Last year, I was able to take photos and videos of the herb farm at different times, which by Divine Grace ended up being the key stages, resulting in a kind of visual documentation of the process. Thus, I will be sharing those images across a number of posts, to give others a sense of participation in the joy and wonder of nature’s bounty.
First of all, some of you may already know that for decades Amma has been praising the medicinal benefits of tulasi, or holy basil . Of the several varieties available, she has repeatedly emphasized that Krishna Tulasi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) has the most powerful medicinal properties. This is the type of tulasi that has deep purple stems and leaves that turn a similar deep purple when exposed to powerful sunlight.
I remember many years ago when the wife of a particular country’s head of state came to see Amma, mentioning that she had breast cancer, Amma immediately instructed her to eat fresh tulasi leaves every day. She told me to bring a tulasi plant for the First Lady, somehow intuiting that I had one in my room, I suppose! When I brought the plant, however, Amma said “Not this type, you should give her Krishna Tulasi, as it is more powerful.” Sadly, I did not have Krishna Tulasi with me at the time, but later we were able to deliver one to the First Lady, much to her joy.
After experiences like this, I knew we needed to make Krishna Tulasi the cornerstone of our herb farm. With the help of two very dedicated Japanese farmers, we were able to sprout 2700 Krishna Tulasi seedlings in our greenhouse last year.
The photos below were taken on May 27, 2016.
Thousands of tulasi seedlings…
Richo Cech, a well respected American herbalist, calls this variety “Amrita Tulasi”. He says it “has a wonderful aroma and tests very high for rosmarinic acid…. We tested this cultivar and confirmed the eugenol marker. This is the holy basil my wife and I grow for ourselves to make into tea. We find it very satisfying, with aroma most appealing. Traditional usage (Ayurveda): stress, anxiety, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and dementia.”
As the seedlings mature, the leaves begin to take on a wine-colored hue…
St Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is another favorite of herbalists worldwide, due to the medicinal effect of extracts and teas made from its bright yellow flowers. Mentioned in the 4th century European herbal text “Herbarium of Apuleius,” it is traditionally used as an antidepressant and to restore damaged nerve tissue and strengthen the urinary organs. We were blessed with very good germination rates, ending up with over 700 plants.
Another very successful herb was thyme (Thymus vulgaris), of which we were able to produce 1100 some odd plants. Everyone knows about the culinary application of this herb, but people are often surprised to hear that it has medicinal properties, as well. The flowers, leaves, and oil of thyme have been used to treat bed-wetting, diarrhea, stomach ache, arthritis, sore throat, cough, bronchitis, and as a diuretic.
Another medicinal plant that may come as a surprise to some is marshmallow (Althaea officinalis). Originally, the root of this plant was an ingredient of the candy that still bears its name, though no longer contains the herb. The same 4th century Herbarium of Apuleius recommends the root of the plant for sores, body stiffness, and foot diseases, like gout. In traditional herbal medicine, the leaves, flowers and roots are used variously as an immune stimulant, for irritation of mucous membranes, and as a gargle for sore throat, as well as for ulcers of the mouth, throat and gastric system.
In a similar vein, we also have licorice! The root of the cold hardy Chinese variation (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) we are growing has been used since ancient times as a traditional Chinese medicine, throughout Asia and as far as the Middle East. Licorice is valued by herbalists around the world for the wide variety of health benefits attributed to it, such as healing digestive illnesses, boosting the immune system, pain relief, easing respiratory congestion and sore throat, reduction of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia symptoms, and prevention of heart disease.
Hyssop was considered by the ancient Celts to be the most purifying of all herbs, and was also used for religious purification in ancient Egypt. Today, many herbalists use its dark blue, fragrant flowers for their traditional application in treating the common cold. The essential oil includes the chemicals thujone and phenol, which are said to give it antiseptic properties.
Last year we tried growing this herb as an experiment, which went very well. This year we plan to expand the area to about 150 plants.
Last year, our Japanese farmers successfully sprouted over 400 astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) plants, as well. This variety has a history of use as an herbal medicine in both traditional Chinese and Persian medicine. In Chinese medicine it has been used to reinforce vital energy (qi) and protect against illness. Its extracts are often marketed for their life-prolonging effects.
Along with licorice, one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine is an herb known as “baical skullcap” (Scutellaria baicalensis, Huang qin) which was recommended to us by Richo Cech. The seed sprouting efforts resulted in about 150 seedlings of this precious plant.
In Chinese medicine, baical skullcap has a broad range of applications: antiallergic, diuretic, hypotensive, antibacterial, antiviral, tranquilizing and fever-reducing, commonly used for treatment of dysentery, hepatitis, staph. It appears to be a good source for flavonoid compounds, and several chemical compounds have been isolated from the root, the major ones being baicalein, baicalin, wogonin, norwogonin, oroxylin A and β-sitosterol are the major ones.
Last but not least, we also had great success with an old herbal favorite, chamomile…
Chamomile tea is one of the most famous varieties, traditionally used for a sore stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, and as a gentle sleep aid. The 700 chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla aka Matricaria recutita) seedlings that sprouted grew vigorously in the greenhouse and were soon ready for planting…
In the next post, we will see how the seedlings looked after being planted in the field…