Cooking With Holy Basil – Thai Food

Aspiring chefs, people looking to impress their significant other, or just anyone that wants to learn how to make wonderful dishes from different cultures, should definitely learn about Thai cuisine. Food in Thailand, like in most Asian cultures, is a very big deal and is as much about ceremony and presentation as it is about flavor and nutrition. A Thai chefs goal is to create a dish that strikes the best balance between looking beautiful, smelling wonderful, and having a variety of strong taste sensations that can be easily experienced and distinguished between one another. Obviously, herbs and spices are the main component that can be played around with, but one in particular – Thai holy basil – is revered highly among culinary masters; both for its pungency and for its pedigree.

Tulasi – as the plant is also called – is used in a wide variety of Thai dishes. When used in cooking, the leaves of tulasi, as well as the completed dish cooked with said leaves, are called kraphao. A kraphao dish basically consists of some kind of meat stir fried with a variety of vegetables, garlic, and a generous portion of holy basil, then served alongside some plain white rice. Kraphao is by no means the only dish that uses tulasi in some way however. The herb is used in stews, entrées, and even some drinks or desserts. The addition of this plant in all of these recipes is a deeply-rooted tradition that dates back to the early days of Thailand, where the plant was used and consumed in a ceremonial way.

Nowadays, the uses for tulasi are seen as practical and health-related. Of course, a big part of the appeal of the holy basil plant is still its ceremonial properties; as evidenced by the fact that it is grown in many places outside of buildings as a sort of spiritual signifier. That being the case, there is still much to be said for the highly palatable components of the plant that make it such a popular choice for a food herb. So, if you are starting to learn how to cook, or just want to be able to cook fantastic Southeast Asian dishes, make it a priority to get yourself some holy basil. Even if you cannot get other elements of the dish just right, the addition of the tulasi flavor and smell will still make the dish appealing.

Growing Plants From Holy Basil Seeds

People choose to grow holy basil plants for a variety of reasons, including the numerous health benefits from harvesting its leaves.  Holy basil seeds can be purchased from numerous sources online.  Before purchasing any holy basil seeds, look for information on where the seeds were harvested.  Seeds should come from organic plants grown in unpolluted areas. In addition, holy basil seeds may be found at organic home centers, co-operatives, and from organic seed distributors.

For the best results, plant the seeds in a greenhouse or indoors in the Spring, when temperatures are or can be maintained between 65-70 Fahrenheit.  Press the seeds just under the top layer of soil.  Water daily and maintain moist soil for 2 – 3 weeks or until germination.  Be sure to water with a watering can, pail, or on the mist setting using a hose until the plants are firmly established.

If planting outside the soil must be properly prepared before planting. All foliage must be removed, including weeds and other plants.  Then the area must be tilled and the soil broken up at least 1 inch below the surface. The soil should also be mixed with compost or other fertilizers and enriched before the plants are transplanted.  When planting the new holy basil plants, they must be spaced to one foot apart.  The plants prefer full sun to partial shade.  It is imperative that for the first 1-2 weeks that the soil remain moist. The plants must be watered daily until they are hearty and established.

If your planting area is subject to extreme variants in heat or extreme weather conditions, it is also advised that planters or pots be used so that you are capable of moving them inside. The plants should be moved inside and the temperature maintained at 65 – 70 to prevent freeing in the winter and being dried out in the summer.  In many places where the temperature can be maintained, the holy basil plant lives as a perennial plant.  When the holy basil plant is exposed to more extreme temperatures, the plant acts as an annual.

After the plant is established, you are able to harvest the plants.  Harvest your holy basil plant in the morning at the juncture of the shoots.  It is better to harvest from several plants than to over harvest one plant.  Be sure to water the plants directly after harvesting them to maintain their growth.  The leaves obtained from harvesting the plant can be chewed directly, brewed into a tea, or dried and ground into a powder for future use.

Holy Basil And It’s Effect On Cortisol

The holy basil plant has attracted recent attention due to clinical studies supporting its effect on decreasing stress.  Holy basil has been used for thousands of years in India and Asia to treat illness, such as depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and bi-polar disorder.  Recent research has confirmed its benefits, as well as illuminating several ways holy basil is able to combat the stressors of modern life, and counteract the cortisol production that signals the start of stress related issues.

First, holy basil contains ursolic acid.  Ursolic acid has been determined to inhibit the COX-2 enzyme.  In addition, holy basil works to balance the neurotransmitters in the brain.  These neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, ephedrine, norephedrine and cortisol, not only reach more consistent and stable levels, but also open the brain’s receptors for the neurotransmitters allowing them to be more easily absorbed in the body.

The effects of stress, cortisol production has a drastic effect on glucose production.  Differing levels of glucose create different problems in the body.  Low blood glucose can create headaches and low blood pressure.  High blood sugar can been seen with symptoms of high blood pressure and can even result in coma or death.  When this is not consistently neutralized, diabetes can be a result. Diabetes is one of the worst results of extreme cortisol production.  Cortisol tells the body to produce insulin.

Holy basil addresses this in two ways.  Holy basil affects the amount cortisol produced in times of stress. When the body undergoes stress, the adrenal glands are told to produce more cortisol. Cortisol causes the body to produce additional blood sugar.  When the adrenal glands are cleansed, and thus able to work at an optimum level, less cortisol is produced, thus signaling the body to produce less blood glucose.

In addition, holy basil also cleanses the blood, liver, pancreas and adrenal glands.  The pancreas is especially important, as the pancreas is the part of the body that produces insulin.  The amount of insulin the body contains determines the amount of blood glucose the body produces.  Cleansing the pancreas allows it to function more efficiently and produce insulin more effectively and efficiently.  Thus, less blood glucose is produced. The body would then react less to new cortisol production in times of stress.

Holy basil acts on the body in several ways.  First it inhibits the COX-2 enzyme and allows more positive neurotransmitters to be readily absorbed.  In addition, by both cleansing the pancreas (to produce less insulin) and the adrenal glands (to produce less cortisol) the body’s response to stress is reduced and the effect on the body’s blood glucose levels is also reduced.

Holy Basil Benefits

For close to 5000 years, ancient texts have proclaimed the benefits of consuming holy basil or tulsi.  Holy basil is currently used in over 300 medical treatments and numerous benefits have been published.  Here are some of the holy basil benefits:

  1. Overall Health – Because the herb has a high anti-oxidant content, is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral, it is widely used to treat a variety of conditions and is promoted for every day use to promote a long life and wellness. It also boosts immunity and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent producing overall wellness.  Every day use is encouraged to prevent infections and other illness. This translates into reduced arthritis pain and headaches.  It also creates less inflammation in the lungs and respiratory tract.  Combined with its expectorant qualities, tulsi becomes as highly effective treatment for asthma, allergies, respiratory infections, croup and cough.
  2. Supports the Cardiovascular system – Tulsi has several qualities that help the cardiovascular system.  First it is a blood thinner, which is effective in reducing the risk of stroke.  In addition, it effectively lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which lowers the risk of heart attack.  It also lowers the heart rate and helps purify the blood.  It cleanses the liver, which further cleanses the blood to remove impurities, and supports the proper cardiovascular support.  The combination of these qualities reduces the risk of heart disease.
  3. Balances the amount of insulin in the body – One of the largest impacts that tulsi has had is in the realm of blood sugar and diabetes.  It nourishes the pancreas, which in turn generates healthy beta cells that produce the body’s insulin.  Since insulin lowers blood sugar, it has provided an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes.
  4. Provides Anti-aging abilities - It hydrates the skin and is able to treat skin conditions and chronic dry skin.  It reduces the physiological effects of aging and works as an anti-aging treatment.
  5. Neutralizes the effects of bio-chemicalsHoly basil works in conjunction with extreme medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.  It is effective in treating radiation and other types of poisoning.  It is also effective in reducing free radical damage, such as sun damage, and from pollution and pesticides. Laboratory tests have also shown its potential to treat cancerous cells.
  6. Stress Reducer – One of the most publicized effects of the holy basil plant is its effects on stress. It acts as an adaptogen, increasing the body’s ability to adapt to difficult circumstances.  It reduces cortisol in the body and helps in the absorption of neurotransmitters in the brain to reduce the effects of stress, as well as improve stamina and memory. Tulsi also promotes emotional balance. As such, it has been effectively used to treat depression, ADHD, ADD, bi-polar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and other stress induced illnesses.


What Is Holy Basil?

Holy basil is gaining notoriety in the United States, but has for the most part been widely unknown.  However, it is grown all over India and the Far west. It is important to distinguish holy basil from the other 200 varieties of the basil plant. Although holy basil is frequently used in Thai cooking and has been used in culinary dishes in India, holy basil is not used in the United States for cooking.  Instead, holy basil is used for its medicinal properties here in the United States and also other parts of the world as well.  There are three varieties of holy basil.  Sri or Rama is the most common type and is green leafed.  Krishna has dark green to purple leaves.  Finally, the vana variety grows wild in the east and is located mainly in forests.

Holy basil is an aromatic herb that is used for medicinal reasons in Eastern medicine.  It is used in more than 300 medical treatments for a variety of conditions ranging from allergies and asthma to radiation poisoning.  Holy basil has a long tradition of use in Ayurvedic medicine, as it has been utilized for over 5000 years, and its use is recorded in ancient texts in both Hindi and Sanskrit.  Use of the holy basil plant has been recorded in Africa, and Asia and more specifically, Australia, India, China and the Middle East for centuries.

Holy basil is also known as tulsi, and is considered a sacred plant of both the Hindu faith and of the Indian subcontinent.  In fact, many Hindis have a holy basil plant growing in their homes.  It is believed that the holy basil plant spreads enlightenment as it grows.  Many Hindis worship the plant for both its benefits and its spiritual heritage, twice daily- in the morning and in the evening.  In addition, jewelry is frequently made from its stems and seeds.  It is sometimes worn as a rosary or other piece of spiritual jewelry.

Holy basil has remained inadequately studied in Western medicine.  However, research studies have confirmed its benefits as an antioxidant agent that significantly reduces free radical damage.  Tulsi has also proven to be an allopathic medicine compliment, as it increases the effectiveness of traditional medicines, as well as reduces the potentially dangerous effects of certain treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy.  Other studies have demonstrated holy basil’s positive effects on diabetes, allergies and asthma.  In fact, Eastern medicine proclaims holy basil as a “rasayana” or an herb that balances the body and promotes perfect health and a long life.  As such, it has anti-aging benefits and reduces the physiological effects of aging.

New Chapter Holy Basil

There are many choices in herbal supplementation, including holy basil.  New Chapter provides two alternatives in holy basil products, their traditional holy basil product and Holy Basil Force.  Both products offer increased balance and calmness.  In addition, both products are developed without using solvents, are prion free, and utilize a “whole food” approach to supplementation.  New Chapter uses holy basil that originates in the Himalayas to insure the purity of the herb.  New Chapter also offers a guarantee that their products have the largest spectrum of nutrients in their products.  The main difference in the two products is the extraction method used to create the holy basil extract, and each has a slightly different composition of nutrients.

New Chapter states that their holy basil product will work spiritually to tone and balance the body and chakra systems.  They also suggest that the New Chapter holy basil will help provide wellness benefits in several areas, including reducing stress and increasing energy.  It also claims benefits will be experienced in inflammation and joint health, as well as with increased heart health.

New Chapter’s first holy basil product uses water and alcohol to extract the nutrients from the holy basil plant.  New Chapter assures the ursolic acid content of the product.  It is naturally gluten-free and the soft gels are vegetarian.  Also, no artificial colors or flavors are used.  New Chapter suggests that each person consume two soft gels daily to obtain maximum benefit from their holy basil plant.

New Chapter also has developed a Force of Nature product line.  New Chapter Holy Basil Force is a potent tulsi extract with the equivalent of 12,730 mg of holy basil in every soft gel.  It uses a supercritical extraction method that not only extracts the nutrients from the holy basil plant, but also magnifies them by 50 times.  New Chapter guarantees the potency of eugenol, rosmarinic acid, ursolic acid, and cahyophyllenes in its product.  They also offer the most balanced and complete consistency of nutrients from the holy basil plant in this supplement.  The soft gel itself is created without chemicals and New Chapter suggests that the user take two soft gels daily to receive the maximum benefits from the product.

No matter which of the Holy Basil supplements a person chooses, New Chapter’s amazing products offer a guaranteed consistency of the key nutrients of the holy basil plant in a convenient, easy to use form.

Growing A Holy Basil Plant

The holy basil plant is an aromatic plant that naturally grows in India and Asia.  In its natural environment, it is a perennial plant, however when it is grown elsewhere it can be an annual plant due to differing weather conditions.  In India and Asia it grows as a perennial.  In other less tropical parts of the world it grows as an annual. Three main types of the holy basil plant exist in a family of over 200 varieties of basil plants.  Sri or rama holy basil is the most common type and is green leafed.  Krishna has dark green to purple leaves.  Vana grows wild and is frequently located in forest regions.

The sri or rama variety is the most commonly grown variety of the holy basil plant.  It grows as a bush that can reach 2 feet tall and can reach 2 feet in diameter.  The plant has long purple flowers and green leaves.  The leaves are slightly toothy in shape and ragged in shape.  The stems also have tiny hairs on them.  The holy basil plant is also a natural mosquito repellant and has a naturally spicy flavor.

One of the best ways to enjoy the benefits of the holy basil plant is to grow one for yourself.  Many Hindis today have a tulsi plant growing by the front door for good luck, prosperity, and wellness.  To begin growing your own holy basil plant, first purchase seeds from a reputable distributor.  The best time to plant the seeds are between April and May.  The seeds can be planted either in a greenhouse or in the ground itself.  It is best to plant the seeds in full sun or partial shade and does best between 65 and 70 degrees.  If the plants will be exposed to conditions that are not within this range, it is important to plant in pots that can be transported during extreme conditions.  Transporting them in adverse conditions also allows the plant to survive both winter and summer which gives them an annual growth in non-tropical environments.

You should use 1/3 grit soil when planting.  Lay the seed on top and cover with a thin layer of compost.  When the seeds are germinating it is important to water twice a day and maintain the moist soil environment.  The soil should be moist to the touch but not too dry or too wet.  In addition, using a water hose too early in the germination process will wash the seeds away instead of promoting growth and a water pitcher or mist setting should be employed.

After the plants begin to grow, you will need to move the plants and transplant them to approximately 1-2 feet apart.  This will allow for maximum growth.  Remember to water daily.  After hearty growth is experienced, the leaves and flowers can be harvested and brewed into tea or ingested.  It is best to harvest the long shoots in the morning to maximize both the flavors and the scent of the plant.  In addition, it is best to harvest from multiple plants instead of utilizing only one and stripping it of leaves and shoots.  When seeds are formed the plant can be pruned back and the seeds replanted or cultivated.

Holy Basil Tea

Holy bail tea has been used since around 5000 BC in India.  Holy basil tea, also known as tulsi tea, is made from the leaves and blossoms of the holy basil plant.  This plant has been heralded for over 5000 years in spiritual texts as a medicinal and spiritual plant with restorative abilities.  The main reason that the tea is so important to the health of its users stems from its anti-oxidant qualities.  This provides a layer of protection from bacterial and other infections.  It also increases the body’s innate abilities to fight infection, disease, stress, and germs.  In addition, the anti-oxidant qualities also act as free radical scavengers, eliminating the free radicals from the body before they create damage to the delicate system.  It also strengthens the body’s immune system and enables it to function at its highest capacity.

Holy basil tea has strong anti-bacterial qualities.  For this reason, it has been proven an effective treatment for bacteria such as E. coli and the flu.  It has even proven effective in the treatment of swine flu.  Holy basil tea is also an anti-viral agent.  It provides medical treatments for viral disease, such as respiratory illnesses, viral pneumonia, and viral influenza.  In traditional medicine, viral infections frequently go untreated because they do not respond to antibiotics, so this is precisely where holy basil can be effective.  Tulsi tea has proven effective in reducing fever and other complications of both bacterial and viral infections as well.

Tulsi tea has rejuvenating and anti-aging properties.  It balances the metabolism and reduces the physiological effects of aging.  In addition, it treats skin conditions and prevents the skin from losing moisture and helps the skin regain elasticity.  It also stimulates stamina and strength while maximizing mental development and clarity.  It is a powerful detoxifier and cleanses the blood stream and liver.

The tea is naturally caffeine free and its spicy flavor can be savored without additives such as sugar.  It is a herbal tea, in that it is not derived from the black or green tea varieties and frequently comes either in pure form or mixed with other teas to promote longevity and health.  The tea contains vitamin A, vitamin C, chlorophyll, calcium, iron, and zinc.  These vitamins serve to further strengthen the immune system and both fight disease and airborne illness, and develop the body’s different systems towards efficiency and health.  Many practitioners suggest drinking holy basil tea in the morning to provide an alternative to caffeinated drinks as well as offer further support for the body to combat the stresses encountered in modern life.  As many different types are available, it is important to compare the ingredients of each type as well as assure the purity of the brand.

The Correct Holy Basil Dosage

When choosing to include holy basil in your heath regimen, dosage becomes very important.  The type of holy basil product determines the holy basil dosage you are choosing to incorporate which is typically based on your age, size, general health, and manufacturer.  As with any health product, everyone should consult with a health professional to determine his or her exact holy basil dosage.

  1. Leaves – The leaves from a fresh, living holy basil plant can be chewed and ingested to provide health benefits. In addition, leaves can be eaten directly from the plant or the leaves can be boiled to create a tea from the leaves themselves. An average sized adult can ingest up to 12 leaves daily.
  2. Tea – Tulsi tea is available in many health stores. Each manufacturer will offer specific dosing instructions.  However, generally tea can be made using 8 oz water, and can be take in 4 oz increments 3 times a day.
  3. Sublingual - Holy basil extract can be available as a tincture that can be taken sublingually.  After referring to the manufacturer’s specifications, generally 40-60 drops can be taken 3 times a day.
  4. Seed Oil – Holy basil seed oil is obtained from extracting the oil from holy basil seeds.  It can be used to address skin issues, such as exema.  2-5 drops can usually be dropped onto the skin in specific areas.  Holy basil seed oil is also used in beauty and anti-aging creams.
  5. Paste - A paste can be made using holy basil powder and water and applied to bug bites, burns, or other areas that are experiencing illness and injury.  The holy basil powder can also be obtained by breaking open a holy basil gel capsule if needed.
  6. Powder - Holy basil powder is made from dried holy basil leaves.  The powder can be mixed with a drink, or placed in gelatin capsules, or taken in powder form.  Generally, 1000-2500 mg of the powder can be taken daily.
  7. Tablets – Numerous manufacturers produce the tablet form of holy basil.  These holy basil tablet’s dosage is usually 1-2 tablets daily.  However the packaging material provided with the package will define the dosing requirements for their individual product.

Again, the best way to determine your exact dosage and delivery method for holy basil is to speak to a health professional or expert that can look at your medical history, age, and related conditions and make accommodations for your specific situation.

Holy Basil Leaves

Growing a holy basil plant is a rewarding activity and one that can bring many health benefits.  Harvesting the leaves of a holy basil plant for medicinal use can offer numerous benefits.  In addition, the leaves can be used in several ways to bring healing benefits to its user.

Numerous health benefits can be obtained through harvesting the leaves of the holy basil plant.  In Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil is frequently included in cough and cold medicine, as it has expectorant qualities.  It also reduces inflammation, which is beneficial in treatments for respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis, allergies, asthma, influenza, and coughs.  Chewing the holy basil leaves also brings relief from cold and flu illnesses.

Holy basil leaves have also been used in pediatric cases.  Draining the juice from the leaves of a holy basil plant then has brought relief to children; fevers, aide in removing phlegm, and reducing a cough.

Many people drink the juice from the holy basil leaf or dry and grind the leaves to produce a powder from them to reduce stress.  Holy basil leaves have been used to increase memory, and treat stress related conditions, such as with stomach ulcers, and to purify the blood.  The juice from holy basil leaves also treats headaches and eases frazzled nerves.  Chewing on the leaves can also provide rapid relief from high blood pressure and high blood sugar.  Depression, bi-polar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other stress related conditions have also been treated through holy basil leaves for thousands of years.

The juice from the leaves also can provide relief from kidney stones and treat urinary tract infections.  Other systems of the body are also cleansed through ingesting the juice, such as the adrenal glands, liver, and pancreas.  This cleansing of bodily systems encourages the body to achieve a more balanced and efficient state.

There are four main ways to utilize the holy basil leaf:

  1. Direct Ingestion:  The first way is to directly eat the leaves themselves.  Eating the leaves directly provides immediate treatment to the mouth, teeth, and gastro-intestinal systems of the body.
  2. Juice:  The leaves can also be squeezed to make a juice. The juice can be mixed with a drink or used topically.
  3. Dried And Crushed:  Finally, the leaves can be dried and crushed to create a powder.  The powder can be used in gelatin capsules to provide ease of use.
  4. Topical Paste:  The leaves can be dried and crushed like in #3, but then the powder can be mixed with water and used to create a paste for topical use.