Chestnut Herbal School

Calendula’s Benefits for the Skin:
How to Make Calendula Oil and Salve

Written and Photographed by Juliet Blankespoor

Calendula’s sunny blooms are an external remedy for practically every manner of skin complaint. The flowers are used topically as a wound healing, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory herb. For optimal strength, be sure you’re using the whole flower—including the green flower base—instead of the “petals” only (the herb is sometimes sold this way). Calendula-infused oils and salves are some of my favorite topical applications for soothing and repairing the skin—see my recipes below.

Calendula is also an edible flower, a cheerful garden medicinal, and an internal remedy for the digestive and lymphatic systems. Take a peek at our article on Growing and Using Calendula for more on this plant’s floral intrigue. It’s incredibly easy to grow your own calendula, and it’s one of the most beautiful medicinals for the garden.

A fresh bouquet of calendula (Calendula officinalis)

A fresh bouquet of calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula’s Skin-Healing Benefits:

  • Rashes
  • Stings
  • Wounds
  • Burns
  • Sunburns
  • Abrasions
  • Swellings
  • Eczema
  • Acne
  • Insect bites

  • Scrapes
  • Bruises
  • Chicken pox
  • Cold sores
  • Cracked nipples from nursing
  • Bacterial vaginosis (douche)
  • Yeast infections (douche)
  • Cervical dysplasia (douche)
  • Postpartum perineal tears (sitz bath)

Calendula’s Herbal Actions:

  • Vulnerary (wound-healing)
  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Antimicrobial
  • Antifungal

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Safety and Contraindications: 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.

How to Make Herbal Oils

Herbal oils are made by infusing plants into high-quality oils that have a long shelf life and readily dissolve into the skin. I typically use extra-virgin olive oil. If your oil is for massage or broad application, consider using sesame, sunflower, coconut, jojoba, or sweet almond oil. Look for oils that are unrefined and cold-pressed or expeller-pressed. Preparing herbal oils is quite easy, especially if you follow a few basic guidelines (see our recipe below).

After preparing an herbal-infused oil, you may then use it as a stand-alone oil or transform it into an herbal salve by adding beeswax or carnauba wax (a vegan alternative), and other optional amendments like essential oils and vitamin E.

In general, herbal salves are beneficial for soothing skin irritations, dryness, and inflammation. We share our recipe for Calendula Salve below.

As mentioned previously, take care that you use the whole dried flowers when making oils and salves, as calendula’s medicinal resinous oils are found mostly in the involucres (green bases of the flower heads). Sometimes calendula is sold as “petals” only; this is a weaker medicine for topical use.

When to Use Water-Based Applications Versus Infused Oils and Salves:

In certain situations, the application of herbal oils and salves is not recommended. Oils and salves hold in moisture and heat and are thus contraindicated in weepy skin conditions, infections, and fresh burns.

Avoid the use of oils and salves on poison ivy rashes, weepy eczema, pimples, boils, fresh sunburn, and fungal and bacterial skin infections. Another contraindication includes deep wounds and cuts. Instead of oil-based preparations, use water-based applications such as herbal compresses, soaks, baths, and poultices. Also note that if oils are used as a sexual lubricant, they can degrade and break most condoms.

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How to Make Calendula Oil

This is a wonderful all-purpose herbal oil. It can be used as a base for salves or prepared into a cream or lotion. Combine it with other skin-healing herbs for a soothing anti-inflammatory and wound-healing remedy. I keep calendula oil stocked in my refrigerator, as it’s a handy stand-alone remedy. I like to combine the flowers with plantain (Plantago spp.), chickweed (Stellaria media), Saint John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), and violet (Viola sororia and others), but calendula oil can just as easily stand on its own as a versatile skin-healing preparation.

 

  • 1 cup whole dried calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis), or combination of herbs mentioned above (equaling to 1 cup)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or substitute jojoba or almond oil)

Yield: ¾ cup (360 ml)

Note: You can double or triple this recipe by following the same proportions outlined above: 1 part herb (or combination of herbs) by volume to 1 part oil by volume.

Preparation:

Step 1: Dry your herbs. If you're using homegrown or gathered herbs, gather your plant material and dry thoroughly. If purchasing dried herbs, make sure they are fresh and high quality. It’s important to remember that oil can ferment or mold in the presence of water. If you are new to preparing medicinal oils, I recommend using dried herbs rather than fresh herbs. You’ll also want to make sure all your tools are completely clean and dry.

Step 1: Gather and dry your herbs

Step 1: Gather and dry your herbs

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Step 2: Combine the whole dried flowers with your oil of choice in a blender, food processor, or Vitamix and aim for a thick, pesto-like consistency (see the photo in Step 3 for an idea of the desired texture). This increases the surface area of the herb(s), leading to a stronger oil (concentrated). 

Step 2: Measure out your herb(s) and add to blender or food processor

Step 2: Measure out your herb(s) and add to blender or food processor

Step 2: Add your oil to the herb(s)

Step 2: Add your oil to the herb(s)

 

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Step 3: Heat the herb/oil mixture in a double boiler for four to eight hours. You can improvise a double boiler by nesting two pots together or placing mason jar bands upside down in a saucepan filled with water. The trick is to nest one pan (for your herbs and oil) inside the other (filled with water) without the bottoms touching. Heat slowly and keep on low heat for four to eight hours. Try not to let the oil get hotter than 110°F, or 43.3°C (a little warmer than bath water). Watch closely to make sure the water does not completely evaporate and the oil does not get too hot. You do not want deep-fried herbs!

Step 3: Add your herbal slurry to a double boiler

Step 3: Add your herbal slurry to a double boiler

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Step 4: Strain your oil. After your oil has infused for four to eight hours, strain it into a glass jar or measuring cup using a muslin cloth, fine-weave cloth or cheesecloth. If the oil is slightly warm, it will be easier to strain. Place the cloth in a stainless-steel or ceramic strainer and pour in the oil/herb slurry. After the oil ceases to run through the cloth, wring out the herbal material with clean, dry hands or press with a potato ricer.

Step 4: After the herbal material has infused, strain and wring with a cloth

 

Step 4: After the herbal material has infused, strain and wring with a cloth

Step 4: After the herbal material has infused, strain and wring with a cloth

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Step 5: Label and store. Make a label and cap your oil when it cools to room temperature (this prevents condensation from developing inside the jar). Herbal-infused oils will typically last two to three years when refrigerated and one year unrefrigerated, depending on the stability of the oil used.

Notes on preparing herbal oils with the stovetop method

I’ve found that in the case of infused oils, it’s beneficial to use a little bit of heat to extract medicine from herbs. This is because oil isn’t the strongest solvent and makes for weaker medicine than other solvents like water, vinegar, or alcohol. Heat is especially helpful for melting and extracting resin into oils.

As mentioned earlier, much of calendula’s healing properties come from the resin, which is concentrated in the undersides of the flowerheads. To prepare the strongest possible oil, you’ll want to optimally extract the resin with heat. Thus, I recommend using a stovetop method for preparing your infused oil.

How to Make Calendula Salve

I always keep a healing salve on hand in my apothecary. Thicker than an infused oil, this remedy has extra staying power that’s amplified by the moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties of beeswax.

  • 4 oz infused calendula oil (Calendula officinalis) by volume
  • 1 oz grated or beaded beeswax (substitute carnauba wax for a vegan salve) by volume
  • Vitamin E oil, optional (For every 5 ounces of salve, add 1 capsule of vitamin E oil, or a ¼ teaspoon of liquid vitamin E oil.)
  • Salve jars (enough for 5 ounces total)

Yield: 5 oz

Preparation: 

Step 1: Measure out your oil, and then bring it slowly up to 110°F (43.3°C) in a double boiler (see notes in the Infused Oil Recipe above on fashioning an improvised double boiler).

Step 1: Measure out the herbal infused oil and add it to a double boiler

Step 1: Measure out the herbal infused oil and add it to a double boiler

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Step 2: For every 4 fluid ounces of oil, add 1 ounce of grated or beaded beeswax, by volume. (Beeswax beads are also sold as beeswax pellets or pastilles.) Depending on the size of your beeswax shavings or beads, these proportions will yield a salve with a soft consistency. It’s easy enough to adjust the texture by adding more beeswax or more oil. Keep in mind that harder salves will be less likely to melt in a hot car or bag but will be more difficult to apply.

Step 2: Add the grated beeswax to the warm oil

Step 2: Add the grated beeswax to the warm oil

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Step 3: Completely dissolve the beeswax into the oil. To test the consistency of your salve, place a spoonful of the mixture in the freezer for two minutes, pull it out, let it come to room temperature, and test its hardness. If it’s too soft, add more beeswax. If it’s too hard, add a little more of the infused oil.

Step 4: Label and store. Vitamin E is often added to salve (right before it’s poured into jars) as an antioxidant to prevent rancidity as well as for its own skin-healing attributes. This is also when you would add any essential oils at the proper dilution rate. While your salve is still warm, pour it into jars, label the contents, and allow it to cool before capping. Salves typically last one to three years unrefrigerated. Refrigeration is not necessary but prolongs the shelf life.

Step 4: Pour the salve into jars

Step 4: Pour the salve into jars

Meet the Green Mastermind Behind Blog Castanea:

Juliet Blankespoor

JULIET BLANKESPOOR founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007 and serves as the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. She's been a professional plant-human matchmaker for close to three decades. Juliet caught the plant bug when she was nineteen and went on to earn a degree in Botany. She's owned just about every type of herbal business you can imagine: an herbal nursery, a medicinal products business, a clinical practice, and now, an herbal school.

These days, she channels her botanical obsession with her writing and photography in her online programs and here on her personal blog, Castanea. She's writing her first book: Cultivating Medicinal Herbs: Grow, Harvest, and Prepare Handcrafted Remedies from Your Home Garden. Juliet and her houseplants share a home with her family and herb books in Asheville, North Carolina.

INDY SRINATH is a Los Angeles based urban gardener, mushroom cultivator, and food justice advocate. She’s committed to increasing organic food access and health literacy in underserved populations. Find her work on Instagram @indyofficinalis.

Want to take a deeper dive into medicinal herb cultivation?

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Looking for more blog articles about calendula?

We’ve stocked up everything you need to know about calendula’s healing benefits, plus compiled our recipes for making calendula oils, poultices, salves, and teas.

24 thoughts on “Calendula’s Benefits for the Skin: How to Make Calendula Oil and Salve

  1. This is the best recipe I have read yet! Specifics such as degrees of heat and measurements are VERY much appreciated for this novice 🙂 I do have a question–if you want to combine calendula with other skin healing plants (I’m thinking SJW, plantain, even chamomile?), do you recommend infusing them together or separately? We have all of these plants in abundance. Thank you for your very helpful article!!

    • Christine Borosh says:

      We’re so glad you found this recipe helpful! We recommend infusing each herb separately. Then, when you are ready to go and create your salve, you can combine the oils that you would like to use. This gives you more flexibility for making different combinations. Have fun making your own salves!

  2. Sorry if I am asking the same question already posted, I tried looking for it.
    Do you have a link or a recommendation for a good place to purchase whole dried calendula? Everything I see looks to be petal only, even if it says whole, and some people are saying dried marigolds/calendula, which I have read are not the same.
    Also, when I do find some do you recommend the sun infused technique? Where I can put it in sunflower oil and let it stay on a windowsill for 4-6 weeks or do you think boiling is best and only way?
    Thank you for your time!

    • Sarah Sorci says:

      Hi, Ashlee! When I have purchased Calendula flowers from Mountain Rose Herbs, they have been whole flowers with involucres attached.

      In my experience, the method recommended in this post (“Heat the herb/oil mixture in a double boiler for four to eight hours” at low heat) results in a more vibrant oil than the solar infusion method alone. One option would be to solar infuse the herb for 4-6 weeks if you like that method, and then finish it off with the double boiler method.

      Enjoy!

    • Sarah Sorci says:

      I haven’t encountered an herbalist or study raising concerns about using a calendula + olive oil salve when pregnant or breastfeeding. However, I would skip adding essential oils to be cautious. Calendula is not recommended for internal use during pregnancy.

  3. Leonardo Netto says:

    I’m from Singapore. My name is Leo. As you already know we are smack on the equator and our weather& herbs are very different.
    I sometimes go to the NTU school of biological science herb garden to collect herbs. These herbs are prepaired using TCM methods.

  4. Great recipe! I put my jars into a water bath in the crockpot on low for 8 hours. Works like a charm and I don’t need to worry about the stove and potential burning!

    • Sarah Sorci says:

      I’m glad you had a good experience with this recipe, Victoria–thanks for sharing! Calendula oil and salve are staples in our home.

  5. Thank you for a great post!! What is the smell of the salve? Would you be able to add any beneficial essential oils to enhance the fragrance or potency?

    • Calendula salve doesn’t have much aroma in my experience, and you could add essential oils at the proper dilution rate. See step 4 in this post’s instructions. Some folks like to stir in the essential oils with a chopstick to make sure they’re evenly distributed.

  6. Dawn Weismer says:

    I am looking to make a baby massage oil for my nephew. My sister has some allergies including almonds and many prepared oils include almond and/or sesame oil. I was thinking of mixing calendula oil into grapeseed as the carrier oil. Could you advise me on proportions to use or if you suggest something else?
    And would this calendula salve be a good general use butt balm after diaper changes or just if baby develops a rash/irritation?

    • Christine Borosh says:

      You could certainly make a calendula infused oil using all grapeseed oil. Just follow the instructions in this article for making calendula oil with your oil of choice in the same amount that is listed for olive oil. Calendula salve is perfect to use as a butt balm since it is safe and gentle, but also very healing for baby’s skin if it becomes irritated as well. What a sweet gift to make for your nephew!

      • Thank you for your quick reply. I live in southern NJ and am going to plant calendula flowers this spring to make my own oil and salve after reading your post. Your courses look amazing. Gave me something to really think about for the future.

  7. Juliet, THANK YOU, so kindly for providing such natural healing remedies. My mother, was a nurse, but practiced and taught me and my family herbalist ways. She was so far ahead of her time and didn’t believe that a pill cured anything.

    Since a serious accident, 4 years ago, in addition to may broken and crushed bones, I also suffered traumatic brain injury and lost all of my memory, which is slowing returning. I am now on a mission to relearn what my dear mother taught us as children and was thrilled to find your web site. You’re instructions are so easy to follow and packed with information. You have techniques that she would have loved to learn.

    I have one question, do you have a vitamin E that you can recommend, or the processing that I should avoid in one. Thank you again for sharing this valuable information. God Bless your beautiful spirit!

    • JoAnne, it’s so good to meet you! I’m glad you found us and that you’re finding our site helpful. We don’t recommend a specific brand of vitamin E, but I do try to choose the one that has the shortest list of inactive ingredients, meaning that unnecessary colorants or preservatives haven’t been added.

  8. Heather Davis says:

    Ok, after commenting earlier about this great post I now have a question after foraging in the woods-I found Common fleabane-could the flower heads be dried and used in this calendula mix also?

    • Sara Kinney says:

      Glad you’re enjoying the post! Fleabane is a much different plant with a different set of uses, and it’s far less gentle than calendula. It’s fine to use more than one herb in your salve, but fleabane doesn’t have the same skin-healing attributes that calendula does. If you want to learn more about this plant, here is a monograph on fleabane from our friends at the Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine.

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