How To Make Calendula Salve
Carl Legge describes how to make a Calendula salve, a traditional healing balm or ointment, and explains the meaning of the plant's name, Calendula Officinalis. It is all Latin and Greek to him!
I'm not a Greek herbalist, but I am called Carl.
This marigold's full botanic name is Calendula Officinalis. If we deconstruct the Latin it will tell us more about the plant.
In Latin, Calend refers to the new Moon. And so the Calends were the first day of each Latin month corresponding with the new moon. The first part of Marigold's botanic name reflects the belief that it was always in bloom on the first day of each month. Certainly in the right conditions, it can be.
The Officinalis suffix tells us how it's been used. In Medieval Latin Officina meant a workshop or store room. Later it referred to a herb store and then to a pharmacy. So the suffix is used for plants that have been used in the practice of medicine. It's been used by herbalists since ancient times. Marigold leaves were used in the American Civil War to treat open wounds. Today, you can buy it as Hypercal™ cream which is a mixture of Hypericum (St John's Wort) and Calendula.
Modern research has failed to find precisely what the active ingredients of Calendula are. What is known is that it has a high concentration of flavonoids (the Latin flavus = yellow) which are plant based anti-oxidants.
So Calendula is known to have anti: allergic; inflammatory; microbial and oxidant properties. This means it's ideal for treating a range of cuts, abrasions, bruises, sores, rashes, ulcers and fungal conditions. An ideal way to apply it is to use a salve which is very easy to make.
Calendula Salve Recipe
These quantities made 540ml of salve which we put in 60ml glass jars; you can scale the recipe up or down.
You'll need a double boiler (a smaller saucepan inside a bigger one works fine).
You'll need some muslin and a sieve or colander with a bowl to strain the flowers from the oil.
21 fresh heads of young calendula flowers
600ml of olive oil, preferably organic, extra-virgin not necessary
60g of beeswax chips
Pick the heads from young plants preferably early morning on a dry day just after any dew has evaporated. This is designed to ensure the maximum active ingredients are in the oils of the petals.
Pick the petals off the flower heads and place the petals in the smaller of your two saucepans. Cover in the olive oil and give a good stir to make sure all the petals are well coated in the oil.
Put some boiling water in the larger saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. What you are going to do is gently heat the oil/petal mix so that the active ingredients in the petals (which are oil soluble) transfer to the olive oil. This is called maceration. The simmering water will never come above 100°C and the gentle simmer will be less than this.
Place the smaller saucepan into the bigger pan and heat for 3-4 hours.
Take off the heat and strain the oil from the petals into a bowl using the muslin inside a sieve or colander. Squeeze the muslin to get the most oil out. The oil should have taken on the vibrant colour of the Calendula.
Put the oil back into the smaller saucepan and place this pan back into the gently simmering water,
Put the beeswax chips into the oil and stir gently until the beeswax is melted and thoroughly combined with the oil. The beeswax will hep the oil set into a nice salve and has good soothing properties of its own.
Then carefully pour your salve into the glass jars and pop on the lids.
After a little while the salve will have set. Store your salve in a cool dark place.
I hope you find it useful. Happy gardening!
First posted on The Higgledy Garden blog.
Carl Legge lives on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales on a permaculture smallholding and writes a regular blog full of delicious recipes and more. He is currently writing The Permaculture Kitchen, a book of seasonal, local, home-grown delicious recipes for Permanent Publications, the book publishing arm of Permaculture magazine. It will be available this autumn.
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