Monday, 22 October 2012

Calendula Herbal Oil

I had the perfect spring weekend. Picking leaves and flowers, making medicines, laughing with friends, wandering around gardens, sipping tea, telling stories and enjoying the sparkle of spring sunshine. I want to share with you the joy of herbal infused oil - and who better to start with than the sunshine herself miss Calendula officinalis.

If it is spring in your part of the world you might be like me and noticing the massive array of new flowers out. It's a herbalists dream come true! Everywhere I look I see another herbal friend. This spectacular calendula has been calling me from the garden where I work for weeks now. It just so happened that I finally had some free time to collect and infuse it with some other fellow herb lovers. 

Calendula, in case you haven't cottoned on already, is marigold. That really easy to grow little perennial you see in many cottage gardens. Just be careful to only use the officinalis species for medicinal use. Calendula is used topically in oil to soothe, heal, moisturise and kill infections. It is perfect for rubbing into eczema, hives, rashes, psoriasis, bites, sunburn, grazes and cuts, nappy rash, cradle cap, scars, stretch marks and surgical wounds. Basically, it's liquid gold for the skin. It can be mixed with a little vitamin E cream for easy application or rubbed into the skin at the end of a shower. 
If you have surplus calendula flowers you could also add them to your salad for a great antioxidant and vitamin A hit or use them as an orange dye for fabric or wool. 

Calendula Infused Oil
You will need :
As much Calendula flowers as you can collect
Sweet Almond Oil (or Olive oil/Grapeseed oil)
Glass jar with screw top lid
Muslin cloth
Amber bottles for storage

Gently and thoughtfully collect the flowers from the plants. Place on sheets of paper to partially dry in the shade for 48 hours. This helps to reduce some of the sticky moistness of Calendula flowers and reduce mould risk. Place flowers and oil in blender and mix together to help break cell membranes and promote infusion of the healing properties into the carrier oil. Pour into glass jar ideally near full to reduce air and oxidation. The oil must be covering the flowers. Place in a brown paper bag and keep warm (eg. on the windowsill) for 2-3 weeks minimum and up to 3-4 months. When you are happy with the colour and consistency of the oil - or you can't wait any longer! - press the herb out through some muslin or cheesecloth. Discard the flowers and store the oil in amber coloured glass bottles with tight lids. Keep only as long as the use by date on the oil. 

*For home use the only thing that really matters in the manufacture of herbal oils (of any kind) is that the oil covers the plant material, and that it is sealed tightly and stored in the dark. These things help prevent mould and rancidity of the oil. 

We also collected and made fresh plant tinctures from Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle), Viola odorata (Violet) and Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm). You can almost smell the sweet lemony scent of the Melissa in the picture below.

Other herbs such as lavender, rosemary and St Johns wort make great infused oils. I really hope you get to try some!

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