I’ve been steadily picking Calendula blossoms from my little herb garden for a few weeks now. It might seem like this blog is a bit too obsessed with Marigolds, but they really are wonderful, known as the ‘sunshine herb’ to gardeners and herbalists alike. Marigolds are incredibly easy to grow, doing well in almost any soil. As part of the daisy family, each flowerhead is actually a ‘composite’ flower made up of hundreds of tiny little flowers bunched up together. The result of this is that when the plant goes to seed, one ‘flower’ produces hundreds of seeds, and so once you plant Marigolds for the first time, they will easily re-seed and keep coming back year on year. yay. If you are inexperienced in growing, and want to try something out, I would recommend starting with these.
I’m planning to make my Marigold petals into an infused oil, which can then form the base of any ointments, creams or lip balms I decide to make with it later on. Making infused oils is also very easy. You can start with fresh petals, but I have chosen to dry mine, so I’m not adding any water into my oily mixture (which may reduce its shelf life).
I dried mine on a sunny windowsill for about three weeks, making sure that the petals were well aired, and not too bunched together. Then, there are two basic methods of making an infused oil – the sun method, and the boiling method. I am using the sun method here, which I personally prefer, but takes longer.
Infusing Herbal Oils with the Sun
The sun method is dead simple! It is suitable for herbs which aren’t woody i.e. where the part you want to infuse is leafy, or the flowers. Calendula, Yarrow, Comfrey, St John’s Wort, & Arnica are all examples of common sun-infused herbs. You simply cover your chosen herb in your chosen oil, and leave in a sunny place, to gently but powerfully infuse over a number of weeks. That’s it! There is a HUGE range of oils you can infuse, at massively varying prices and individual properties: from sunflower to olive to rosehip to borage.. For simplicity and for keeping on top of a budget, there’s nothing better than sunflower or plain vegetable oil: odourless, and does the job. I have chosen here to use olive oil, particularly Fair Trade Palestinian Olive Oil to support farmers struggling in occupied territories. But, you really can use any oil you choose.
Just find a jar or a wide-mouthed container of some kind to put your herbs in, and cover with oil. For each herb there may be recommended ratios of oil to herb, which you can follow if you want, or just follow your intuition, and use the ‘folk method’ as the Botanic Gardens here in Edinburgh call it.
Now I will leave it for about 6 weeks, shaking it every so often, and pushing any floating petals back down into the oil. Once its turned a nice amber colour, I’ll strain it, and it will be ready to turn into other remedies. Equally, calendula oil on its own can be used on the skin for all manner of complaints – see the profile here