A stash of calendula is an essential herbal medicine to have on hand for making remedies to treat minor wounds, burns and infections. This hardy plant is easy to grow, preserve and use. Let’s find out how!
When winter descends, the veggie garden takes on tones of dark greens and purples. The garden is dotted with bursts of orange from the calendula flowers, which seem to have an internal light. No wonder they attract bees and other beneficial insects to the garden all year round.
A little history
The healing benefits of calendula
How to harvest, dry and store calendula
It is best to dry calendula flowers and petals before using them in herbal preparations. Taking the water content out ensures they are less susceptible to mould. Drying the flowers allows for easy storage, making sure they are always on hand for making teas, lotions and potions.
To dry and store Calendula (Calendula officinalis) flowers, follow these steps:
- Harvest Calendula flowers when they are just fully open and vibrant, ideally in the late morning after the dew has evaporated.
- Use scissors or your fingers to snip off the flower head at the top of the stalk.
- Place flowers face down in a single layer on a drying rack or a wire mesh baking rack, or thread them onto a long thread.
- If using a dehydrator, set it to the “herb” setting and dehydrate for up to 24 hours, depending on the moisture content and density of the flowers.
- Without a dehydrator, keep the flowers in a dry place with lots of airflow, away from direct sunlight to prevent colour degradation, and dry for 6-8 days.
- Ensure the flowers are completely dry before storing them. The flowers are dry when the centre of the flower head is brittle and the petals are crisp.
- Store dried Calendula flowers in a dry, airtight container, such as a jar.
- Keep the container in a cool, dark place to preserve the flowers’ quality and prevent degradation from light and oxygen.
- Properly dried and stored Calendula flowers can maintain their quality for over a year.
- If the flowers are harvested from a chemical-free environment, do not wash them; a quick shake can remove any dust or bugs.
- If necessary, gently wash the flowers in clean cold water, then dried on a towel before the drying process.
- Dead-heading the plants by removing withered or brown flower heads can prolong blooming and encourage more flower production.
- It’s important to ensure the flowers are completely dry before storage to prevent mould and spoilage.
By following these steps, you can successfully dry Calendula flowers for use throughout the year, having a stash ready to use when you want to make infusions and balms.
Calendula Water Infusion
To prepare a tea, simply place 1–2 teaspoons (1–2 – 2g) of dried leaves or flowers (3–4 – 4g for fresh) in a teapot. Infuse for 10–15 minutes. You can then drink the infusion throughout the day.
For centuries, people have been enjoying calendula tea as a beverage to help with the healing of inflammation and ulceration in the gastrointestinal tract. Check with your healthcare practitioner before drinking a calendula infusion regularly.
Mouthwash and Gargle
Preparations aid in the healing of gingivitis, ulceration, thrush and other minor infections of the mouth and throat. It is also useful for tonsillitis and pharyngitis. Swish a cooled infusion around the mouth, making sure it is being pushed through the teeth, gargle and then spit out or swallow.
For minor eye infections, you can soak a cotton ball in a cooled calendula infusion (strained through a very fine doubled cloth or doubled over, clean nut milk bag) and apply liberally around your eye with your eyelid shut. You will need to make a fresh infusion every day and do not double-dip with the cotton ball to prevent cross-infection.
Calendula and Lavender Healing Balm
- For every 1 cup of cold-pressed vegetable oil, add 1/2 cup of dried calendula flowers. Place it in a saucepan over very low heat. Bring it to just below a simmer.
- Allow infusing at this heat for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Strain off the flowers through a sieve lined with double cheesecloth.
- Store the oil in glass bottles or jars in a cool, dark place until ready to use.
- 250mL calendula infused extra virgin olive oil
- 50g natural beeswax, grated
- 25g medicinal honey
- 30 drops lavender essential oil
- Assemble clean, sterile glass jars and lids to hold approximately 300mL of balm.
- Heat the beeswax and oil in a double boiler (see note) over medium heat. The beeswax will slowly dissolve into the oil. Stir with a whisk to combine.
- When the beeswax is almost dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, but not so long as for the balm to harden. Add the honey and essential oil, then stir again to combine.
- Pour into a small jug with a fine spout or, load up a large syringe.
- Fill the jars. You will need to work quickly as the balm will harden. If you are using a jug, stir the balm between pours to ensure the honey does not settle in the bottom.
- Allow the jars to cool (I place a piece of kitchen paper on top). When cool cap tightly and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
If you do not have a double boiler simply pop a stainless steel or heatproof glass mixing bowl over a saucepan. Fill to a quarter with water and bring to a simmer. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.