Calendula extract is an excellent way to utilize all of the powerful healing properties that are contained within this blessed botanical.
Not only does calendula promotes the regeneration of new tissue…but it provides soothing relief for damaged or injured skin when used in all-natural lotions, creams, and salves.
The best part is, making calendula extract at home is about as simple a project as it gets — it literally almost makes itself. And to prepare the extract we will follow the basic herbal tincture-making steps using calendula flowers we grow ourselves:
The Making of Calendula Extract
In order to get started…we must first harvest our Calendula flowers and petals.
It’s best to pick them at their peak — and pick them frequently. Begin harvesting the Calendula as soon as the first flowers open fully and then continue throughout the spring and summer season.
Trust me when I say…you can’t pick these often enough, the more flowers you pick, the more flowers your plant will produce. Usually – in ideal growing conditions and peak season – this means you should be harvesting every 3-4 days.
Harvest mid-day, when the flowers and foliage are dry, and after the dew from the morning has evaporated. Then cut the stems, as close to the flower head as possible.
Remember: You really can’t over pick these flowers! Harvesting the beautiful flower heads forces the plant to send out more buds. In fact, under harvesting will cause the flower heads to go to seed and stop producing quickly.
Just as we preserve (i.e. can, dehydrate, freeze) and store common foodstuffs — we must learn to preserve medicinal herbs and flowers. Drying, tincturing, and freezing are all effective methods of preserving herbs and flowers.
And although drying calendula is the most common way to preserve the medicinal properties of the flower for use past the growing season — and vital for use when making an oil infusion — making calendula extract does not require drying of the flowers…in fact fresh is best in this case.
- fresh-picked calendula flowers
- clean glass jar
- 100 proof vodka
***Click here to read my tips on herbal tincturing.
- Upon harvesting the flowers, bring them indoors — away from direct sunlight.
- Do NOT wash the flower heads.
- Pack your glass jar full of flower heads.
- Pour vodka to cover plant material entirely. (Note: Check the jar a day or two after setting the tincture and top off if needed.)
- Place in a warm (not hot), sunny location for at least 14 days. Shake the jar daily. (Note: After 14 days or so, you can strain off the liquid extract, and you are ready for action! OR you can strain off the liquid extract, pack your jar full of fresh calendula, pour the extract back over the flowers — adding more vodka to cover the plant material entirely — and steep for another 14 days. This cycle can be repeated as often as desired for maximum potency. I will generally triple-infuse all of my herbal extracts…this taking 6 weeks to get the final product)
- Label, date, and list the contents on a dark glass storage jar for long-term storage of the extract. Medicinal extracts/tinctures prepared in this manner really do last and keep working for many, many years.
- To use: Use in recipes for lotions, creams, toners, astringents, nourishing body sprays, etc. at a rate of 1-3%.
Note: You may also use organic or wild-crafted dried calendula flowers to make this extract if fresh isn’t available to you. Instead you will fill the glass jar 1/3 full of dried plant material and proceed. I recommend purchasing dried calendula flowers here…
Where to Purchase Medicinal-Quality Calendula Seed?
–Mountain Rose Herbs…they sell Horizon Herb Strictly Medicinal seeds! The best in the business in my opinion.
Are you growing calendula flowers this season? How are you using them?
I might just have to get a calendula plant and make this myself. Last year I cut myself badly while chopping an onion. Bad as in I probably should have gone to urgent care and had it glued. It was still bleeding a little 36 hours later. BUT, I kept the cut wrapped and took homeopathic calendula, in a child’s dosage since it was all I could find.
My finger healed up perfectly and there is no sign of a scar. For a woman who bruises easily and now takes a long time to heal hits on the skin, this was amazing!
I love growing calendula and have for the past summers. This year I haven’t planted anything because we will be travelling around so much, I really miss my pretty yellow flowers. I’ve never made a calendula extract, however I always make big batches of calendula infused oil which is lovely as face and body oil and as a carrier oil in recipes.
I grow calendula and dry it for to infuse in oil. Love using it in soap. You are so right with the more you cut of the flowers the more you get. However, we have to watch it because the deer also love it.
Hello Andrea and All,
Would strong rubbing alcohol work instead of the vodka? Thank you.
Sue E says
You can use rubbing alcohol if you plan on using it externally only. I would recommend drying the flowers and infusing them in jojoba or grapeseed oil to be able to make salves with it. A vodka tincture can be taken internally and it’s powerful medicine!
Trish F says
I would not use rubbing alcohol for ANY tincture or extract. t has too much of a medicina scent to it and you could ONLY use it for external uses. By using vodka you can use it in any application you want.
This sounds wonderful! My daughter uses a calendula cream that we buy for her skin, she has severe eczema and this is all she can use on her skin. Is there a way to make a lotion or cream from this?
Sue E says
You can add the tincture to an unscented cream to help with healing and if you can find one with colloidal oatmeal that would be most beneficial. If you want to make your own salve you can infuse dried flowers into a quality oil and then make a salve or cream from that.
How many calendula plants should a rookie plan on starting out with?
Could one use Gin as well instead of Vodka?
Trish F says
To me Gin has too much of a “medinicy” (if that’s a word) smell – whereas vodka has no oder at all.
Pam Kunke says
The recipe I used called for Everclear. vodka would be less expensive but not sure if it works as well?
Kathe Lynn says
My experience is that the 100 proof is what makes the difference. Not sure if they have a
100 proof Gin, great post.
I am a huge fan of calendula & have a whole flower bed full that is blooming like crazy! I regularly use it in oils and salves, but have never heard of tincturing it or using it internally. Can you please share some of the uses for a calendula tincture, as well as how you might use it in external recipes. I use calendula infused oil in my salve, but would imagine heating alcohol would not be a good idea, or could I be wrong?
P.S. For those who do not want an alcohol based tincture, vegetable glycerin also works well. The ABC Herbal is a wonderful book on herbal medicine for under $10 that has great instructions for making glycerites aka glycerin based extracts/tinctures.
Am I correct…Calendula is the same as marigolds? Is there a particular variety that is best? And do you know what specific property in the plant gives it it healing effects?
I grew Calendula and did a double infusion for the first time. I haven’t made anything with it yet, only because I can’t find where I put my bees wax. 🙂
John Mathis says
This is great post on an extraordinary website!! I was in my early teens before I knew they sold jelly in groceries. 🙂 My grandparents grew grapes, cherries, apples, and strawberries; canned fruits and veggies were the norm. In nursing school. I took to civil war medicine after doing a report on Wittman. My cancer patients felt better when I brought chamomile or mint tea and ginger drops helped with nausea. But I never thought there would be SO many carcinogens in cosmetics!
Calendula plays a major role in a skin cream I make. Calendula will also keep insects away from tomato plants, they’re colorful in a salad, they can be dried and ground to create a wonderful golden color to “saffron” rice, skin creams, lotions for dermatitis, eczema, and rosacea Applied to a bandage, it’s a miracle worker due to its antibiotic / antiviral qualities.
Even in apartment living, I make room for marigolds / calendula, rosemary, oregano and a hanging tomato plant.
Again, this site rocks! I hear my grandparents (farmers) and great-grandfather’s (Cherokee) lessons everywhere I looked.