Vibrant, Dried Calendula
Vibrant, Dried Calendula Image

Medicinals

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)


Calendula is among my favorite healing herbs that I grow at the farm for my salves.

Calendula epitomizes the enormous medicinal value of the homegrown plants in my gardens and fields. Its bright-orange blossoms remind me of the sun and uplift my mood. I hope to always have them in my garden and this summer plan to plant huge fields of them.

Description:

A member of the daisy and chrysanthemum family, Calendula, or "pot marigold," is a healing plant indigenous to Iran and Turkey, but is now naturalized globally. The plant self-seeds prolifically and blossoms throughout the season. It’s beautiful and easy to grow, even for beginning gardeners. The whole flower is used in remedies, either fresh or dried.

Historically this plant has been used for medicinal and culinary use and for the beauty and visual intensity of its vibrant orange and yellow daisy-like flowers. Though only the common deep-orange-flowered variety is of medicinal value. Named "calends," after the calendar, for its tendency to be in bloom on the first day of each month, its petals open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Recent scientific research supports its use for many ailments, though it’s best known for its ability to heal and soothe the skin.

Calendula

(Calendula officinalis)

Family: Asteraceae

Common: Calendula, "pot marigold"

Plant Type: annual or short-lived perennial

Propagation: seed

Light Requirement: high, full sun, partial shade

Flower Color: yellow, orange, white

Blooming Period: summer, most plants begin blooming within two months of seeding.

Height: 8-18 inches

Width: 2–4 inches

Heat Tolerance: low

Cold Tolerance: can tolerate a light frost

Water Requirements: medium

Plant Use: beds, borders, container plantings, cut flowers

Medicinal Use:

Antiseptic, healing, soothing, fungicidal, antimicrobial, anti-viral, anti-genotoxic, anti-inflammatory, stimulant, diaphoretic, anti-suppurative.

Calendula’s flower petals have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century. It contains high amounts of flavonoids, antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged by free radicals. Calendula appears to fight inflammation, viruses and bacteria, and has been shown to help wounds heal faster, possibly by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the affected area, which helps the body grow new tissue. The dried petals of the Calendula plant are used in tinctures, salves, ointments, compresses, oil and water infusions, baths, washes, and teas.

Topical/External Use:

Calendula can be used externally to treat skin infections, cuts, punctures, scrapes, burns, chapped or chafed skin or lips, acne, insect bites, eczema, skin ulcers, rashes, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins. Calendula has been used to prevent and treat skin inflammation (dermatitis) resulting from radiation therapy in cancer patients, and as a tonic for overexposure to sun. Its wound-healing properties may be attributed to its high content of natural iodine, carotene, and manganese, which promote skin cell regeneration.

Internal Use:

Traditionally, Calendula has been used internally to treat stomach and intestinal upset and ulcers, and to relieve menstrual cramps. The tea or the tincture in water can be swished and swallowed to soothe toothaches and gastric ulcer, to help heal oral lesions and sore throat, and may also be used as an eyewash for conditions like conjunctivitis. Research suggests antimicrobial compounds naturally occurring in Calendula may inhibit certain strains of Staphylococcus and Candida, as well as E. coli and some protozoa. Additional studies indicate that Calendula stimulates the immune system, promotes lymphatic drainage, reduces inflammation and pain, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, and inhibits tumor growth. The bitter green "calyx" that forms the bottom of the flower head is thought to stimulate digestion by increasing bile secretion. Calendula also contains lycopene, which early studies suggest may be useful in staving off cancer.

Calendula flowers are edible, and served fresh can brightly and healthfully adorn salads.

Calendula officinalis should not be confused with the garden marigold plant (Tagetes); the healing plant’s distinctive qualities are its bright daisy-like petals, a sticky calyx, hairy leaves and a height of 1 to 1 1/2 feet.

Cultivation:

In the spring I plant flats of Calendula from seed I saved from the previous year, or seeds self-sow from last year’s plants and pop up all over the garden.

Calendula blooms in rich soil and a full-sun location, although it will adapt to most soil conditions. Calendula grows well in containers and above-ground planters.

Start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the average frost-free date; transplant 4-week-old seedlings outdoors or sow seeds directly in the garden as soon as soil can be worked in spring.

For container planting, choose a diameter of at least 12 to 18 inches to provide enough space for the plant; if planting in the ground, leave seeds 9 to 10 inches apart. Sow about 1/4 inch deep and pat down the row.

Keep growing plants weeded, and thin out where too close. Calendula blooms in early spring starting 40-50 days after initial planting; Calendula seeds planted in late-April will begin to flower in June and continue flowering until the frost kills them. Calendula slows down in extreme heat, though regular watering should keep them blooming in temperate weather zones. In very hot climates, plant Calendula in fall or very early spring.

For easy reseeding, at the end of the growing season simply leave some of the flowers on the plants to form seed heads. Or scatter the dried seeds wherever you would like to see Calendula bloom in the spring.

Harvesting:

Harvesting and processing the flowers is best done in the late morning, after the dew dries. Pick flowers when fully open, checking often. Cutting blooms from your Calendula will only encourage more budding. You can use fresh flowers or you can dry them, storing the blossoms for later use, by loosely spreading out the cut flower heads on a screen, in a shady, dry spot. Turn them occasionally until they are papery dry and store in canning jars until ready to use.

After the first harvest, pick again in a few days, when the newly developing flowers reach maturity.

Preparation:

Ointments, washes, salves, bathing teas, compresses, tinctures or liquid extracts, infusions, and creams can be made with fresh or dried Calendula petals.

For a soothing bath:
Add 12 to 15 flower heads to 3 cups of boiling water, reduce heat and cover, simmering for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and add liquid to your bath.

To make a basic skin oil:
In a glass jar, place a handful of dried Calendula flower heads or petals and add enough oil (such as sweet almond, apricot kernel, or olive oil) to completely cover the dried blossoms. After sealing the jar, allow contents to infuse for 1 to 2 months, gently shaking daily. Strain when the oil is golden, and store in a dark bottle in a cool, dark place. (Refrigerating oil will extend its shelf life.)

Internal use preparation:
To use Calendula internally, make a tea from the dried flowers using about 3 or 4 flower heads per cup of boiling water—be sure to remove the bitter green underpart or calyx of flower.

Calendula products should always be protected from light and moisture, and should not be used after 3 years of storage.

This herb it sure to become a mainstay of your garden. As an added bonus to its beauty and health benefits, Calendula is also a garden pest deterrent. Be sure to grow some this year, and as with all herbs, be sure to grow organically.

To find out more about Leigh’s Bees salves, which feature Calendula homegrown by Leigh, visit leighsbees.com. All proceeds from sales of Leigh’s Bees products go to Heifer International, a nonprofit whose mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth.




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