Today, instead of ranting about the weather, I want to continue the exotic oils postings, so we will be looking at calendula oil. Technically calendula oil is not really an exotic oil because it is not a true base oil, rather it is an infused oil. However, because of its properties and their benefits to our health, calendula oil is counted as an exotic oil for our purposes. This exotic oil is truly great for the skin, especially sensitive or abraded skin.
Since it is not a base oil, it has to be created, and it is created by being forced to contribute its properties to another oil, a base oil. This is accomplished by extracting the flowers oil through steam distillation. The flowers are steeped in an oil, the petals infused with the oil. When the distillation process is complete, any oil that is left over is calendula oil. This oil should be a golden orange color, but will ultimately depend upon which base oil is used for the infusion. While virgin olive oil is generally preferred, any light oil, such as apricot seed, grape seed, or sweet almond oil, will do. In fact, if you want to save yourself some money, you can.make a home version of an infusion, in other words, a tea. Depending upon your method and the length of time infused, it may not be as strong as a commercially prepared one, but it will still possess the beneficial qualities of calendula, and work in your home-made skin-care recipes. For instructions, check out this past post.
Calendula, or calendula officinalis as it's known botanically, is another name for the pot marigold flower. This perennial grows from one to three feet, and blooms once a month during season, but is usually treated as an annual in both the very cold, and the very hot climates, where its survival in the extremes is problematic. It is, however, easily grown from seeds, although they do germinate better if they are stored for 6 months prior to planting, and they tolerate just about any type of soil condition. The flowers bloom all summer, and come in vibrant yellows and oranges. But, while they resemble a marigold, they are not a true marigold, and should not be confused with other plants, also called marigolds, such as the corn marigold, the dessert marigold, the marsh marigold and others from the tagetes genus.
The petals of the calendula flower are the part that is used in the steam distillation to create the oil. It is classified an infused oil, because the petals are steeped, infused, into an oil. The petals of the flower can also be dehydrated and used whole, ground into a powder, or eaten raw. In fact, calendula flowers are often added into salads and other dishes for their color. While its stems are technically considered edible, they actually don't taste very good, so are best avoided.
Calendula flowers contain calendulin, beta-carotene, other carotenoids, isoquercitrin, narcissin, rutin, amyrin, lupeol, sterols, and volatile oils. It contains a high amount of antioxidants, which protect the body against cell-damaging free radicals, called flavonoids. Research into this flowering plant has been ongoing for years, yet researchers are not sure what active ingredients are responsible for its healing properties, however, it does appear to have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial effects.
Calendula has been shown to, both, speed the healing of wounds, and to help prevent dermatitis in breast cancer patients while they are receiving radiation treatments. This is potentially because it increases blood flow to the affected area. Its oil, very mild and soothing, is a preferable treatment for dry and damaged skin, such as burns, rashes, wounds, and inflammation, as well as those simply with dry, chapped skin. In fact, calendula oil is so mild that it makes an excellent oil for babies and those with sensitive skin.
The dried petals are best made into an aromatic infused oil, a tea, or a tincture. The dried petals themselves, or the oil, make a great base for balms, salves, face creams, and other natural cosmetics. They are also used in soap, both for the properties, and for color. The dried petals are often used in tinctures, ointments and washes to aide in the healing of cuts, bruises, burns, and the minor infections that these can cause. Don't think it works? The next time you or your child has a bee sting, try chewing some calendula petals, then place the masticated petals on the irritated area, and see how fast the stinging goes away. Of course, if you really don't want to chew them yourself, just add the fresh petals and some water to a blender, and reduce them to a paste, then place the paste directly on the affected area. And, while you have that paste out, you may as well slather some on those varicose veins, where calendula has a proven track record for treating and healing! The tea, or tincture in water, can be swished and swallowed to help heal sore throats, gastric ulcers, or oral lesions. There are several other applications where calendula may be beneficial, both internally and externally. For more detailed information, check out one of the many home herbal medicines books, available at your public library for FREE, and several on-line sources, both for free, and with a charge.