Thursday, October 2, 2014

How I Made a Holy Basil Tincture

For those of you who have been patiently waiting to learn how I made a Holy Basil/Tulsi Tincture, today is the day that you have been waiting for! Over the weekend, I completed the process for making an alcohol-based Holy Basil tincture.  If you haven’t yet read my post about Holy Basil, feel free to check it out to learn more about this awesome super herb and its benefits.

Alcohol-based tinctures are very easy to make and they provide you with an extracted form of an herb that is convenient to carry.  They can also be easily taken in water.  My experiences thus far have primarily been limited to alcohol-based tincture making using fresh herbs that I have grown in my own garden, so that is the process that I am emphasizing here.  For those who wish to avoid alcohol, you can also make glycerin-based tinctures, and even vinegar-based tinctures, but I have yet to try those methods myself. 

The tincture making process is pretty simple: 

1.) Chop up your fresh herbs and put them into a clean and dry glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.   Mason jars work well for this, but you could certainly use any clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

2.) Pour enough 80 to 100 proof alcohol (such as vodka, gin, brandy, or grain or grape alcohol) to cover the herbs by two to three inches. 

3.)  Cover the jar with a lid and store in a warm place for approximately 4-6 weeks.  Shake daily to help infuse the herbs into the alcohol.

4.)  After 4-6 weeks, strain off the spent herbs from the finished tincture and discard/compost the plants.

5.)  Bottle your tincture as needed into a labeled dropper bottle.

The best scenario is to store your tinctures in a cool dark place, since ambient light can break down those super important medicinal compounds in the herbs that you want in the first place.  My personal solution for this is to store my tinctures in a cupboard, and I make my own homemade “label sleeves” made from cut paper bags that I wrap around the jars and fasten with tape to help reduce the amount of light that they are exposed to.  

According to Rosemary Gladstar, alcohol-based tinctures should stay good for many years, glycerin tinctures should stay good for about 2-3 years, and vinegar-based tinctures will keep for at least a year, and sometimes they will last even longer.

Dosages of tinctures are given in terms of drops or dropperfuls.  While I cannot recommend specific dosages for specific herbal tinctures, I can give you a quick list of dropper dosage equivalents:

1 Dropperful (35 drops) = ¼ teaspoon = 1 mL
2 ½ Dropperfuls (88 drops) = ½ teaspoon = 2.5 mL
5 Dropperfuls (175 drops) = 1 teaspoon = 5 mL

One of the trickiest parts to tincture making that I have encountered is how to keep from spilling them (and losing some of your work) when you are pouring the liquid tincture from one container to another.  I have to admit that I have not yet figured out a foolproof method for doing this, but using funnels sure does help a lot.  I use two different sized funnels that I have at home: one that has a very skinny end to allow for the tincture to be poured directly into the dropper bottle, and a larger one with a wide end that came with my canning kit that helps me to pour tinctures from one jar to another.  I also place a clean bowl underneath the dropper bottle as I am pouring tincture into it to hopefully catch spills.  This is not always 100% effective, however, and is more of an art form than anything else.

My recommendation is to use organic alcohol for making your tinctures, if you can find it.  It certainly doesn’t have to be a top of the line brand (unless you want to spend that kind of money), but you are making herbal remedies here, and I presume that one of your health and wellness goals is to reduce your exposure to chemicals.  I also prefer to use organic alcohol for these purposes due to the use of GMO crops in many conventional products.

I purchased my dropper bottles from Mountain Rose Herbs, but I’m sure that you could buy them elsewhere as well, including some natural food stores.

You might also explore making your own herbal tincture formulas using several different complementary herbs.  As I always recommend, please do your own research to determine which herbs work well together and which ones are right for your personal use.  Also, please consult with a health practitioner about which herbs may or may not be right for you if you have any particular health concerns, are taking any medications, or are pregnant or nursing.

Below is an outline of the process by which I made my tinctures.  Notice that I made several this weekend: a Holy Basil tincture, a lemongrass tincture, and a Jiaogulan tincture (also known as Gynostemma), an adaptogenic super herb that I am growing in a pot.

Holy Basil/Tulsi and Lemongrass harvested from the garden, along with my herb clippers.

Chopping up the Holy Basil.

The Holy Basil in its new mason jar “home” for the next six weeks and the organic vodka that I used to make the tinctures.    

Filling the jar with enough vodka to cover the herbs.  Some leaves did float, but they settled down some after a couple of days.    

Cutting up the lemongrass with kitchen shears.  I found that my herb clippers weren’t working too well on these thick and course blades of grass, so I took out the heavy artillery and switched to cutting the lemongrass with my kitchen shears.    

Ready to infuse for six weeks…

My Jiaogulan (Gynostemma) plant that I have growing in a pot.  I am uncertain as to whether this plant from Asia would become invasive in my garden, so I keep it in a pot. 

Cutting up the Jiaogulan for the tincturing process.    

Everything that I need to complete my tincture making process after the three tinctures have been sitting for about six weeks (except for the larger canning funnel).  Note that the third jar label should read “Jiaogulan” instead of “Jiaojuglan.”    

The Holy Basil tincture with the spent herbs.    

Ready to pour the Holy Basil tincture into the jar and strain the spent plant material with a fine mesh stainless steel strainer.    

Pressing as much liquid out of the spent herbs as possible.  As you can see here, some spilling did occur when I poured the tincture into the jar, so it can take a little care and effort to keep from spilling some of your tincture.  Still learning best practice techniques…

Pouring the finished tincture back into its original jar after removing all plant materials.    

Ready to pour the tincture into the dropper bottle…    

The finished Holy Basil tincture.    

All finished!!!    

This post is shared at Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Hop


  1. Hi Rebecca,
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful and easy to follow holy basil tincture tutorial at the Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.I can't wait to try it. I appreciate it!

    1. Awesome, Deborah! As you can probably tell, I have been on a big herbal medicine kick of late. While I am not a professional herbalist, I have a big interest in it, and love to share with others what I have learned. I hope you that find lots of success with your own herbal tincture making.

  2. Hi Rebecca,
    I just found this post while looking for a different recipe on making Holy Basil Tinture. The 1st recipe said to use the flower tops of the Holy Basil. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. Hi Pamela,

      Thanks for the great question. According to Rosemary Gladstar's "Medicinal Herbs" book, both the leaves and the flower tops are medicinal for basil and holy basil. In another one of my herbal reference books, it mentions that the entire plant can be used for medicinal purposes. Might as well not waste any part of this awesome and tasty adaptogenic plant :).

      When I make tinctures and tea from holy basil, I personally have included the stems, leaves, and the flower tops, and that technique has worked well for me. I wouldn't shy away from using all three parts in your tulsi tinctures.

  3. Hi Rebecca - wondering what your thoughts are on tinctures made with dried herbs vs fresh?

    1. Hi there,

      Great question :). According to Rosemary Gladstar, both fresh and dried herbs can be used to make tinctures, and that high-quality dried herbs can be just as effective as fresh herbs in herbal remedies. However, the quality of dried herbs makes a big difference. For dried herbs, the herbs should be picked at their prime, dried quickly at the right temperature, and then packaged and stored with integrity.

      When purchasing dried herbs, be sure to seek out a company that grows using organic methods and emphasizes quality and integrity as much as possible.

      I recommend using fresh herbs when they are available, but high quality dried can be just as effective when that is what you can find.

      To your health!