A special part of the growing season is the making of Calendula soap. This is the only soap I have used now for over 10 years and it is extremely popular amongst friends and family. I generally also use it for Holiday giving. Many have done the “melt and pour” soap making and this little article focuses on the addition of calendula to the soap, rather than the process iteself. If there is interest in the basics of “melt and pour ” soap, please mention it in the comment section!
The calendula is grown in the garden for the purpose of the soap. What is different about this soap, which has a vegetable glycerin base, is the process of adding the herbal essence to it. Many years ago I learned about making Calendula cream or salve for healing the skin. I decided to follow the same principle of making the healing cream or ointment to add the healing qualities to the soap. Many people suffer from various skin disturbances and this soap will bring soothing and healing. This process uses the fresh plant, freshly cut from the garden.
All the parts of the flower above ground may be used. The flowers, buds, leaves and stems are collected and chopped into small pieces. The parts used should be young and fresh, avoiding old and withering parts, and clean. The plant material is finally chopped for adding to the soap base and can also be macerated with a rolling pin to help it absorb into the soap base. I use a heaped double handfull of plant and blossoms for about 3 lbs of soap base. The soap base is cut up into 1″x1″ cubes to melt quicker in the pot.
The soap base is melted in a double boiler or a pan inside another pan with water. The quality of soap base is important, all melt and pour soap bases are not the same and it is good to find out from the source, what it is in it. I try to find the simplest base with the fewest “extra”ingredients. You do not want to “cook” the calendula, so it is stirred into the soap base with a wooden spoon, once the base is entirely melted , but the heat source turned off. This is to preserve the vital elements of the calendula as much as possible.
Once the calendula is well stirred in, the pot is set aside to harden over night or for a day. The soap base will begin to set up as soon as the heat is off the pan, so you want to have the calendula all ready before you turn off the pan. Stirring gently is important to cut down on the amount of bubbles. During this cooling down period and setting, the essence of the plant and flowers are drawn out of the plant material and into the soap. The next day the soap is gently melted again, stirring gently along the way. This is only done long enough to make the pot entirely liquid again. The mixture must then be run through cheese cloth or a fine sieve to remove the plant material out of the soap base. I find the easiest way to do this is using another pot. Once the soap has been filtered it is ready to pour into the molds. during the use of the cheese cloth or sieve, it may be necessary to warm up the base again to have it entirely liquid for pouring into the molds. The soap has now become a beautiful hue of green or gold, depending the mixture of flowers and leaves or other parts that you used. I add some essential oils just before pouring into the molds, such as lemon grass, ylang ylang and clary sage. Once the molds have hardened and are ready, I take the soap out gently and put them in cellophane or wax paper bags. I store the soap, which I will keep till next season, in the refrigerator to preserve the natural oils and healing herbal essences in the soap. Because the soap is free of preservatives and chemicals, to last and keep its healing powers, it needs to be kept in a cool and dark place. I have also done this process with fresh lavender , yarrow and comfrey. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have!