It is mid November. Shortly before Halloween autumn arrived suddenly and left. Winter is officially here, bringing snow, ice, and cold temperatures. My perennial chrysanthemums never managed to fully bloom. Many herbs did hang on through our brief fall. I still had small harvests of motherwort, oregano, mint, comfrey and plantain. The herbal year lengthened unexpectedly as I came up with more creative formulas for electuaries, balms, and tinctures. Members of the aster family like mums, zinnias, cosmos and calendulas continued to produce an abundance of colorful blossoms. This week I finally breathed a sigh of relief. I am truly done as the garden slips into hibernation until next spring. I infused dried calendula flowers for two weeks in olive oil. That I used this past weekend to make a whipped body butter. Silky smooth and nourishing for skincare during the long winter months ahead.
Whipped Body Butter
In a double boiler heat/melt on medium setting
2 TBSP castor oil
1 cup of herb infused oil
8 oz of shea butter
Once fully melted-stir, remove from the heat, and chill for one hour in the refrigerator.
Remove from the pan, place in a food processor and add…
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
8 drops lemon essential oil
pinch of cardamon powder
Use the pulse setting to whip the “butter” until you have the desired consistency. Let your machine rest if it shows signs of the blade not moving properly. You may have to warm the “bowl” of the processor if your product has gotten too cold and solid. If the oil is not set enough you will get ointment rather than a light, airy creamy butter.
Pour into small jars, let fully cool and then seal with lids. Makes 3-4 quarter pint products.
Calendula (pot marigold). Latin name: Calendula officinalis. Family: Aster. This extremely attractive herb has bright yellow/orange medium sized flowers. It has many petaled daisy like ray petals. (single or double) surrounding the darker disk. The entire plant is slightly fuzzy and a lovely shade of jade green. Calendula grows 1-2 feet tall stem that forms many angular branches terminating in a single bud. The leaves are alternate, oval/sword shaped and about 3 inches long. The seeds are very distinctive forming a good sized brown spiney spiral. The blossoms are slightly resinous/sticky and have a certain smell. This easy to grow plant is native to Asia but grows all over the world. It is often a self seeding annual or when the winters are mild, a perennial. It prefers a garden location or area that is open and very sunny. Because it produces so many seeds it can spread and take over very quickly if you do not thin in the spring. Deadheading will give you an overabundance of blooms most of the summer. Calendula will bring a lot of native pollinators into your yard. The flowers are harvested just as they open and work best when they are dried thoroughly soon afterward.
Calendula is such a versatile and useful plant. One of the few that can be used externally, internally and in food. The plant part harvested for medicine is the bright orange flower. When used internally this herb is thought to clear phlegm, toxins, chronic infection and inflammation. It stimulates white blood cell production and inhibits the growth of several micro organisms. Herbalists have used calendula to treat candida, ulcers, gingivitis, stomach/digestive issues, gastritis, swollen lymph nodes, herpes, painful periods, childhood illnesses, and stimulate the immune system. I use the dried flowers a lot in electuaries and glycerites to support health during the winter. Calendula is thought to have many antiseptic and antibacterial properties. When used externally as a wash, compress, poultice, foot soak, salve, lotion or oil-it can be used to treat many skin conditions. Burns, bug bites, impetigo, ring worm, chilblains, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, ear infections, thrush, diaper rash, eczema, sunburn, warts, callouses, bunions, boils, bruises, chapped skin, athletes foot, dandruff, hair loss, and cradle cap. Historically a cold infusion of calendula has helped those suffering from conjunctivitis/eye infections. The flowers have amazing wound healing properties serving to nourish fragile skin, prevent scars, and form granulation tissue. This plant has been used as a dye for both grains and textiles, similar to saffron. When used as a hair rinse it might bring out highlights in blonde hair. Calendula has some sticky resins and it releases a lot of water when infused. I prefer to use the dried flowers in any preparations that involves an oil, honey, or glycerin base. This insures that there will be no mold. It is one of the few plants that I do not use fresh when making a salve or lotion.
ENERGETICS: bitter, pungent, cool, dry.
CONTRAINDICATIONS: none except aster allergy.