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  • Laura

The Bountiful Calendula

Updated: Oct 3, 2023


I love growing Calendula (Calendula officinalis). Put it in the ground, give it some water love, then in couple months, pop those flower tops off. The more flowers you pop off, the more flowers it gives. It’s the plant that keeps on giving, all summer long.


Calendula is not native to where we live, but it can be grown easily from seed in many parts of the world. Even better than how easy it is to grow is how healing this plant can be.


Medicinally, calendula is known for its skin healing properties (both external and internal!), is a digestive tonic, helps fight fungal infections, is a kidney and liver cleanser, and helps calm down muscle spasms. All this on top of having gorgeous orange flowers (sometimes yellow) and smells like summer on a bright, dewey day.


Calendula is often used as a poultice, it can be infused in oil, or tinctured in alcohol. There is a high resin content in the flower head which breaks down best in alcohol or lowly heated oil. Calendula can often be found in teas, which imparts much more of the aromatic qualities of the plant and can be soothing to the digestive tract.


Harvesting

When harvesting calendula, you are only looking for the flower top. Common practice is to collect the flowers early in the morning since this is a time when the flowers are full of their aromatics. Cut the flower heads right at the top of the stalks. I often pop the flower heads off with my fingernails. This can get a little sticky because the flowers have resinous constituents, but I don't mind because I know that's part of their medicine.


Recipe

If you are lucky enough to find yourself with some calendula, here are simple instructions that I learned from my teacher Elise Krohn, to make a solar infused calendula oil. If you don't have fresh flowers, dried calendula can also make a high quality infused oil.


Solar infused calendula oil

1. Collect flower heads, preferably freshly picked in the morning when the aromatics are at their peak.

NOTE: if using fresh flowers, let them wilt for up to 24 hours. This allows a bit of moisture to evaporate off so there is less moisture introduced to the oil.


2. Place flower heads in a glass jar (You can chop the flowers or keep them whole)


3. Cover flower heads until just submerged, with an oil of your choice. If using dry plant material, pour oil until there is 1-2 inches of headspace, to allow for expansion of the herb as it reconstitutes.


4. Now we must cover the glass jar. If the flowers are fresh, they will contain a lot more water that needs to evaporate off during this process. As the oil heats up in the sun, the water will evaporate and must be released from the jar so it does not spoil the oil.

  • You can either cover the jar with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and tie a rubber band around it. While a simple solution, this could potentially cause some of the aromatic medicine to be lost as some will likely evaporate with the water. You can still make powerful oil with this method, it’s just important to know the potential pitfall.

  • You could also put a lid on the jar, but check it every day for condensation and wipe off as needed. Lids also help protect from the environment. If you keep your oil open to the elements and rain comes, this could potentially ruin the whole batch

5. Strain with muslin cloth, cheesecloth, or unbleached coffee filter. Let the oil settle for several hours to overnight so that the sediment and water will fall to the bottom.


6. Pour the oil into a glass jar, leaving behind the water and sediment. Don’t forget to

label your oil including the date. Store in a cool dark place.


Fresh plant infused oils are more susceptible to mold due to the water content of the fresh plant. To help prevent this, use a jar can be filled to the top. This minimizes air exposure to plant material. Just like with tincture making, if the herbs are sticking out of the oil, push them down with a clean utensil to ensure they stay below the oil. Once your oil is pressed you can add preservatives like vitamin E (1 teaspoon per cup).

REFERENCES:

  • Gladstar, Rosemary. Medicinal Herbs A Beginner's Guide. North Adams: Story Publishing, 2012

  • Krohn, Elise. Advanced Medicine Making (via Vital Ways), 2021


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