Species of Basil
Including the story of Krishna Tulsi

The Indian name for Basil is Tulsi, or Toolsee, and the herb has a long-held reverence amongst the Hindu people of India, particularly Common Tulsi (ocimum villosum). The Tulsi plant is revered in respect of all gods, with no offering being believed sacred without its leaves.

As well as the popular Sweet Basil, there are numerous other different and intereting species, for example:

Ram Tulsi (ocimum gratissimum), which has antibacterial properties.  The essential oil extracted from the leaves has been experimentally shown to have effects which combat diarrhoea.

Ocimum sanctum, known as Krishna Tulsi or Holy Basil also has medicinal properties. Being sacred to Hindu peoples it is often grown around temples, and has the effect of repelling mosquitoes.  In similarity to Common Tulsi (ocimum villosum), it is held to be sacred to Vishnu and used in his worship. The Puranas say that Krishna (the eighth incarnartion, or avatar, of Lord Vishnu) assumed the form of Jalandhar (also known as Saukasura) and seduced Jalandhar's wife,  Vrinda (also known by Hindus as Brinda). When Krishna was discovered to have done this, he turned Vrinda into the Tulsi plant and put the leaves on his head as a mark of the regard that he held for her.

A similar story tells of how Toolsee was a the name of a disciple of Vishnu. Desiring to be his wife she excited the jealousy of Vishnu's wife, the Goddess Lakshmi, by whom Toolsee was transformed into the herb named after her.

The seeds of Babooye Tulsi (ocimum pilosum), when steeped in water, swell into a pleasant jelly, which is used has been used in India in cases of dysentry, chronic diarrhoea and catarrh.  Prepared by such steeping, the seeds are considered very nourishing and demulcent.

In his History of Chili, the Abbe Molina mentioned a species of basil which he called ocimum salinum.  This species is similar to common basil in appearance, except that the stalk is round and jointed.  According the Abbe Molina, although he noted that this species of the herb grows 60 miles from the sea, each morning it was covered with saline globules, which were hard and splendid, appearing at a distance as if they were morning dew.  He noted that each plant gave about an ounce of fine salt every day, which was collected by local people and used just like common salt, but had a more exquisite flavour.

Bush Basil (Ocimum minimum) is a dwarf variety, used for the same purposes as Sweet Basil. The seeds of bush basil should be sown in April.

Ocimum tenuiflorum, Sacred Basil, is a cultivated type of basil grown near buddhist temples, particularly in Thailand.

Cooking Basil and Culinary Uses
Growing Basil
History of Basil
Health benefits of Basil
Sweet Basil Plant and the Herb's Origins

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