How to Make Your Own Calendula Ointment

CB Calendula Cream

If you haven’t heard (which I hadn’t until last night), California Baby, a well-known and trusted provider of baby-safe body care products, has been taken to task for reformulating their calendula cream. Apparently – and I am now getting all of this fourth- and fifth-hand, because I was not paying attention when this whole thing first blew up – they added sodium benzoate to their formula. Hmm, sodium benzoate is the ingredient most of us holistic Mamas seek to avoid, and why we go and spend money on brands like California Baby in the first place. My eyebrows definitely went up when I read this.

The new formulation had apparently caused rashes and burns to some babies’ skin, and their Moms were mad as heck about it.  Then, to make matters worse, California Baby apparently created a PR nightmare by at first denying the change in the formulation, then calling it a “tweak,” then coming clean about it, then apologizing for it, and then summarily deleting all the comments and complaints on their Facebook page about the matter. Including the apology. Again, this is what I’ve read. There are some extremely good Mommy bloggers who have written extremely good posts about this, so I won’t rehash it here. Instead, I’ll provide you with links to the posts so you can go see for yourself.

  1. This is the post on Non-ToxicKids.net that was forwarded to me by one of my readers. This is a good interpretation of what can happen to a company in the age of social media.
  2. This is the post by Safe Mama on the “California Baby Reformulation Drama,” where she gives a good play-by-play of what happened.
  3. Then this eye-opening post is by Bubble & Bee, about why companies who seemingly have a great product might rock the boat and reformulate, potentially alienating formerly loyal customers.

I am relatively new to California Baby, having just last month bought their “Cold & Flu” bubble bath and “Tea Tree & Lavender” body wash, using my 10% coupon from the Ultimate Green Store. While I like these products so far, I don’t have much of a relationship with CB and I really don’t mind switching (apparently the reformulation has caused a tidal wave of Moms looking to change brands). Personally, the brand of Calendula ointment that I like best is made by local herbalist (local to me, anyway), Bridget Owen, of Sweet Herb Medicinals. It’s called “Healing Salve,” and contains plant-based oils, Calendula, Plantain, Lavender, beeswax, vitamin E, and essential oils. My baby’s bottom is slathered in this practically all of the time, and she has just about NEVER had diaper rash as a result of this fantastic product. I’ve extolled the virtues of Calendula in previous posts, and shouted from the rooftops the particular virtues of Bridget’s Healing Salve many times in the past.

But this is all because I’m a lazy herbalist. If I weren’t so lazy, I would just go and make my own Calendula ointment. That’s when it occurred to me, with so many Moms looking to find an alternative to California Baby’s Calendula cream, that I would post just how I would make it, in case these other Moms are less prone to laziness than I am.

Let’s review why we make a cream or ointment in the first place: it’s because we want to suspend the active ingredients of the herb, allowing them to be used over time, instead of all at once (refer back to my post on how to make herbal preparations for topical use for more information on other ways to, well, use herbs topically). Second, decide how you want to extract the active ingredients of the Calendula flowers: how you do this will determine how potent your Calendula is, and therefore how much of it you will use in your final formulation. PLEASE NOTE: If you follow these recipes, there will be NO SCENT to your final ointment. Dried Calendula has the slightest, mildest of scents, so unless you add essential oils to your recipe, your ointment/salve will also be relatively scentless.

How to Make Calendula Ointment – with Lanolin

You will need:

  • 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of grated beeswax
  • 1 pound of anhydrous lanolin
  • 4 ounces of dried Calendula flowers
  • Double boiler pot
  • Cheesecloth or muslin

Instructions:

  1. Melt the lanolin in the double boiler (sometimes also called a “bain marie”).
  2. Add the Calendula and simmer gently for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure the lanolin covers ALL the Calendula.
  3. Remove the lanolin from the heat and let it cool.
  4. Put the cheese cloth or muslin inside a colander and spread the fabric up and over the sides so no Calendula can escape.
  5. Pour the cooled lanolin-and-Calendula mixture into the muslin, straining the lanolin into a second bowl.
  6. Return the strained lanolin to the double boiler and add the beeswax, stirring until the beeswax is melted.
  7. Remove and put the mixture in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  8. Take it out and test the consistency: if it’s too hard, re-melt and add more lanolin. If it’s too soft, re-melt and add more beeswax.
  9. Pour into sterile containers and let everything cool before adding the lid.

How to Make Calendula Ointment – without Lanolin

Okay, no wool’s fat for you. You’ll just substitute the Lanolin in the ingredient list above with 8 ounces of your carrier oil of choice. If you’re making Calendula ointment, chances are that you are doing so for sensitive skin, so some good ones to consider might be Safflower Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, or Jojoba Oil. Basically, you will do everything you did in the above instructions, except you’ll be heating the Calendula in the oil instead of the Lanolin.

How to Make Calendula Ointment Using Calendula Tincture

In both of the above recipes, we were extracting the active constituents of the dried Calendula flowers using hot oil. In a way, it was like making a decoction, except we were using oil instead of water (basically, boiling the herb in the medium we are using to apply to the skin). A tincture is stronger than a decoction, and is essentially the herb steeped in alcohol (alcohol can extract more of an herb’s active constituents, rendering the resulting mixture more potent). If you happen to have a Calendula tincture on hand, you can also use that instead of the dried herb to make your ointment or salve.

(I’m going to pretend you want to make this with lanolin. If not, just go back to the second recipe, and substitute out the lanolin for the plant-based oil of your choice). You’ll need everything you did in recipe 1, except that instead of the 4 ounces of dried Calendula, you’ll use 1.5 teaspoons (or 150 drops) of the Calendula tincture. And then this is what you’ll do:

  1. Heat the lanolin in the double boiler.
  2. Add the tincture.
  3. Add the grated beeswax.
  4. Heat until beeswax is melted, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove and put into the freezer for 5 minutes.
  6. If too hard, re-melt and add more lanolin. If too soft, re-melt and add more beeswax.
  7. When you’re happy with the consistency, let the mixture cool until you can safely handle it. Then stir and pour the mixture into sterile containers (the stirring makes sure the tincture doesn’t settle on the bottom).
  8. Cool, then add lids.

Okay…what else do I need to tell you? How to make a tincture? I think I will do that in my next post. Oh yeah – if you want access to e-books on how to make herbal preparations for internal and external use, sign up for my e-newsletter and then you’ll have exclusive access to the Holistic Mamas’ library!

About Mare

is a Master Herbalist, Certified Aromatherapist, and enthusiastic natural mommy to a beautiful tot of 2, the Little Apple. She shares her parenting adventures (sometimes mis-adventures) via this blog.
This entry was posted in Body Care, Herbal Remedies, Herbs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to How to Make Your Own Calendula Ointment

  1. Katy says:

    Hey Mare,

    What is your favorite brand(s) of baby bath and body products? I am looking for some baby wash, moisturizer, shampoo, and anything else the baby needs.

    I have the Sweet Medicinals Healing Salve and I love it!

    Any other recommendations would be great. Thanks!

  2. HippyFitMom says:

    Wow I didn’t realize that they added sodium benzoate to their product. I used this on my son. I now just use raw, unprocessed shea butter to keep him nice and supple. Works really well. Now that I think about it….he broke out in rashes on his legs…..that’s why I started using the shea butter instead. But I didn’t think that it could be this product.

    Thanks for the article. I will need to be more aware of the products I use on my little man.

    • Mare says:

      Yeah, I didn’t realize it either. The night I blogged this, I looked at the Tea Tree & Lavender Baby Wash I had bought and sure enough, there it was: Sodium Benzoate, as the last ingredient. I’m not sure what it was that motivated them to change what seemed to be a great formula that many Moms trusted.

  3. Kristen says:

    Hello! Thanks so much for this post. I am sick of reading labels at the store and still being unsure of what I am buying. I’ve started making everything myself! So if I use the tincture, how long would a balm like this last? Does it have a shelf life?

    • Mare says:

      Hi Kristen, thanks for reaching out! I would say that if you store it properly (in a dark, cool place, OUT of the sun), you should be able to get at least 6 months out of it, preferably a year. I’m with you – making everything yourself is probably the way to go. If you got good at it, maybe you can even make a business out of it! :-)

      • Kristen says:

        That’s what I am aiming for! Do you know anything about using pure vitamin E oil as a preservative? I have seen that you can use it with some oil infusions to prolong its shelf life.

        • Mare says:

          Hi Kristen,
          So sorry, I missed this comment before! Yes, Vitamin E is a good preservative. Actually, Rosemary essential oil is too, as is apple pectin. Anyway, you can use Vitamin E oil as a preservative…I put it in my lip balms, etc. I’ll have to go look up the quantity/ratio for you. Stay tuned.

  4. Brian says:

    Can i substitute shea butter instead of Lanolin?

    • Mare says:

      Hi Brian…hmm, I have never tried it with shea butter. I’ve made ointments without lanolin at all, and I’ve given the recipe in the post above, but I’ve never tried Shea butter as a substitute FOR lanolin. I would hazard to guess “YES,” but with the caveat that I haven’t done it myself, so I don’t know if it will work. But in theory, I don’t see why it wouldn’t!

  5. Amanda says:

    Can i use calendula flower powder instead of the petals? Is the powder just as good as the flowers?

    • Mare says:

      Hi Amanda, thanks for writing! I believe the answer is “yes.” Calendula flower powder SHOULD be just the crushed up and powder-ized Calendula flowers. HOWEVER, I think this would make things a lot harder when you go to make the ointment, because with such fine particles, how will you strain out the herb entirely? I am guessing one or two bits would still be floating around in the ointment mixture, which can cause the ointment to go bad sooner. You always want to strain out ALL the herb. But maybe I am just paranoid, as I’ve never made it with the powder. It’s possible that the muslin would strain out all of the herb, and you won’t have to worry about it. Does the powder look like crushed bits of marigold flowers, or is it white? I would say, if it looks like the former, it should be okay.

      Mare

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>