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Calendula Cooling Eye Mask Review

Sugar and Pith, cross hatching a piece of aloe vera leaf

I’m squeezing this post in a little bit late but I didn’t want you to miss a fun little recipe my sister and I tried out for an eye mask from the book Natural Beauty by Susan Curtis, Fran Johnson, and Pat Thomas. This book is one of my favorite reference books for natural beauty information and recipes. My sister and I decided to try their recipe for their cooling eye mask that uses the calendula tincture I just made. This eye mask recipe is supposed to cool, tone, and smooth puffy lines around your eyes.


2 tsp witch hazel

1 tsp aloe vera juice

1 tsp glycerin

1 tsp calendula tincture

First of all, we didn’t use store bought aloe juice because we have several large aloe plants in the garden. Milking an aloe leaf for its juice is surprisingly challenging! We split the leaf in half and scored the flesh and then squeezed the viscous juice which, being viscous, hung from the leaf in a slimy glop that refused to actually fall into the teacup. We resorted to scraping the juice off with the measuring spoon which proved equally difficult. There are worse things for your hands to be completely covered with than fresh aloe leaf juice. I don’t regret it.

Suagar and Pith, measuring out calendula tincture into tea cup

Next we poured the rest of the ingredients in the tea cup and gave it a really good stir. This eye mask is that easy to put together. Once it seemed about as mixed as it would ever get, we applied the mask generously to the area under our eyes (being careful not to get it IN our eyes) and to our brow bones.

The instructions say to let it sit for five minutes. Being very thorough people, my sister and I waited for ten and just to make the experience extra zen, we practiced breathing slowly and deeply. It was a lovely warm late morning so we did all of this on my front porch looking out at the garden.

Sugar and Pith, antique tea cup and silver spoon filled with eye mask ingredients

Then we removed gently, as instructed, with a cotton pad.

Was it cooling? Kind of. Was it toning? Maybe. Did it smooth puffy lines? Not even a tiny bit. I’ll tell you what it DID do, though. For the rest of the day the skin under my eyes felt really soft and hydrated. As a middle aged person with “mature” skin that’s a plus in my book. I really didn’t experience the astringent qualities of the mask that do the toning and it’s my suspicion that that’s because of the glycerine. If I do this eye mask again I’ll leave out the glycerin. Aloe, witch hazel, and calendula tincture without glycerin would feel more cooling and toning. However, if you want to try this and the skin under your eyes is especially sensitive, you may want to leave it in. That’s your call.

What was really nice about making this recipe is that my sister and I sat down together and took care of our faces while hanging out. I firmly believe that half of the benefit of doing spa treatments is that you stop rushing around, you stop fretting, and you feel more peaceful. This is an incredibly important act of self care, the little things we do every day that feed our body in some way while slowing us down and helping us be mindful.

Go ahead and give this cooling eye mask a try and see what you think.

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 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





Sugar and Pith triple strength wound salve displayed on a slate stone

Sugar and Pith at the Santa Rosa Community Farmer’s Market

Sugar and Pith triple strength wound salve displayed on a slate stoneI’ve had two weekends at the Santa Rosa Community farmer’s market at the Vet building on Saturdays and it’s so much fun getting out in the world with my remedies, potions, and lotions, getting to meet people in my community and chat with other vendors. The best thing about my first weekend was that I sold a copy of my book Cricket and Grey; Winter.

body scrub, lip balm, and bath herb display at the farmer's marketThis past weekend the best thing is that I sold out of my Embalming Cream. People do think the name is weird but when they put it on their skin they’re won over by the luxurious quickly absorbing feel of it and the wonderful scent. If you’re able to stop by and say hello this weekend you can try it for yourself! I’m making a brand new batch.

Sugar and Pith lip balm, hydrosols, and bath herbs displayed in nests and on a rustic trayI’m really pleased with how my table looks but it’s somewhat cramped. I’ll be adding a second table soon so I can spread out and have a few more things for people to explore such as cubed bread to dip in salad dressing made with my herbed vinegar so people can taste how good it is for themselves.

Come by and say hello this weekend on Saturday any time between 8:30am and 1pm!


Shine Skin Polish: New Product Unveiling

skin polish 3Introducing my brand new product: Shine Skin Polish offered in 4 beautiful pure essential oil scent blends

This salt scrub has a higher oil to salt ratio than most and the sea salt is fine so that it gently exfoliates and cleanses your skin while leaving it hydrated and velvety soft. You can use it in the shower, the bath, or as a foot spa treatment (how I have used it in my personal trials).

First you let your skin soak in warm-hot water, get good and steamy and then scoop a little bit of the skin polish out with your fingers and gently rub into any part of your skin that needs to be exfoliated and hydrated. Don’t wash the oil off, just pat yourself dry with your towel. Your skin will absorb the oil pretty quickly once you’re out of the shower.

If you give yourself a foot treatment with the Shine Skin Polish (it’s a luxury treatment for dry tired feet), do be careful to let the oil completely soak in before walking around on slick surfaces.

I have developed 4 essential oil blends inspired by the seasons. Each one has different aromatherapy qualities. The smell of the essential oil blends might seem strong when you first apply it but the scent will be very subtle on your skin, and as with all pure essential oils, it will fade fairly quickly.

Winter Shine:

The Winter scent is a blend of ginger and pink grapefruit pure essential oils. Winter is a time when we tend to go inward, stay indoors huddled together for warmth and comfort. Historically it’s been a time of dormancy and rest, a time when we come in from the fields and conserve our strength. While many of us don’t stop working during winter these days, we still feel an instinctual urge to hibernate. Ginger is a warming, spicy, uplifting scent that can help alleviate feelings of isolation and depression while pink grapefruit is fresh, sweet, and revitalizing. This scent is perfect for any time of year when you feel the need to brighten yourself up on a dark day.

Buy Winter Shine Skin Polish

Spring Shine:

The Spring scent is a blend of bergamot and rose Damask absolute pure essential oils. Spring is when the sap starts flowing in plants, buds swell up on bare branches and break open into delicate sweet blossoms followed by leaves bursting out, shattering the petals to the ground like paper snow. Spring is a time for growth, reaching for light, emerging from contemplation into action. It’s a time to shake loose the cobwebs and build, plant, sow, create, and start fresh. Bergamot is bright, uplifting, and energizing while rose Damask relieves stress, anxiety, frigidity, and is restoring and harmonizing. Both offer relief to those grieving. This essential oil blend is perfect for easing your body, mind, and spirit out of hibernation of any kind. It’s perfect for reminding you to breathe deeply and move forward.

Buy Spring Shine Skin Polish

Summer Shine:

The Summer scent is a blend of juniper berry, lime, and jasmine pure essential oils. Summer is a time of easygoing rhythms, fruition, extending oneself beyond limitations, being outside (unless you’re me and don’t agree with sun and heat), getting into nature, and dreaming. It’s a sultry season and this essential oil blend celebrates it with a fresh and cooling drink of juniper berry and lime next to an open window through which the sweet sensual scent of jasmine wafts in on a lazy slow breeze. Juniper and lime are both purifying, fresh, astringent, and cleansing while jasmine is soothing, calming, warm, and can restore optimism. Jasmine is also considered an aphrodisiac, so you may be inspired by this blend to get naked and cavort.

Buy Summer Shine Skin Polish

Fall Shine:

The Fall scent is a blend of lavender and vetiver pure essential oils. Fall is a season of reaping, gathering, preparing, taking stock, and celebrating abundance. An abundance of food, work, friends, family, tools, or love, we all have an abundance of something if we stop and look honestly. Fall is a time for fixing what’s broken; mending fences, relationships, and ourselves. We can heal while in hibernation but first we must lay the firewood down, replace weather-stripping, stack the blankets, and fill the larder. Lavender is fresh, herbal, and clean. It eases stress and restlessness and is disinfecting. Vetiver is woody, smoky, and earthy. It’s grounding, relaxing, and balancing which is exactly what you need when you’re taking stock of your life and yourself. This oil blend may inspire you to drop the crap you’re carrying around on your shoulders like a tree dropping its leaves.

Buy Fall Shine Skin Polish

Pick your shine and give yourself a polish!