One of the many enjoyable aspects of soapmaking is formulating new recipes. I try to choose ingredients that are beneficial to the skin or performance of the soap, while being beautiful at the same time. My favorite botanical ingredient that does all of these things is Calendula officinalis.
This flowering plant is also commonly called pot marigold (though it has no relation to the ornamental marigolds you buy at the garden store). The plant contains a wide variety of natural compounds such as carotenoids, flavonoids, mucilage, polysachharides, saponins, glycosides and sterols. Many people make teas or poultices out of calendula to treat skin problems and promote healing.
In cold process soap, calendula petals are unique among flowers because their beautiful color holds strong against the intense chemical reaction that brings most flowers to their knees. Most flower petals turn brown or black when exposed to the heat and alkalinity of saponification. Many customers ask me to use lavender buds in soap, but I have to give them the disappointing news that their soap will look like it has dead flies in it, if I do. Calendula petals don't do that.
We grow our own calendula in the back yard and harvest and air dry the petals. I like the richer orange variety for use in our soaps and my daughter LOVES to help me pick all of the petals off of the freshly cut flowers. It's like a kid's dream come true..."yes honey, please DO chop the heads off and tear off all the pretty colors!" Bliss.