi tulasi) and purple-leaved (Krishna tulasi).
Tulasi is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely known across South Asia as a medicinal plant and an herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda, and has an important role within the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism, in which devotees perform worship involving holy basil plants or leaves.
The variety of Ocimum tenuiflorum used in Thai cuisine is referred to as Thai holy basil (Thai language: กะเพรา kaphrao); it is not to be confused with Thai basil, which is a variety of Ocimum basilicum.
Tulasi leaves is an essential part in the worship of God Vishnu (Narayana) and his Avatars including God Krishna, God Rama and other male Vaishnava deities like Hanuman, Balarama, Garuda and many others. Tulasi is a sacred plant for Hindus and is worshipped by Hindus as the avatar of goddess Lakshmi. Water mixed with the petals is given to the dying to raise their departing souls to heaven. Tulasi, which is Sanskrit for "the incomparable one", is most often regarded as a consort of Krishna in the form of Lakshmi. According to the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, tulasi is an expression of Sita.[full citation needed] There are two types of tulasi worshipped in Hinduism: "Rama tulasi" has light green leaves and is larger in size; "Shyama tulasi" has dark green leaves and is important for the worship of Hanuman. Many Hindus have tulasi plants growing in front of or near their home, often in special pots. Traditionally, tulasi is planted in the center of the central courtyard of Hindu houses. It is also frequently grown next to Hanuman temples, especially in Varanasi.[full citation needed]
According to Vaishnavas, it is believed in Puranas that during Samudra Manthana when the gods win the ocean-churning against asuras, Dhanvantari comes up from the ocean with Amrita in hand for the gods. Dhanvantari (the divine medico) sheds happy tears and when the first drop falls in Amrita it forms Tulasi. In the ceremony of Tulasi Vivaha, tulasi is ceremonially married to Krishna annually on the eleventh day of the waxing moon or twelfth of the month of Kartika in the lunar calendar. This day also marks the end of the four-month Cāturmāsya period, which is considered inauspicious for weddings and other rituals, so the day inaugurates the annual marriage season in India. The ritual lighting of lamps each evening during Kartika includes the worship of the tulasi plant, which is held to be auspicious for the home. Vaishnavas especially follow the daily worship of tulasi during Kartika.
Vaishnavas traditionally use japa mālasa made from tulasī stems or roots, which are an important symbol of initiation. Tulasi malasa are considered to be auspicious for the wearer, and believed to put them under the protection of Hanuman. They have such a strong association with Vaishnavas, that followers of Hanuman are known as "those who bear the tulasi round the neck".
In India, the use of holy basil (Tulasi) in culinary preparations is not encouraged by most Vaishnava communities as it is considered to be sacred (however, Tulasi leaves offered to Lord Vishnu [Krishna] may be eaten raw by themselves). According to followers of the Hare Krishna movement even uprooting or cutting a branch of a live Tulasi tree is considered to be a great offense. However Tulasi leaves may be plucked only for offering to Lord Krishna (or other Vishnu forms). The combination of Tulasi with meat in food preparations is considered to be extremely offensive and disrespectful to Tulasi.
The use of Tulasi as medicine is also prohibited by certain Vaishnava communities, for instance the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON) considers Tulasi to be highly sacred and is to be used for spiritual upliftment of a person when one renders service unto Tulasi devi (Tulasi personified).
The leaves of holy basil, known as kaphrao in the Thai language (Thai: กะเพรา), are commonly used in Thai cuisine. Kaphrao should not be confused with horapha (Thai: โหระพา), which is normally known as Thai basil, or with Thai lemon basil (maenglak; Thai: แมงลัก).
The best-known dish made with this herb is phat kaphrao (Thai: ผัดกะเพรา) — a stir-fry of Thai holy basil with meats, seafood or, as in khao phat kraphao, with rice.
For centuries, the dried leaves have been mixed with stored grains to repel insects. In Sri Lanka this plant is used as a mosquito repellent. Sinhala: Maduruthalaa (මදුරු තලා)
Tulasi (Sanskrit:-Surasa) has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for its diverse healing properties. It is mentioned in the Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text. Tulsi is considered to be an adaptogen, balancing different processes in the body, and helpful for adapting to stress. Marked by its strong aroma and astringent taste, it is regarded in Ayurveda as a kind of "elixir of life" and believed to promote longevity.
Tulasi extracts are used in ayurvedic remedies for a variety of ailments. Traditionally, tulasi is taken in many forms: as herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf or mixed with ghee. Essential oil extracted from Karpoora tulasi is mostly used for medicinal purposes and in herbal cosmetics, and is widely used in skin preparations and for fever, colds and infections..
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Some of the main chemical constituents of tulsi are: oleanolic acid, ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, eugenol, carvacrol, linalool, β-caryophyllene (about 8%), β-elemene (c.11.0%), and germacrene D (about 2%).
A variety of in vitro studies and animal studies have indicated some potential pharmacological properties of Ocimum tenuiflorum or its extracts. Recent studies suggest tulasi may be a COX-2 inhibitor, like many modern painkillers, due to its high concentration of eugenol. The fixed oil has demonstrated antihyperlipidemic and cardioprotective effects in rats fed a high fat diet.
Some laboratory experiments on extracts of Ocimum tenuiflorum have indicated they may have potential in future pharmaceutical applications in the field of cancer treatment, and mitigating the effects of radiation exposure.
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