Also late last week, I taught a class of 3 women, all hard working, all with office jobs, all stressed out and dispirited. We did a restorative-type of workout, ending with a long back stretch, then on our way out I stopped them all in the garden and introduced them to Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum). She’s an adaptogen, meaning she helps the body adapt to stressful environments. “Adaptogen” is a great classification coming out of the far East- a Russian scientist coined the term in the 1960’s, and research on Siberian, Chinese and Indian herbs such as Holy Basil, Rhodiola, and Schisandra is finally being translated into English so information is becoming more available to us over here. She has a delightful, pungent smell and taste that’s reminiscent of Italian Basil, but with a big kick of Anise or Cinnamon or something spicy, and a freshness that’s unmistakable. Traditionally, I’m told, special pots are thrown in India just for these plants, and people keep them right outside the door of their home. Everyone eats a leaf as they pass by daily, and so are constantly receiving what my teachers have termed a ‘tonic level’ dose (as compared to a harder hitting, higher quantity ‘medicinal’ dose). I encouraged these 3 women to stop at a garden center like the little one on the nearby highway that also sells produce, and see if they have any left even this late in the season. She’ll appreciate being rescued and can be a huge help to our lifestyles.
I make an easy sun tea from my Holy Basil, clipping 2 or 3 stalks (flowers are good on this Basil) and putting them in a quart jar with water. After a few hours the tea is tasty. Last weekend I made a jar on Saturday morning and forgot it, leaving it on my desk with the windows of the studio open, it was in the mid-80’s both days, until Monday morning. I expected to have to throw it out, but a deep sniff and a cautious sip told me the ‘tea’ was perfectly fine, deeply flavored and vibrant with nothing at all ‘off’ about it!
I also enjoy a daily dose of a Holy Basil Elixir I made last summer. I filled a gallon jar with stalks, filled it about ¼ full with local honey and ¾ brandy (I use E&J, because I was told it was the purest and haven’t embarked on a brandy research project yet!) This sat for several weeks, with frequent upendings and shakings as the honey slowly dissolved in the brandy. Finally, after maybe 2 months, I strained it into large bottles. The elixir is delicious and uplifting, and I usually carry a dropper bottle of it in my purse with me for stressful weeks.
There's great complimentary work to be done between the plants and movement, between diet and exercise, between the mind and the body. That's something I teach already- new clients are surprised at how much they need to think about moving, and experienced clients continue to discover new feelings and sensations as muscle and body awareness grows. The plants provide those lessons to the rest of the body systems as well, completing the circle of self.