As we mentioned in our March Tips Index, Calendula was named 2008 Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association. Also called "pot marigold" (yep, it's that bright orange beautiful flower), Calendula is an extremely diverse herb revered for its healing and restorative properties. Since it is anti-inflammatory, astringent and antimicrobial, Calendula works great for treating skin sores and rashes (even diaper rash). And considering how common and hearty Calendula is, it is very feasible to grow it yourself and prepare your very own Calendula herbal tinctures and salves.
For making lip balms and salves (for external applications, including facials and massage oils), you will need to make some Calendula infused oil. First off, you will need to obtain a cold or expeller-pressed seed oil without preservatives. Olive oil, almond, safflower and sunflower oil are all good choices. You'll also need some dried Calendula flowers. It is best to use dried Calendula flowers (as opposed to fresh), for doing so creates less favorable conditions for fermentation. You should also obtain a cooking thermometer, which you can find at any home living store these days.
When you have everything you need, pour four parts oil over the dried flowers in a glass jar. Place the jar in an enclosed heating device like a yogurt maker, turkey roaster or even a crock pot on low heat. Stabilize the level of heat so that the oil reaches an internal temperature between 110 and 120 degrees. Keep it going for 10 to 14 days, stirring every day. You should notice the oil has taken on the color and aroma of the flowers. Strain it with a cheese cloth into a glass jar and store in a cool, dry place. Left as an oil, you will have a month or two before it goes bad. By adding 2 to 3 teaspoons of Vitamin E oil for every cup of oil, you will extend the shelf life to its fullest. Tip: For making healing salves and facials, mix equal parts honey and infused Calendula oil and store in the refrigerator.
So what about the internal uses of Calendula? Being a cleansing and detoxifying herb, Calendula works great for stimulating and purifying the liver. It is also a great tonic for stomach ulcers and digestive disorders, and a gargle for canker sores in the mouth and throat. For taking internally, you will need to make a Calendula tincture. Both fresh and dried calendula flowers work in this regard, and I'll explain the differences in preparing the two.
For a dried herb tincture, you will need 1 part Calendula flowers to 2 parts distilled water and 8 parts grain alcohol (190 proof corn grain alcohol). The first step is to grind the dried flowers into a powder with a mortar and pestle. Mix the water and alcohol together and pour over the pulverized flowers in a glass jar. Seal and shake twice a day for two weeks. Wait one day without shaking before pouring off the tincture so that particles can settle to the bottom. When they are settled, gently pour the liquid into another jar. Take the leftover material and scoop into a cheese cloth. Squeeze out all the alcohol (like you would a tea bag) into the newly strained tincture.
Lastly, funnel the tincture into medicine dropper bottles. The correct dosage is 1 to 2 mL three to four times a day. When using fresh calendula flowers, simply replace the distilled water with more corn grain alcohol. Water will naturally be present in the fresh flowers and more alcohol will be needed to extract all of the medicinal properties.