How to Harvest & Store Holy Basil

Overview

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is closely related to the sweet basil you put into your spaghetti sauce. Called Tulsi in India, Ayurvedic practitioners have used it for centuries to treat a wide assortment of diseases, from headaches to cancer. It is classed as an adaptogen, meaning that it is good for whatever ails you. A 1991 study with animals (Indian Journal of Pharmacology) showed it to be a powerful anti-stress agent, better than Asian or Siberian ginseng. This clove-scented herb is easy to grow and often self-sows, giving you a new crop the following spring.

Step 1

Wait until your plant(s) flower because the flowers hold more of the potent essential oils than the leaves. When flower spikes form, snip them off down to their base; the plant will continue to send up more flower spikes from the area you cut. It's fine to include some leaves as well as the flowering tops.

Step 2

Tie small bunches of the flower spikes at their base with string or twine. Then hang them in a warm, dark, dry, well-ventilated area such as a garage clothesline.

Step 3

Alternatively, spread your cut flower spikes on an old window screen that you prop up on a table with bricks or pieces of wood.

Step 4

Check your holy basil every day to monitor its drying progress. When it feels crunchy, take it down and strip the dried foliage off the stems. Depending on the weather, this will happen within 1 week or less.

Step 5

Store your dried holy basil in tightly sealed glass jars or plastic zipper bags, which you can keep in your refrigerator or freezer to ensure freshness.

Tips and Warnings

  • Although no adverse reactions have been reported from use of holy basil, always practice caution whenever you use any herb as medicine and be sure to consult with your health care provider before doing so, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden snips
  • Warm, dark, dry, well-ventilated area
  • String or twine
  • Screen
  • Bricks or wood
  • Plastic zipper bags or glass jars with tight lids

References

  • Glenbrook Farms
  • Dr. Andrew Weil
  • Basil Guide; freezing

Who Can Help

  • Plant Cultures
Keywords: holy basil, Ocimum sanctum, harvesting herbs

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.