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Calendula: How to make infused olive oil and salve

Jun 4th, 2017 | Category: Crafty

by Corina Sahlin

Calendula is a cheerful annual flower known for its beauty and medicinal qualities. I use it in my garden, for medicine and soap making. Cheesemakers and cooks used to add the petals to butter, cheese and custards to make them look more golden. Either grow the plants from seed and collect the petals yourself, or buy dried flower petals. (Rose Mountain Herbs sells dried calendula in bulk online, or check with your local growers.)

If you grow your own plants, make sure you purchase the correct seeds. You want Calendula Officinalis, not other kinds of cultivated marigolds. I seeded half a flower bed years ago, and it faithfully comes back every year – voluntarily spreading cheer in other places, too. Be aware it wanders and spreads because its seeds are prolific.

To make the infused oil, pick calendula blooms when bright and open. Dry the flowers or purchase dried blooms and fill a jar with the dried blooms and olive oil (above). Shake well and let sit for 4-6 weeks in a sunny window.  COURTESY PHOTOS

To make the infused oil, pick calendula blooms when bright and open. Dry the flowers or purchase dried blooms and fill a jar with the dried blooms and olive oil (above). Shake well and let sit for 4-6 weeks in a sunny window.
PHOTOS BY CORINA SAHLIN

Calendula has been used for eons to heal wounds and irritated skin. It is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, antifungal, antiviral, and an immunostimulant. Since the properties in calendula stimulate the production of collagen, this plant helps to minimize scarring and wounds, and also helps with stretch marks, sunburn, diaper rash and dry skin.

My favorite way to use calendula is to infuse it in olive oil, which I then make into goat milk soaps. Another favorite is to make salve with it. Let me show you how.

 

Infused olive oil: Step by step

When the flowers are gorgeously bright and open, harvest them.  Harvest them every day if you can: the more you cut them, the more they will bud and grow. I don’t use scissors – I squeeze just below the blossom with my thumb and index finger, and the top pops off.  You don’t want the green stem to come with it, because then it takes longer to dry. My honey bees LOOOOOOVE calendula! So when I’m out there in my harvesting frenzy, I take care not to squeeze an innocent bee and get stung by it.

Dry the flowers on a screen in a warm place in your house or use a dehydrator. I dry them in my greenhouse for a couple of days. Make sure air can circulate around the petals freely, and that the flowers dry completely (especially the fleshy part in the middle), otherwise the moisture could cause trouble later (rancidity, bacteria) when you put them in oil. Once dry, I pick the petals off some of the blossoms so I can put them directly into my goatmilk soaps to add color and texture.

However, for infusing the dried blossoms in oil, you don’t need to go through all the hard work of picking the petals off.

Blooming calendula.

Blooming calendula.

To make calendula-infused oil, let time and warmth do their magic. Stuff a jar full of the dried petals and pour enough olive oil over them to submerge every single petal. Put on a lid and shake it up. Then, let the jar sit in a sunny window for four to six weeks. Some people put the jar into a paper bag so that UV light doesn’t break down the medicinal constituents. Shake it daily, if you remember. Some people like to speed up the process and put the oil and flowers into a crock pot set at medium heat and warm everything for five hours. I prefer the slow, sunny method. It seems more natural, alchemical and more potent that way.

Once thoroughly infused, strain the flowers through cheesecloth or an old pillow case. Squeeze everything really well to get every bit of the oil out. Discard the spent flower blossoms into the compost.

Store the oil in a cool place (not the fridge) and use the oil directly on your skin or as a carrier oil in soap.

 

Salve: What you need

This is super easy, very quick and saves you money! You need: 4 ounces calendula-infused olive oil (see above), 1/2 ounce grated beeswax (about 2 tablespoons packed down), and about 20 drops of essential oil (this is optional). I love lavender with this!

Dried petals.

Dried petals.

Put a stainless steel bowl inside a pot of boiling water. This creates a double boiler effect. Melt the beeswax inside the stainless steel bowl, and once it’s liquid, add the calendula oil. Keep this in the double boiler and warm it up for about a minute, and then stir it together so it’s all mixed and blended well. Add essential oil if desired. Pour this into a small container and let it cool. You can buy little tins for this, or just use what you have in your home.

Corina Sahlin homesteads with her husband and three homeschooled children on five acres in the Upper Skagit Valley. On their homestead, they teach homesteading and wilderness survival skills, and they also lead retreats and summer camps. Corina also offers online courses available at www.courses.marblemounthomestead.com.

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