Holy Basil Tincture is Easy to Make and Easy to Take

Making tinctures is easy.  The basic idea is to put so much of an herb into vodka that it will become a medicine.  (A smaller quantity of the herb could be used, in many cases, to produce a flavored vodka.)  Read on to see how we make Holy basil tincture on our farm.

We start with cheap vodka of 80 or 100 proof.

We use quart jars and half-gallon jars.  To make tinctures on a home scale, you might want to use half-pint jars or baby food jars.

Many recipes call for dried herbs, but that’s largely because dried herbs are easier to purchase in stores.  I prefer to tincture fresh herbs.

To tincture fresh leaves or fresh mixed aerial parts (leaves together with flowers, stems, buds, etc) it is generally best to stuff as much plant material into the jar as possible.  Roots and dried plant material tend to have higher concentrations of the active compounds, but with fresh leaves, you’ll usually want as much of the herb as you can get into your container.

In this case, we filled our holy basil tincture jar halfway with vodka and then went to the herb garden and stuffed as much freshly cut holy basil into the jar as possible.  It was quite a few handfuls of holy basil.  This brought the liquid up to near the top of the jar.

I used a spoon to press the topmost holy basil leaves and stems under the alcohol.  Then I tasted the tincture.  It already tasted like holy basil.

If you’re working with powerful medicinal herbs, it can be important to avoid making your tincture too strong.  So I would generally recommend that beginning tincture makers start with very safe herbs.  Many of these safe herbs are common in kitchens as well a medicine cabinets.  Echinacealemon balm, valerian, thyme*****, lavender and plantain, are some examples of very safe herbs.  However, be aware that when you make a tincture, a much larger amount of active compounds is extracted and absorbed than when you make a tea or eat a fresh herb.

Holy basil is often used culinarily and as a tea; its has a broad range of benefits including ******** however it does have some contraindications, most prominently for people taking blood thinners, and women trying to conceive.

Taking tinctures is also easy.  To take a tincture, put 1-2 dropperfuls in a large spoon or small glass of water and drink.  If you have doubts about sure how much is the best amount, you can start with less and then you can work your way up.  Consult your doctor or herbalist before adding a tincture to your **********

****General safety of herbal meds*****

*****Dosage; certainty that you have the right thing; why to trust yourself more than a corporation*****

For more information on how to make tinctures, consult The Mountain Rose Herbs guidelines or the Wise Woman Herbal guidelines.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, so is better to use services as Test Country to do drug tests online.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Fall Reads: Five Books on Seed Saving

From the outset, seed saving can seem like a rather simple affair. How hard could it be to collect seeds from your vegetable plants right? When you start trying to learn, it becomes apparent that things are a bit more complicated then that. All of a sudden your thrown into the world of seeds and you’re trying to learn about things like isolation distances, pollination dynamics, and seed cleaning methods. This fall, add one of these five books to your garden shelf for all the seed saving information you need.

Seed To Seed: Saving Our Vegetable Heritage

Written by Suzanne Ashworth , Seed to Seed provides a comprehensive look at seed saving. It’s perfect for complete beginners or those looking to improve their knowledge. Find information about both common and rare vegetables and herbs from seed collection and storage to maintaining variety purity.

The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving

This wonderful book was a partnership between The Organic Seed Alliance and Seed Savers Exchange. It’s a great companion to Seed to Seed. It focuses more on main vegetable varieties with helpful guidelines for both farmers and home gardeners. It also features new seed saving research.

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties

Create your own locally adapted varieties. Carole Deppe provides an informative look at seed saving and plant breeding for both farmers and gardens. Plus, the book is filled with inspiring tales of such interesting vegetables as popping chickpeas, hairy mustards, purple peas, rainbow corn, storage watermelons, and many more.

The Organic Seed Grower

“An essential guide to high-quality, organic seed production: well grounded in fundamental principles, brimming with practical techniques, thorough in coverage, and remarkably well organized, accessible, and readable.” – Jeff McCormack, Southern Exposure founder. This book is a valuable tool for any seed saver, covering topics like seed-borne diseases, reproductive biology of crop plants, seed crop climates and more.

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties

This book obviously doesn’t provide a comprehensive look at seed saving like those mentioned above, but it is perfect for any tomato enthusiast. Author Craig LeHoullier introduced Cherokee Purple tomatoes to SESE and the world. His book offers incredible insight into all aspects of tomato growing and breeding.

Perfect for your fall reading list, these 5 books can help you save seeds of your own, whether you want to help preserve your favorite heirlooms or breed a local cucumber variety. They’re also a great option to keep in mind for the holidays.

Winter Gardening

Fall is officially upon us but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop growing. If you visited the Heritage Harvest Festival this past weekend you may have gotten a chance to see SESE’s Ira Wallace and Pam Dawling of the Twin Oaks Community give a talk on winter gardening. They talked crops, season extension, and how they keep growing through the winter. In case you missed it here’s a few tips to get you started with a winter garden of your own. 

What to Plant

There’s a surprising number of crops that can be grown in a winter garden. Selecting plants and varieties that have been bred for fall and winter gardens will increase your success. 


One of the largest categories is hardy greens. Many greens are quick growing and tolerate low temperatures making them ideal for overwintering in the Southeast. Consider planting mustard greens, lettuce, spinach, collards, kale, cress, arugula, and Swiss Chard.

Root Crops

Many root crops are also quite cold hardy. Try beets, radishes, turnips, carrots, and kohlrabi. Even when they’re not growing they can be heavily mulched and left in the ground for fresh use throughout the winter. 


Along with the brassicas that are typically considered cooking greens like collards and kale broccoli and cabbage are also quite cold tolerant. However, these typically need to be seeded or transplanted well in advance. Depending on your zone you may need to plant these in the middle of summer for an early winter harvest. Alternatively, fall planted crops may be overwintered to produce an extra early spring harvest.

Garlic & Onions

Here in Virginia, we start bulb onions in the fall and overwinter them in cold frames. We’ve found the helps us grow large bulbs. This method may not work for those in the deep south or northeast.

Additionally, crops like garlic and perennial onions should always be planted in the fall for a harvest the following summer. For more information on these visit our previous post, The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Great Garlic, Perennial Onions, & Shallots

When to Plant

Exactly when you plant is largely dependent on your plant hardiness zone. If you don’t know what that means,  check out our post, Everything You Need to Know About Plant Hardiness Zones.

You can also find a planting calendar for zone 7 here or get personalized planting reminders when you use our garden planner.

It’s also important to realize that even if you have a greenhouse, plants’ growth slows down when they get less than 10 hours of sunlight per day. Planting on time is crucial if you want to harvest during the fall and winter.

Cold Protection 

Garage Frame Hoop House

Even the simplest protection from cold, wind, and frost can greatly extend your harvest season. 

Cold Frames

Cold frames can be as simple or as fancy as you want. At SESE we’ve made many quick cold frames using straw square bales and corrugated plastic sheets. They work wonderfully and the straw can be used as mulch when the bale begins to break down and no longer makes an effective cold frame. If you want a permanent structure that looks nice many people build wooden frames and use old windows on hinges for lids. 

Cold frames are ideal for starting cold tolerant crops in the fall and spring and perfect for small salad greens. It’s important to remember to vent them on sunny days because they can heat up quickly.

Row Cover/Low Tunnels

Much like cold frames, you can create low tunnels on nearly any budget. All you need is hoops and clear plastic or a row cover type fabric. Hoops can be made from PVC pipes and stakes, conduit, other tubing, or even flexible saplings that have had their rough spots sanded down. Putting row cover over hoops is much more effective at preventing frost damage than just laying fabric over the plants. 

When you’re purchasing row cover it’s important to look at what weight it is. During the fall lighter weight options are a good choice. They provide some protection from the chill and keep out pests but still let light through. At SESE we’ve used tulle fabric (like the kind tutus are made from) as a cheap alternative. During the winter, when plants aren’t growing much anyways you should select heavier row cover even though it blocks more light. It will provide more protection from wind and cold. 

Clear plastic is also an option. However, unlike row cover it isn’t breathable. Clear plastic will quickly heat up on a sunny day so it needs to be vented. Row cover is often a better option for those with hectic schedules. 

High Tunnels/Greenhouses

High tunnels and greenhouses are ideal for winter production as well as seed starting during the spring. During the workshop mentioned above, Pam Dawling discussed how they use a hoop house with two layers of plastic to grow year round at Twin Oaks Community. They’ve found that their hoop house keeps the inside air 7°F warmer than outside! They also found that plants in the hoop house tolerate temperatures 14°F colder than they would if they were field grown.

Pam Dawling has great information about hoop house growing on her website, Sustainable Market Farming, and on SlideShare.

Like other methods that use plastic, hoop houses can heat up on sunny days and sometimes need to be vented. You can add further protection by using row covers within your hoop house. 

Having a greenhouse or high tunnel is a dream for many small grower and gardeners but it can be quite the investment. During the workshop, Pam Dawling also discussed one way small market growers can get financial assistance when building a high tunnel. Look at grants through the Natural Resources Conservation Service High Tunnel System Initiative

You can also build your own greenhouse. We mention some ideas in this post or you can find others DIYs. 

Happy gardening!

Saving the Past for the Future