How to Make Calendula Infused Oil
Calendula flowers are the star of my cool season garden here in Southern California, but I grow calendula for so much more than its dazzling color and cheery demeanor. Calendula Officinalis is medicinal, healing, soothing, and gentle on skin. While there are many ways to use the calendula flowers, I save pretty much all my flowers to create calendula infused oil. Making this precious oil yourself, with homegrown flowers, not only saves money, but also ensures you are getting the purest, organic, high-quality product.
If you are new to Freckled Californian, you should know that I am passionate about growing my own food and being more self-sufficient. Calendula Officinalis is a very easy, medicinal flower to grow, and one that I have added all over my edible landscape. While in most climates Calendula is mostly grown through the Spring and Summer, it is simply too hot here in zone 10b to grow calendula in the summer. To get the biggest, best blooms I have to grow calendula in the cool season here in Southern California (although coastal areas can probably grow it year round). For more information on growing calendula check out my Fall & Winter Gardening Guide and my resources for Seed Starting.
Related article: Calendula Whipped Body Butter DIY Recipe
I’m not an expert, an herbalist, or a doctor, but my passion for calendula infused oil comes from seeing results on my skin. As an avid modern homesteader, I am always exploring how the plants I grow translate into real, practical and useful applications. The anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of calendula are one reason the flowers have been used for healing skin, and calendula is a common ingredient in many salves and balms. I share what I learn here on the blog, but encourage you to explore more resources on herbalism if this is truly something you are passionate about as well.
Fun fact: Calendula flowers are often confused with marigolds because calendula flowers were commonly referred to as ‘pot marigolds’ throughout history. Always make sure you are working with ‘calendula officinalis’ which contain the healing and soothing properties we are focused on here!
For a specific list of herbs, flowers, and vegetables to grow, along with monthly sowing recommendations, be sure to check out my Current Season Seed Schedule (available to all subscribers in the Garden Resources Library)!
How & When to harvest Calendula Flowers for Oil
Our main goal is to thoroughly dry our calendula flowers for safety. If you don’t dry your flowers completely they can grow mold, dangerous bacteria, and ruin your oil infusion. Therefore, the best time to harvest calendula flowers is after the dew has dried. You can even wait until the late afternoon to be extra sure all moisture has evaporated. This gives us a little extra assurance that the blooms themselves aren’t bringing additional moisture into the process.
Always harvest flowers that are fully open but not shriveling and going to seed. They should look fresh! Sorry, I can’t think of a better description.
I prefer to clip my flower heads off the plant at the very base of the flower—we don’t need any stem! The green bottom part of a flower (that sometimes looks like a star) is called a “calyx” and this part will stay attached. You are simply snipping the flower right below the calyx where the stem starts.
Alternative tip for harvesting calendula to promote bushy growth & more blooms:
When we cut off just the flower it can leave behind an unsightly stick in its place. This also does nothing to prune the plant to shape.
To serve multiple purposes as you harvest calendula flowers, start by first cutting your calendula as whole stems down to a leaf node or where you want to promote bushy growth. This avoids the “dead stick” look after harvesting.
Next, remove the flower heads as you would normally from the cut stems. You can compost the stems and leaves and continue on to dry your flowers.
As you pick your calendula blooms, you might notice your fingers start to feel sticky. This substance or “resin” is part of the healing properties of the calendula.
I don’t wash my flowers, as I don’t use any chemicals or sprays on my calendula anyway. If you think there are bugs, you can shake them off or leave your flowers in a sheltered area for a short amount of time to allow any bugs to leave.
If growing calendula for healing purposes, I recommend growing the ‘resina’ or ‘erfurter’ variety. These specific types of calendula are supposed to have the highest content of resins (the main healing component) than any other type. Check out these resina calendula seeds!
Related Article: Top 10 Flowers for a Potager Garden~ Calendula made my list!
Dry Your Calendula Flowers
I’m going to say it again: your flowers need to be completely, irrefutably dry. This is important because any moisture will spoil your blooms and anything you try to make with it. That being said, you can choose to dry your flowers whole or only dry the petals. I’ve done both, but I prefer to dry mine whole to preserve more of the healing properties that are in the green calyx portion of the flower. The benefit to drying just petals is that it’s easier to make sure your petals are completely dry, as there is no thick center portion of the flower to worry about.
We use our dehydrator to dry our flowers (we have this one). Our weather is simply not dependable for air drying and it’s possible for mold to grow on air dried herbs and flowers in areas of high humidity, varying weather, and less than ideal conditions. If you really want to air dry, there are some interesting air drying racks that would keep out bugs and prevent your flowers from blowing away. See an example below.
Lay your picked flowers on dehydrator racks (upside down) and dehydrate between 95 to 105 degrees F for as long as it takes. Honestly, drying times are so variable that I can really only say that the flowers should be so dry they feel like they will shatter. If you aren’t sure? Dry more!
Dried calendula should be stored like most herbs and used within a year. Keep them cool, dry, out of direct sunlight, and in an airtight container.
How to make calendula infused oil
Now that we have dried our calendula flowers, let’s make some healing infused oil!
Choose a carrier/base oil. These are nourishing oils and are typically given a comedogenic rating on a scale of 0-5. Oils that are non-comedogenic won’t clog your pores and are rated lower on the scale (0-2). These are typically the best options when choosing a carrier or base oil. In all honesty, skincare is a lot of trial and error. No joke. Everyone is different. For example, jojoba is a commonly used carrier oil that bothers my skin. I am not allergic to it, but my skin becomes really parched and never feels good after using it. Do your research and know your skin!
Carrier/Base oil ideas:
Jojoba, available here
Argan Oil, find it here
Sweet Almond Oil, here
Extra Virgin Olive oil – my skin actually loves this while others find it too heavy.
Apricot Kernel oil, available here
***Quality matters. When looking to purchase oils, especially for use in skin care, look for unrefined, cold pressed and organic options.
Always remember to keep allergies in mind when selecting oils. Also, according to the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine: “Do not use calendula internally during pregnancy since it has traditionally been used to bring on menses. As calendula is in the aster family, it may cause a reaction for people who are highly sensitive to plants like ragweed (Ambrosia spp.) and chamomile (Matricaria recutita); this possibility is rare, but sensitive individuals should proceed with caution when using calendula for the first time. Rare incidences of allergic contact dermatitis have occurred with the topical use of calendula.”
Always test beauty products on a small patch of skin before proceeding to use more generously.
Fill a clean glass jar with your dried calendula flowers. It should be about 2/3 of the way full.
Pour enough of your carrier/base oil to completely cover the flowers and then a little more.
Put a lid on your jar and leave in a cool, dark place for 4 to 6 weeks. Shake the jar every few days.
Using cheescloth and a strainer, strain the oil into a clean glass jar (watch the video above).
Now your calendula oil is ready to use! Keep it stored out of direct sunlight and in a cool dry place for up to a year.
Ready for that spa feeling at-home? You’ve got to try my luxurious calendula whipped body butter!
Other articles you might find helpful after reading this:
What else can I do with Calendula flowers?
Calendula is considered an edible flower (please remember the safety precautions listed above especially when considering taking calendula internally). You can sprinkle petals over salads, garnish desserts, and dry for tea. I’ve seen people create edible flower & herb butters for food and even use the petals as a natural coloring/dye agent. It’s a truly amazing plant that I also use for cut flower arrangements as well. However you use it, enjoy it♥