Extracting The Medicinal Powers of Calendula - Which Method is Best?

It's been ages since I started working with this fabulous plant, and since science is getting caught up studying the longtime historical uses and documenting more and more about the undeniable powers of this botanical, I thought it was about time we revisited why pot marigold is so much more than a pretty face.

There is another reason too.

Since it can be used to make extracts in a plethora of ways, lots of you have asked me what the best extraction method is.

Spoiler alert: all of them

Let's take a closer look at Calendula!

Pot Marigold (or Calendula) 

Every once in a blue moon, an ingredient comes along where the common name is similar to the INCI name. This is one. Even though Calendula is also commonly called Pot Marigold, many people know it equally well as Calendula.

The complete INCI name is Calendula Officinalis

Tip: every time you see a plant name that ends with officinalis, you'll know that plant has a history of medicinal use. (cool, huh?)

Overview of Properties

I've written a bit about the properties of calendula earlier, so here's a quick overview of some of the benefits of calendula.
  • anti-inflammatory
  • promotes healing
  • increases circulation
  • reduces inflammation
  • soothes irritated tissue
  • anti-microbial activity (limited, but measurable)
You'll find links to numerous studies and more info below.

Constituents of Calendula

The medicinal magic that makes calendula such an attractive and powerful ingredient resides under names like:
  • polyphenols
  • flavinoids
  • carotenoids
  • glucosides
  • esters
  • alpha-cadinol
  • delta-cadenine

These constituents are the actives - some are water-soluble, some oil-soluble, and some are 'somewhere in-between'.

Depending on the chosen solvent/extraction medium, these constituents will be more or less represented in the finished extract. 

And this begs the next question.

Which Extraction Method is Optimal for Calendula?

There are so many to choose from, deciding is (truly) a bit of a conundrum:
  • Co2 Extraction
  • Dry Extract
  • Maceration (oil infusion)
  • Tincture (vinegar or alcohol infusion)
  • Water Infusion
  • Glycerine Extraction
It stands to reason that the mainly water-soluble constituents are going to be more willing to infuse into a water-base, and mainly oil-soluble constituents are going to be more willing to infuse into an oil base, but there is a lot of in between to be considered as well. Alcohol and Co2 extraction will 'grab' a bit of everything. 

So what's best? 

It depends on whether you are interested in the mainly oil-soluble or mainly water-soluble constituents, but you could also choose to do double (or even triple) duty by combining different extracts into one product.

Picture a soothing calendula cream with macerated calendula in the oil phase, calendula glycerite in the water phase, and Co2 calendula extract at cool-down phase. If you use a combination of extracts, you're getting a maximum of calendula's actives in one product.

The possibilities of using calendula extracts in your cosmetics are pretty limitless, so your imagination is really the only thing stopping you. And, if you don't mind my saying, you really shouldn't even let that stop you.

Get creative using calendula in your cosmetics! One could be tempted to design an entire series of products around this one botanical. 

LisaLise's Calendula Faves

Here are some of the ways I like to use (and infuse) calendula
  • ground dried petals as an ingredient in powder cleansers and masks
  • oil maceration in facial serum, body butter or soothing balm
  • glycerite in skin tonic, skin mist, shower gel, or cleanser
  • dried petals in herbal tea (yeah, they are good that way too)
  • tincture for spots or troubled skin
Pictured below: A self-preserving handcrafted calendula glycerite makes my skin all kinds of happy whether added to skin tonic, cream, shower gel, cleanser, or anything else I use it in.

Allergy Note

Some people are allergic to plants in the asteraceae family. If you are among these, you probably want to find a different botanical to work with because calendula is in this plant family.

 Some Q's & A's About Handcrafted Botanical Extracts

I'm thrilled to see so many of you getting busy making your own extracts! You've asked me loads of great questions, so here's a mini Q and A for you.

Some of you have asked if it is safe to make your own extracts for cosmetics.
Yes. If you follow GMP (good manufacturing practice) from start to finish, you are good to go.

I have also been asked how to go about documenting a handcrafted extract when it is a component of an artisan cosmetic (made in smaller batches).
This is something to take up with your safety assessor. They will need a detailed description and documentation of how your extract is made. If you're looking for a safety assessor, Formulators Kitchen can be helpful.

Some of you have also asked how to know the precise chemical makeup of a handcrafted extract.
There is only one way to know, and that is by doing the same thing manufacturers of extracts do with each batch: testing/batch analysis. Manufacturers provide a CoA (Certificate of Analysis) with each batch. 

Natural materials are (obviously) not lab-created, so the chemical makeup of an extract (hydrosol, essential oil, etc) will inevitably vary from batch to batch. Any large company making botanical extracts has the same challenges an artisan company has in regards to batch variation.

Get Busy with Your Own Glycerine Extracts 


The Art of Making Glycerites for Cosmetics is a complete guide that walks you through the entire process step by step and includes calculation charts for both self-preserving glycerites or glycerites with added preservative – using dried, frozen, freeze-dried and fresh materials (even foods). It's an e-book, so you don't even have to wait for delivery. The book also includes formulas for products that incorporate glycerites. Want to get busy making your own fabulous glycerine extracts? Read more about it right here.

Do Tell

Do you work with calendula in your cosmetics? Which is your favorite way of using it?

More About Calendula's Constituents, Properties, and Extraction Methods

Comparative view of extraction methods, Thieme-connect
Case Study: Calendula vs Aloe Vera for Diaper Rash, Hindawi.com
Case Study: Calendula Shows significant wound healing, BiomedCentral
Isolation of faradiol esters via alcohol extraction, ScienceDirect
Adding Calendula Extract to Cream in Water Phase, AcademicJournals.com
Yield of Constituents from Dried Calendula Flowers, ScienceDirect
Alpha Cadinol, PubChem
Delta Cadenine - Wikipedia
Active Compounds of Calendula, BMCChem, Biomed Central
Calendula Oil Constituents via Distillation, Ajol.info
The effect of calendula extract toothpaste on the plaque index and bleeding in Gingivitis, AcademicJournals.com
CosmeticsInfo.org on Calendula
Oil Extraction of Calendula, Science.gov
Comparative Extractions Methods, pubmed
The Healing Flower (this blog)


Anonymous said…
Hi Lise

I want to make a macerate & also a glycerine with dried calendula flowers - should I use them whole or would grinding them up into a powder be better?

thanks Anna
LisaLise said…
HI Anna - I've tried both methods and find straining a whole lot easier with dried petals. You can also use whole flowers in both mediums but might find a clearer end result with whole flowers in oil.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the info! I absolutely love love calendula. I recently did an oil infusion with dried calendula and I’m totally addicted to the scent. Great post!!
LisaLise said…
Hey there Anon - calendula in oil is a classic and there’s no getting around how fabulous it is — enjoy your lovely oil!
Sue said…
Hello! I want to make a calendula olive oil infusion. Where can use find out how much calendula and how much oil to use? (Ratio of parts) Thank you!
LisaLise said…
HI Sue - You ask a great question as there are numerous opinions as to which ratios are best. There are also numerous infusion methods to choose from as well. A very simple guideline: add dried calendula to a sanitized jar about 3/4 full. Fill with oil. Cap and let infuse. If you want to do a bit of research on this, might I suggest looking to Susan M Parkers book Power of the Seed as well as her online classes. She's a phenomenal source for working with carrier/fixed oils.
holistichealth said…
hi there,

Is it true that Olive Oil is the best oil for Calendula extraction? What about Sunflower or Sesame oil? Thank you :)
LisaLise said…
Hi Holistichealth — I have never heard that one oil was better than another for extracting calendula. I will usually go for an oil with a long shelf life 😊
Mirna said…
Hi Lisa, thabk you for this lovely text.
I'm making a macerate using alcohol as intermediary solvent and using oil in ratio 5:1. But I have trouble checking when the alcohol evaporates. Only method I use is sniffing, which doesn't seem very reliable. Is there any other way to tell when the alcohol has evaporated from the macerate?
LisaLise said…
Hello Mirna - I haven't used this method in my own macerations enough to where I would feel confident enough to guide you. I recommend checking out Kami McBride's page and course where she teaches this method in detail.
Lulu said…
Hi Lisa,
I have lots of dried calendula flowers. How would I go about making a glycerite? Im new to making glycerites with dried matter 😊
LisaLise said…
Hi Lulu - My book about making glycerites covers this and more. :)
Anonymous said…
Hello, do you have a few sources for buying dried calendula flowers? I like Mountain Rose Herbs, but they are out of stock at the moment, and I'm trying to avoid Amazon!
LisaLise said…
Hi Anon-- I am guessing you are in the USA from your mention of Mountain Rose and I totally understand wanting to avoid Amazon! As I live in Europe and source my ingredients here, I'm afraid I am not going to be of much help. I wonder if looking for suppliers of organic herbs for the food industry might be possible? Here, I look to suppliers for teas and the herbal supplement industry. I hope this was of some help!
Anonymous said…
Thanks Lisa! Yep USA here. I ended up ordering from Etsy -- sort of iffy because it could be anyone, but that's how I found Mountain Rose Herbs in the first place. Good thoughts on checking tea suppliers. Thanks, and thank you for the info on your site.
Anonymous said…
Hello LisaLise:

I love making calendula macerate with almond oil. I either use it as it is on skin or put it into an almost empty parfume bottle to have that subtle parfum and the macerate’s benefits.
I did research to see if there is anything written about: can I recycle/ reuse the calendula flowers after macerated in almond oil?
I hate the idea of throwing them, is there any properties left it them after the maceration (is that a word?);)
Can I, maybe grind them and do a mask or anything else, really?

Thank you and looking forward to your experiences.
LisaLise said…
Hi Su — great thinking about using the spent botanicals after maceration. You could try grinding them and adding to salt for a bath or foot soak, or adding clay and water to desired texture for a face mask, or even add them to your compost pile ( if you have a garden).
Lisa Ort said…
Hi Lisa!

Thank you for such great post. So much good info. What is the ratio of powder calendula to oil? Thank you!
LisaLise said…
Hi Lisa - I'd start with 1:10 by volume-- calendula is very lightweight and voluminous when ground