Holy Basil

Ocimum tenuiflorum

Life Cycle: Annual

Family: Lamiaceae

Overview

Description

Holy basil, also called Tulsi, is a warm aromatic member of the mint family native to the Indian subcontinent. The flowering plant is revered and used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine. The stems are hairy and bear simple toothed or entire leaves oppositely along the stem. The fragrant leaves are green or purple, depending on the variety and the flowers are small, white and tubular with green or purple sebals.  

Part Used

Leaves and Flower (together): The leaves have a strong clove-like, somewhat bitter green/herbaceous aroma. The leaves contain ursolic, rosmarinic acids and eugenol. 

Medicinal Uses

Actions

Adaptogen, anti-inflammatory 

Indications

Anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, and anti-cancer.

  • An overall tonifying and invigorating herb, holy basil relieves anxiety, toxin-induced and  psychological stress.
  • Lowers blood sugar levels without side effects. 
  • Protects the heart and lowers blood pressure. 
  • Holy basil increases the body’s levels of antioxidant molecules which protect cellular membranes by removing damaging free radicals. This also helps reduce cancer. 
  • Enhances the activity of liver detoxification enzymes to increase defenses against free radicals.

Dosage

Tincture 1-2 mil 1-4 times daily. Due to holy basil’s ability to lower blood sugar, use with caution with diabetic or hypoglycemic disorders. May alter insulin’s effect.

Safety

Not recommended for use if pregnant. Due to holy basil’s ability to lower blood sugar, use with caution with diabetic or hypoglycemic disorders. May alter insulin’s effect.

Cultivation

Growing Conditions

  • Holy basil grows well in loamy and fertile soil with good drainage with a pH level around 6 to 7.5. 
  • Grows best in full sun, can survive in shade (needs at least 4 hours of sunlight per day)
  • Sow outdoors in late spring or early summer and thrives when temperature is around 70 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Should be started indoors 6 to 12 weeks before the last frost.
  • Do not plant outside until the last frost has passed.

Propagation 

  • Using black mulch weed paper is suggested to keep the soil hot, and eliminate weeds.
  • Germinates in 1 – 2 weeks in a greenhouse.
  • Use hand spade
  1. Fill the plug tray with potting soil mixture. 
  2. Place one seed in each plug.
  3. Push seed down into potting mixture ¼ of an inch deep.
  4. Cover seeds.
  5. Water seeds with sprayer and keep them in a place where they will receive morning sun.
  6. Check progress daily and note in log.
  7. When seedlings have grown 2 or 3 true sets of leaves, carefully transplant them outdoors taking care not to disturb the root system.

Transplantation 

  • Dig hole with spade large enough to transplant plug.
  • Remove the plant from the plug by squeezing the bottom of the plug or pinching the plant out of the plug. Be careful not to damage roots. 
  • Leave 12 inches between plants.
  • Plant rows 28 inches apart.
  • Place plants in hole (if there are a lot of roots be sure to loosen the roots so they can breathe). 
  • Cover roots up to stalk with soil. 
  • Lightly water plants to avoid root shock. 

Planting

Direct planting

  1. Sow seeds straight into the ground in late spring. 
  2. Dampen soil and firmly press seed into the ground.
  3. Gently sprinkle a firm layer of soil over seed. 
  4. Once you have sown the seeds, gently cover them with a cloche.
  5. Keep the soil moist. After two weeks the plants will germinate.  

Pests 

Holy basil is generally pest and disease free. When grown in poor conditions, holy basil grows more susceptible to common pests like mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites and sometimes whiteflies. 

Companion plants

Rosemary, basil 

Harvest

The best time to harvest holy basil is before the flowers appear. This will happen once your plant reaches about 12” tall.  You may harvest three to five times throughout the growing season.

Harvesting Tools

  • Collection bag – cloth or paper (something breathable to avoid mold) 
  • Wicker Basket – breathable tool for collecting herbs
  • A small stool or sitting mat is optional. It may be helpful when harvesting for a long period of time.

Harvesting Procedure  

  • Cut the holy basil 6 – 8” inches from the end of the branch (leave 3 – 5” of stalk in the ground for the plant to grow back) . 
  • Examine holy basil sprig for any bugs, and remove any you see. 
  • Pinch off any leaves that are discolored, diseased, or damaged. 
  • Place sprigs in a basket or bag. 

Tincture Procedure

Items for Production

  • Grinder or food processor
  • Disposable vinyl gloves
  • Alcohol 100-120  proof (50-60%) 
  • 1 gallon wide mouth mason jar with lid
  • Metal strainer
  • Wide-mouth canning funnel, narrow funnel for pouring into final jars
  • Chopstick to stir
  • Scale 
  • Tincture press
  • Cheese cloth or press filter bags

Procedure

  1. Put on a pair of disposable vinyl gloves.
  2. Remove dirt and impurities.
  3. Finely chop herbs.
  4. Weigh the harvested milky oats to be used and document the weight.
  5. Measure alcohol needed to equal twice the weight of fresh plant material.
  6. Pour the alcohol over the plant material in a 1 gallon wide mouth jar to cover the herbs.
  7. Stir with a chopstick to remove any air bubbles and ensure that there is no plant material exposed to the air.
  8. Cover the jar tightly.
  9. Label the jar with:
    • Plant name, 
    • Alcohol content, 
    • Date, 
    • Source of herb or harvest location.
  10. Place the jar in a dark place for 4 weeks or more. The tincture may be left to mature for several months. 
  11. Shake up the tincture batch jar periodically (shaking daily is preferable). 
  12. After the curing period, pour off the alcohol through a strainer into a separate glass container. 
  13. Place the plant matter that remains in a filter bag or a cheese cloth and wring out the remaining liquid.
  14. You may also place this bag in the herb press. 
  15. Tighten the press until all of the remaining tincture is pressed out of the dregs. 
  16. Release the pressure and take out the compressed plant material cake. Add it to your compost. 

Dried  Holy Basil Tea

Items for Production

  • Disposable vinyl gloves
  • Clean water
  • Washing vats
  • Colander
  • Plant Dehydrator
  • Vita mix commercial blender
  • Storage bags

Procedure

  1. Put on a pair of disposable vinyl gloves.
  2. Weigh fresh Holy Basil to be used and document the weight.
  3. Place the plant material in a large container of clean room temperature water.
  4. Agitate gently to remove insects, soil foreign plant material etc.
  5. Repeat this procedure again.
  6. Rinse well.
  7. Place plant material in a colander over the sink to drain excess water
  8. Shake colander to promote drainage.
  9. Allow to sit until heavy dripping is subsided.
  10. Spread the plant material  evenly across dehydrator trays so that there is even airflow.
  11. Stack trays into the dehydrator.
  12. Set the dehydrator to 100°.
  13. Set the timer to 48 hours.
  14. At the end of the cycle check to see if flower material is fully dried.
  15. If not dried to your satisfaction set timer for another 48 hours.
  16. Dried plant material can now be placed in the vita mix food processor in small amounts.
  17. Use the pulse setting to mill the plant material down to the desired size for bulk tea
  18. If powder is desired the vita mix will be run for the amount of time it takes to break plant material into the appropriate powder.
  19. Upon completion, place the dried plant material in tightly sealed storage bags or containers.
  20. Weigh the yield and document the weight.
  21. Carefully label the storage bags or containers with plant name, weight, source, and the date.
  22. Store in a dark dry place.