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Calendula Tincture: How to Make Your Own

 

Sugar and Pith, picture from top looking into jar of unfiltered calendula tincture

Calendula tincture isn’t called for all that often in herbal medicine but there are a few good uses to which you can put it. You can add it to mouthwash recipes as calendula is good for reducing gum inflammation, healing mouth ulcers, and inhibiting bacterial growth. You can use it in topical skin applications where you want a more concentrated amount of its medicinal properties. And you can also take it internally to sooth stomach aches.

How to Make a Calendula Tincture:

Fill a pint jar about half full of dried calendula and then cover it with 100 proof alcohol.

It’s important that you use 100 proof because the solvent range for extracting the medicinal constituents from calendula flowers is between 50-80%. If you can’t get your hands on 100 proof, see if you can find a source for grain aclohcol (between 150-153 proof).

Label your jar with the date you started the batch and put it somewhere where you won’t forget about it.

Shake it vigorously every day for two to four weeks.

Shaking it every day is important because it helps break down the cell walls of the plant material.

Sugar and Pith, jar pouring calendula infused alcohol through a filter into a jar

Next, get a fresh clean jar fitted either with a strainer or (as I’ve done here) with a wide mouthed funnel fitted with an unbleached coffee filter and pour the liquid through it. Alternatively, you can use cheese cloth or muslin. Shake the plant material into the filter or cheese cloth and squeeze as much of the liquid out of it as you can.

Sugar and Pith, pouring calendula tincture through funnel into an amber round bottle

Decant your tincture into a dark bottle and label it. Store in a cool dark cupboard to maintain the best quality.

Sugar and Pith, dropper full of calendula tincture poised above shot glass

Your tincture is ready to be used in whatever recipe you like! Calendula is a safe herb to use but I recommend that if you decide to take it internally you do so with the dosage advice of an herbalist or naturopathic doctor.

The next Herb of the Month post will feature an experiment with a recipe for an eye mask that uses this calendula tincture. So be sure to check back in soon!

Calendula Tea With Cleavers and Mint

Sugar and Pith, two vintage glasses with calendula and mint iced tea in them, garnished with sprig of mint and calendula petals

Spring has arrived in Northern California and everything in my garden has greened up and budded out. If you live in a more severe climate, be patient, spring is heading your way soon too. To me, spring is about new beginnings, coming out of dormancy, and fresh energy. Although I like winter better than spring, I do love watching my garden open up and fill with light. One of the first things to flower is calendula. I haven’t been a big fan of drinking a lot of detoxifying teas or going on big organ-cleansing tears. However, I think this spring is a great time to add this to my occasional regimen.

Refreshing calendula tea to gently support your lymphatic system and eliminative processes

Calendula Tea with Cleavers and Mint

4-6 fresh calendula flower heads

2 big handfuls of fresh cleavers

3-4 sprigs fresh mint

How to make it:

Rinse all of the herbs in running water to remove any dirt or insects.

Put all of the herbs in a half gallon jar or other container.

Cover to the top with boiling water and put a lid loosely on the top (don’t screw tight, you want to let the steam out). Let it steep for ten minutes if drinking hot. If drinking cold, let it steep until it cools down and then refrigerate for a couple of hours to get it cold.

Strain before drinking.

Sugar and Pith, half gallon jar filled with fresh calendula, cleavers, and mint

Both calendula and cleavers are lymphatic tonics which, in simplistic terms, means they help your lymphatic system work better to filter out foreign bodies such as bacteria from your body. Cleavers is also alterative which means it helps support your liver function. Mint is good for dispelling gas and stimulating appetite which isn’t why I added it to this tea. I added mint for the fresh flavor and because I’ve got lots of tender new growth on my mint plant right now.

 

I consult a lot of different sources for my herbal information. Here are a few of the sources I consulted for the medicinal information above:

http://www.rjwhelan.co.nz/herbs%20A-Z/calendula.html

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303087.php

Medical Herbalism (the science and practice of herbal medicine) by David Hoffmann

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galium_aparine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymphatic_system

Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine by Steven Foster and Rebecca L. Johnson

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Calendula officinalis is This Month’s Featured Herb

Sugar and Pith, vintage botanical illustration of calendula

Calendula has been used for hundreds of years for both medicinal and culinary purposes. No one knows exactly how far back this flower has been healing people, but it’s remained in broad use for good reasons. Modern studies are beginning to support what herbalists have always known: it has emollient, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and vulnerary properties. All of this makes calendula a common ingredient in wound salves and skin treatments.

But it has also traditionally been used to color foods like butter and cheese as well as to flavor beverages and stews, especially in medieval times. It was considered the “poor man’s saffron” and added to dishes where one might have used saffron if only one wasn’t a penniless serf. Nowadays you can buy your own crocuses for a reasonable price and grow a pinch of saffron a year if you’re particularly enterprising.

Calendula can be drunk as an infusion or added to other teas. Although it isn’t as popular now, it was used to settle stomachs and heal ulcers, both of the stomach and the mouth.

In the Garden

Sugar and Pith, weathered white and purple lion statue in a garden with calendula growing at its base

Calendula is one of the top five herbs I believe it’s essential to grow in my own garden. The brilliant thing about it is that this flower reseeds itself in most gardens freely. Some people may see this as a nuisance but I can’t enter into their feelings because seeing their blossoms are like viral sunshine. My garden is spilling over with yellow and orange flowers screaming loudly that even when the sky is grey spring is here! I pluck them out where I don’t want them and let them reseed all over again. I think I could be happy in a garden almost exclusively covered in calendula and California poppies.

How to Harvest and Dry

Harvest calendula in the morning when the flowers are fully open but still fresh. If you’re going to dry them in a bundle make sure you leave enough stem with which to do this. If you’re drying them in a dehydrator stem length isn’t as important because after you select all the best flower heads you’ll remove the whole stem up to the base of the flower. Don’t wash your herbs unless they’re very dirty, you use pesticides in your garden, or have pets that might have peed on them. If you choose to wash them be sure to remove as much water and dampness as you can for best quality.

I dry my mine in my dehydrator because I find it preserves the quality best but if you don’t have one, don’t worry. You can tie the stems together in a bundle and hang them upside down out of direct sunlight or you can thread them together with a needle to form a chain of them and hang them somewhere dry and warm. You want to make sure the base of the flower is completely dry before storing or they may mold. Store your dried calendula heads in an airtight jar in a place out of direct light. It will keep for a long time but I recommend using it within six months for best quality.

Calendula in Sugar & Pith products

Sugar and Pith mini triple strength wound salve, four tins of salve on a book page with a calendula flower and petals

Many of Sugar & Pith’s products feature calendula such as the Triple Strenth Wound Salve, Maiden’s Blush herbal bath soak, and all of the lip balms.

Sugar and Pith mini triple strength wound salve, four tins of salve on a book page with a calendula flower and petalsSugar and Pith mini triple strength wound salve, four tins of salve on a book page with a calendula flower and petalsSave

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