Holy Basil Flowering in Garden

Lower Stress Hormones and Boost Energy with Holy Basil (aka Tulsi)

Holy Basil tea has been a part of my evening ritual again for the past few weeks. I discovered it last summer and drank a lot of it, but then I couldn’t find it in loose leaf form for about 6 months and so I got out of the habit of drinking it. Finally, I found it again, but I decided that I needed to start growing it so that I would always have a secure supply on hand. It is THAT good. Luckily it is very easy to grow. (You can find seeds here if you decide to grow it.) The pictures are from my Holy Basil plants that are just starting to flower. If you’re still reading, you are probably wondering just what is so awesome about this Holy Basil plant, right? Well, I am just thrilled to answer you! Read on, my friend.

Holy Basil (aka Tulsi) is an adaptogenic herb. An adaptogenic herb is an herb that “adapts” to your needs. How cool is that? It will lower your cortisol levels (stress hormones), but only if you need it. If you don’t need it, it doesn’t do it. It promotes a feeling of calm and well-being. Just smelling the plant or the dried leaves relaxes me in a similar way that smelling lavender or chamomile does. It also gives you energy at the same time it relaxes you. I am not talking about caffeine-like energy but real energy from within. Here are a few more benefits for you.

Benefits of Holy Basil:

  • Boost immunity
  • Antiviral
  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Liver protective
  • Strengthens cardiovascular system
  • Normalizes blood sugar
  • Great for healing respiratory issues such as bronchitis, tuberculosis, and asthma.
  • Excellent for oral health. 
  • Effects mood, memory and cognitive function positively.
  • Detoxifier and mild diuretic. Holy Basil is great for kidney issues such as kidney stones and gout because it helps the body excrete uric acid.
  • Insect repellent
  • Heals skin lesions and many diseases.
  • Is taken as a tonic in India to maintain youthful skin and lengthen life span. 
  • Protects from radiation damage
  • Lowers fevers
  • Lowers cortisol levels if they are too high (as stated above).
  • Boosts energy (as stated above).

 

Things to do with Holy Basil:

Holy Basil

  • Make Holy Basil tea: Holy Basil makes a very tasty tea alone or blended with some of your other favorite herbal flavors. I love to mix it with dried ginger. Teas are my favorite way to consume this herb. I try to get at least one large tea cup full of it daily. Steep it covered for 10-15 minutes to get the most out of your Holy Basil. (As with most herbs, the longer you steep, the more medicinal the flavor. If you are just starting out, try 10 minutes at first and work your way up if you like.) Organic India has a whole line of flavored Holy Basil teas. Sweet Rose is my favorite, but they have Turmeric Ginger, Lemon Ginger, Green, Chai, and a Sleep Combo. 
  • Make or buy a tincture: This provides a more concentrated dose than tea and is a very portable option. Go here for a tutorial on tincture making. 
  • Make an herbal vinegar (either medicinal or culinary): Fill a mason jar 3/4 of the way with fresh Holy Basil Leaves (pack them down). Fill the jar with Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. Put a lid on the jar and shake it. Let sit for 3 or 4 weeks. When it is ready, strain out the leaves and keep the vinegar! You can use this to make salad dressing, or to drink before meals (a tablespoon in a cup of water 15-20 minutes before meals.)

 

If you are interested in learning more about common herbs that you can grow and use safely, I recommend Rosemary Gladstar’s book Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner’s Guide. It is awesome!

If you want to more about adaptogenic herbs, I recommend Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston. Also Awesome.

 

 

Do you drink or use Holy Basil? If not, are you going to start?

 

 

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm: Calms Anxiety, Encourages Restful Sleep, Fights Viruses and More!

Meet the lovely lemon balm! This relative to mint is so easy to grow; you can basically put it in the ground and forget about it. (If you don’t have space, you can grow it in a container and water it when you water your house plants.)

Lemon balm is a miracle worker for us humans and a favorite of the bees. It is completely safe for adults and children. In fact, it used to be a combined with chamomile and dill as common colic remedy for fussy babies. Made as a tea, it is so tasty! If you are interested in learning more about herbal remedies, Rosemary Gladstar has an excellent introductory book called Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. I highly recommend it!

Note: If you have an under-active thyroid or Hashimoto’s, it is best to use this herb only under the guidance of a trusted health care professional as it is considered a thyroid suppressant, for everyone else, enjoy!

Use lemon balm for:

  • viral infections (especially effective against coldsores, shingles, etc.)
  • bacterial infections
  • restless sleep
  • hyperactive children
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • heart disease
  • heart ache
  • nervous disorders

How to use lemon balm:

  • As a culinary herb:

    Use lemon balm in salads, smoothies, and other dishes where you would put mint in.

  • Lemon balm tea:

    You can steep the fresh or dried leaves with hot water. About 10 minutes will give you a pleasant drinking tea. If you want a more medicinal tea, let it steep for longer. Feel free to add other herbs depending on what you are trying to accomplish.

    • Relaxing tea: lemon balm with chamomile, lavender, and or holy basil
    • Antiviral tea: lemon balm and licorice

     

  • lemon balm tincture:

    A tincture is a good way to get a high dose of lemon balm (or another herb) into your body for an acute situation, such as the onset of a flu or cold sore. They only take a few minutes to prepare, but you will have to wait at least a few weeks for it to be ready. Go here for a tutorial on how to make you own tincture, or you can buy a ready made tincture to have on hand such as those by Herb Pharm.

  • Lemon Balm Bath:

    Add at least 1/2 cup fresh or dried herbs to cheesecloth or a strainer and secure it to the tub faucet under hot running water for the first few minutes. Next, adjust the water to a comfortable temperature. Feel free to add other herbs such as lavender or chamomile if desired.  

 

Lemon Balm

 

Do you use lemon balm? Are you going to try it?

Homemade Tincture

Homemade Tinctures: How and Why to Make them

Homemade tinctures are as easy to make as putting herbs and alcohol in a glass jar and waiting! Should I back up and remind you what a tincture is first? A tincture is a highly concentrated extract of herbs. Tinctures provides a concentrated dose of the herb which can be taken by the dropper and mixed into water or juice.

Why use a tincture?

There are a few reasons to take a tincture. First, a tincture is good for herbs that are not very tasty and you would not be able to suffer through a cup of tea made from them. Second, it is good for roots and barks that are harder to get the active constituents out by hot water steeping. Third, you can use a tincture to simply save time. Maybe you would need to drink 3 cups of an herbal tea (also called a tisane) but instead can take a dropper full of the tincture in juice or water three times a day. They can especially be good for children who may not want to drink a whole cup of tea. Third, tinctures are good for acute situations, such as the onset of the flu or a cold sore, where you want to get a lot of an herb into your body quickly. 

Why make a homemade tincture?

Homemade Tincture Bottles

There are two main reasons to make your own tinctures. First, they are so much less expensive. Second, you can control the ingredients. I like to use organic herbs and organic alcohol for instance. Those who are grain-free could choose a grain-free alcohol. If you have to avoid alcohol completely, you can make your tincture with raw apple cider vinegar.

 

How to make a HOmemade tincture

As stated above, making homemade tinctures is as simple as putting herbs in a jar and covering the with alcohol. You use different amounts of herbs depending on whether you are using fresh or dried herbs and whether you are using  the leaves/flowers or the roots/bark/berries. Also, if you are using fresh herbs, you will need to chop them first to release the juices. If you are using dried, you can just add the alcohol. 

To make a tincture you will need:

  • Organic Herbs (leaves and/or flowers or roots, bark, and/or berries)
  • 80-100 proof alcohol such as vodka or brandy
  • Glass jars
  • Glass droppers (If you don’t have any, you can buy them on Amazon, of course.)
  • Cheesecloth (unbleached and organic is best) for straining out herbs

If you are using leaves and/or flowers:

  • Fill your jar 2/3 to 3/4 full of your chopped fresh leaves and flowers. Next, fill the jar to the top with your alcohol. The herbs need to be submerged in the alcohol.  
  • Or fill you jar with 1/2 to 3/4 with dried leaves and flowers.Next, fill the jar to the top with your alcohol. The herbs need to be submerged in the alcohol.

If you are using roots, bark, and/or berries:

  • Fill your jar 1/3 to 1/2 full of your chopped fresh leaves and flowers. Next, fill the jar to the top with your alcohol. The herbs need to be submerged in the alcohol. 
  • Or fill you jar with 1/4 to 1/3 with dried leaves and flowers.Next, fill the jar to the top with your alcohol. The herbs need to be submerged in the alcohol.

Storing and Using your homemade tinctures

Store your herb/alcohol mixture in a cool, dark place where you will remember to shake it several times a week for 6-8 weeks, or a sunny warm location for 4-6 weeks. Watch the level of alcohol. If some of it evaporates, you will need to add more. The herbs must be submerged in alcohol or there is the possibility of introducing mold into your tincture. Yuck!

After the requisite waiting period, strain the herbs through the cheesecloth and compost them. Bottle your tincture in clean glass jars or bottles (dark glass is best). Label them!! These will keep for many years in a cool, dark place!!!

The usual dosage for an adult is 2 droppers full 3 times a day for an acute situation, i.e. a cold coming on. For children, consult a trusted pediatrician. 

Which homemade tinctures should you make?

Of course this answer depends on what ailment you are trying to treat or prevent. A great introductory book is called Medicinal herbs: A Beginner’s guide by Rosemary Gladstar. My favorite homemade tinctures to make are echinacea and olive leaf. Both are great for the immune system. As you probably know, echinacea tincture is superb when taken at the onset of a cold or flu. Olive leaf tincture is an amazing antiviral so it is good for sinus infections and ear infections (both of which have a 90% viral origin), as well as other viral infections. You can make combination tinctures as well. The possibilities are endless. Happy homemade tincture-making!

 

Homemade Tincture

 

Do you make homemade tinctures? Do you want to try?