Friday, February 20, 2015

How to Make a Calendula Cold and Flu Elixir or Oxymel {DIY}

"Please give these to your mother,
and tell her I like the medicine she sent me very much."
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Though this elixir tastes just like the over-the-counter cough medicine (and boasts great results), it isn't full of nasty laboratory chemicals! My husband was starting to feel those symptoms of sickness and the minute I noticed him getting congested, I brought out our bottle (some might of thought I was excited that he was sick just so I could finally try this recipe out!). I expected to continue to administer it to him the next day but he was already recovering by then! Whatever was in this concotion worked! Actually, I do know what is in it *smile* and I would love to share this recipe with you, my aspiring herbalists!

The neat part about this recipe is that it includes the bright and beautiful calendula. Most people think of this flower as an external healer but this recipe highlights its internal healing powers! According to the Herbal Academy of New England, it is "an antimicrobial to help the body resist pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Research has shown that calendula is effective against flu and herpes viruses (McIntyre, 1996). Calendula is also an effective lymphatic cleanser, reducing lymphatic congestion and infection and removing toxins from the lymph system."

{Note: Pregnant and/or nursing women should not take calendula internally though it is safe externally. See disclaimer below.}

To make this cold and flu elixir (and/or oxymel), add the following herbs to a clean, quart sized jar:
  • 1 c. fresh (or 2/3 c. dried) calendula flowers ~ I used fresh (how to identify calendula is here).
  • 1 c. fresh (or 2/3 c. dried) elderberries ~ I used dried.
  • 1/2 c. fresh (or 1/3 c. dried) rose hips ~ I used dried.
  • 2 tbsp. fresh (or 1 tbsp. dried) orange peel ~ I used dried.
  • 1 tbsp. fresh (or 1 tsp. dried) ginger ~ I used fresh.

To make an elixir: Add vodka (80-100 proof) into jar of herbs until it is ¾ of the way full. {If you are concerned about using and making alcohol based medicine (and understandably so!), visit here or simply try the oxymel recipe below}.

To make an oxymel: Add raw apple cider vinegar into jar of herbs until it is ¾ of the way full. If choosing to use the raw apple cider vinegar, keep in mind that the herbal medicine won't be as strong since vinegar doesn't extract the same amount of medicinal properties from the herbs as the alcohol does. 

Lastly (for both elixir and oxymel), fill the remaining of the jar with raw honey making sure to leave one inch from the top of the jar for "shake room". Screw on your jar lid.  If using a metal lidded jar, cover jar with plastic prior to screwing on lid so it doesn't corrode. Give your elixir/oxymel a nice shake and check to make sure the contents are still within the 1 inch mark. If not, add more honey.

Let your mixture steep in a cool, dark area for 4-6 weeks if using alcohol. If using raw apple cider vinegar, let it sit for 2-3 weeks. Give your jar a good shake every few days to infuse the herbs while also making sure that nothing (like the honey) gets stuck to the bottom. 

When the time is completed, place a fine strainer over a glass bowl. Line the strainer with a piece of clean lightweight cotton (like a flour sack towel). Pour the contents through, strain and label the glass jar with the name and date (you can use our clip art below if you like). Your elixir and/or oxymel is now ready to use!

Store your "Calendula Cold and Flu Elixir" in a cool, dark area like your pantry for at least one year. If you have made the oxymel version with the raw apple cider vinegar, that should last up to 6 months in your pantry (or perhaps longer in your fridge).

At the first signs of cold or flu in our home, we take one tablespoon every 2-3 hours until symptoms subside (I would reduce dosage in half for children). We have found that frequent doses are the key to effective treatment when using natural medicine. This would also be a wonderful prevention tonic to build up your immune system when those bugs are in the air. When some family members came off an international flight during the "Ebola scare", I gave this elixir to them immediately in the airport (and once more before bed) and no one ever got sick! And my prior experiences with international flights had always left someone with undesirable health.

This recipe was adapted from the Herbal Academy of New England. You will find a printable recipe on their website that you may want to include in your herbal {free "herbal" printable here}. I did change four things in the original recipe as follows:
  • First off, we offered the nonalcoholic version of making an oxymel with raw apple cider vinegar.  
  • Secondly, we didn't have the elderflowers so I prepared this recipe without them being that I at least had the powerful elderberries.
  • Third, we changed the medium from brandy to vodka. We don't keep a liquor cabinet in our home as we do not "drink". However, we do keep vodka on hand for making baking extracts and medicinal tinctures so that is what we used. The proof is the same so that it will not affect the preserving abilities of this elixir. If you are concerned about using and making alcohol based medicine (and understandably so!), visit here.
  • Lastly, we changed the title (poetic license if you please :).

Do you have any information, recipes or ideas for calendula usage? We are hosting a "calendula only" link up and we would love to glean from you. This post was a part of our Make Your Own Apothecary ~ Home Pharmacy Series. See our complete collection of Calendula DIY Recipes here!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. While I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use, remember that using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others. Also, if you have a medical condition, are taking pharmaceutical drugs, or are pregnant, please consult your physician prior to taking herbs.
The following posts have been shared thus far in our series:


  1. Thank you my dear friend for this so useful suggestion for the sicknesses of the cold season, this lovely blog of yours is truly so precious to me !

  2. "(some might of thought I was excited that he was sick just so I could finally try this recipe out!)."
    Heh, I know that sympathetically mixed feeling very well, and I've come to grips with the fact that I may as well enjoy all aspects of herbal usage. ;)

    "I do know what is in it *smile* and I would love to share this recipe with you, my aspiring herbalists!"
    And for that we thank you!. I can't wait to get a plant to grow, harvest and make this elixir or oxymel. This post has brightened an otherwise cold and dreary day. :)

    Have a great weekend!

  3. I love this recipe-thank you so much for sharing

  4. Thanks! Your photos are so lovely, too! Another idea...I used to buy this smoothie from the health food store when I would feel sick called a "Ginger Snap." It is expensive, though (like $8 for the large one!), so I have recreated it. I use fresh lemon juice (we have a meyer lemon bush), a ton of freshly grated ginger, ice, water, and I use stevia for sweetener....blend it up and drink it! If he wants a warm drink, then fresh lemon juice, water, and honey as hot as he can stand...this is especially good for a sore throat (you probably know that one, though!). Hope he is better soon. :). Thanks again for this beautiful blog; I love the art!

  5. I love this! I am always looking for new DIY natural home remedies. I always make homemade elderberry syrup for those signs of the sniffles. I just think that is the wonder medicine. I will definitely have to give this a try. Thanks for sharing!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. Thank you very much for this recipe.. Another one to add to my collection. I enjoy making and using herbal remedies so much... I love your blog..

  7. What a great recipe! Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Another wonderful recipe, dear JES! Oh, how blessed we are to have you share your knowledge with us :) And I know this does not matter, but.... the cold and flu elixir is also quite pretty :) Thank you so much for sharing at ROI. Hugs to you!

  9. With winter fast approaching us this will be a handy thing to have around. Now just to find where I can get the ingredients!! Thanks for sharing at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

  10. This is a very helpful post. I use calendula in many topical formulas, but didn't realize that it was good for taking internally for viruses and such. I always make a tincture (or syrup) of elderberries and rose hips for that. I will add calendula next time, too!

  11. I ordered seeds the other day, and while I was picking them out I was looking through your lovely blog for suggestions on herbs and flowers to grow for my medicine cabinet. I did order calendula. I can't wait to try my hand at this, thank you for teaching me!

  12. I am growing Calendula for the first time this year, and I can't wait to make all kinds of awesome stuff with it! Pinning this so I can use it later in the year. Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop, Jess!

  13. JES, I am completely fascinated by this and simply must source some calendula flowers so I can make it for next Winter here. I'll be happy to post my thoughts when it's finally used. Thanks so much. Mimi xxx

    1. This is one of our favorite recipes! Do try it :)

  14. Jes, thank you for this recipe. I grew my own calendula this summer and made this recipe. It is steeping right now. But I am not sure my children would like taking it... especially the younger ones:4 and 7. How did your children react to the experience?😊

    1. Well, the blessed honey makes it quite palatable and the rose hips are a sweeter herb so this wasn't too hard to get down! :) It tastes very similar to over the counter cough medicine... Let me know how the medicine goes down!

  15. I am going to make a tincture without the honey using 90 proof vodka (I always use this for my tinctures so they will last 'forever' or until gone). When needed, I will mix with some raw honey and give to the sick one. This way it will last longer. We are rarely sick here, but I love having tinctures on hand for my extended family for when needed (grown kids and grandkids). I have all the dried components and plan to make this today or over the weekend. Thank you for all the great recipes!

    1. Sounds like a great plan Lori! This is one of my favorite go-to recipes! :)

  16. Thank you so much for this post. With all that is going on in the world and shortages of foods/medicines I have been turning to alternatives the natural way. Being that we are at the end of the season of growing flowers/plants. Where can I get seeds to grow calendula? Can I grow this indoors with a grow light?

    1. Hi Mellie! I actually got my seeds from Amazon I think but there are probably so many sources...unfortunately I have no experience with growing with a grow light but it never hurts to try! You can always start with a few seeds and save the rest for spring in case it doesn't work...