By Jane Seeley with GardensAll
Calendula (Calendula officinalis), is a flower with many benefits and from a very worthy family of plants. Related to—and sometimes confused with—Marigold (Tagetes), they’re both little cousins of the Sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae).
Calendula is the little plant that could. Calendula, a.k.a. Pot Marigold, is hardy as an early spring plant, starts early in spring and lasts well through fall, and is an amazing powerhouse flower on top of that.
Calendula is beautiful, low maintenance, fights off bad guys, heals and feeds. What a lady!
Uses and Benefits of Calendula
Calendula has been found to be beneficial for a number of ailments and especially for the skin.
Calendula is rich in the flavonoids and carotenoids found in vegetables and fruits, as evidenced by the the vivid yellow and orange colors found in the yellow-orange range of fruits vegetables.
- Antioxidants –
- flavonoids –
- Vitamin A – good for skin and eyes
- beta carotene
CALENDULA TOPICAL APPLICATIONS – Gels, Cream and Oils
Good for foot rubs, lip balms, hand creams, and all sorts of skin ailments, calendula uses include:
- Skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis
- Diaper rash
- Skin sores, minor cuts and wounds
- Insect bites
- Post radiation skin inflammation
- Moistens and soothes dry and racked skin
- Soothes sore muscles
- Antimicrobial & Antiseptic
- Anti-fungal – good for
- jock itch / vaginal itching
- athletes foot
INTERNAL APPLICATIONS – Calendula Tea
- Antioxidant – protect cells from oxidative damage
- Digestive aid for digestive problems
- Stomach aches
- Abdominal cramps
- Menstrual cramps – (emmenagogic, which stimulates blood flow to the pelvis)
- Urinary tract problems
- Tonic for overall boost to vigor and wellbeing
- Induces sweating – (sudorific)
- Antispasmodic – (relaxant; natural muscle relaxant)
- Sore throat
- Internal – 3-12g of dried herb daily
- Externally – as a tea containing 1-2tsp of dried herb per 8oz/240ml of water 1)
- Fluid extract (1:1 in 40 percent alcohol): 0.5 – 1.0 milliliters three times per day
- Skin ointments with two to five percent calendula. 1)
My Journey with Calendula
It was over twenty years ago that I became acquainted with calendula.
A friend was making and selling salves and creams from olive oil infused with healing flowers. This was intriguing, and I soon came to know the flower that she used.
Calendula officinalis was the main healing ingredient in my friend’s salve.
With the rise in interest in natural remedies, a healthier lifestyle and gardening, calendula offers many benefits and uses. As a hardy little plant that is easy to grow from seed, you can have beautiful calendula flowers which are used in many natural skin care products in just a couple of month. I searched for a packet of high resin content seeds and planted them in my garden.
Higher resin seeds contain the most medicinal benefit.
You can find high resin calendula seeds on Amazon with free shipping via Prime. These are non-GMO and can be ready to harvest in 60 days.
This beautiful orange and yellow calendula flower is commonly called “pot marigold” because of its use in the Middle Ages as a common addition to soups and stews. Calendula has a historical reputation that dates back to Roman times, and early herbalists such as 17th century Nicholas Culpepper, included calendula in his Complete Herbal.
Natural Food Coloring, Dye and Edible Flowers
The rich, vivid color of calendula petals was traditionally used to color butter, cheese, yarns and fabric. Calendula is also used for teas and in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. The edible flowers can be added to salads and other dishes for exotic flare.
Sprinkle calendula petals in rice and soups like strands of saffron.
Calendula for Companion Planting
Self seeding and perennial—flowers that come back every year—this plant has spread throughout my garden and I am often challenged to keep it contained. Gloriously displaying its yellow and orange flowers, calendula adds beauty and color to the summer landscape of my vegetable garden.
Calendula Officinalis Deters Garden Pests
Calendula repels tomato hornworms and asparagus beetles, while marigolds deter cabbage maggots, Mexican bean beetles, aphids and many other pests. Plant both along crop rows and between plants for a little extra color and added insect protection.1)http://www.hobbyfarms.com/keep-garden-pests-away-with-companion-planting-4/
I treat calendula as a crop, grown not just for its beauty, but also for its usefulness in skin care.
Calendula Cream and Oil – Good for Your Skin
Living at 3,450 feet at the foot of a volcano, my skin becomes quickly dry in the heat of summertime. Beginning in June, my skin starts getting flakey, so I know it’s time to rehydrate it quickly. I head to the refrigerator and pull out a jar of calendula oil that I made last fall and add it to my daily skincare routine.
How to Make Calendula Oil
Calendula oil is quite easy to make and the simplest way is to put the flowers in a jar, cover them with oil and let them sit in the sun for two to four weeks. However, there’s a bit more to it than that. When the calendula begins to bloom, I pick the flowers mid-morning every two to three days, place them in the shade in an open box or drying rack and let them dry for a few days. Minimally, dry them for at least twelve hours and many herbalist recommend drying for two to three days before putting them in oil, the goal being to remove water that might later make its way into the oil and turn the product rancid. I prefer a few days and then store the dried flowers in a bag or jar in a cool dark place until I have collected enough flowers for my project.
Calendula oil to moisten and rejuvenate skin.
Olive Calendula Oil
- Dried calendula flowers, coarsely chopped
- Fill a mason jar with flowers
- Fill the jar adding enough oil to cover the flowers, (organic olive oil works well)
- Place the jar into a sunny window for two to four weeks
The infused oil will become a beautiful yellow shade and ready to be decanted, which can be accomplished by using a cheese cloth lined funnel and a clean jar. Pour the infused oil into the funnel and allow the oil to drain, pressing and squeezing the flowers to release the oil. The strained oil can now be stored or used in other preparations such as salves and cremes. Be careful to keep any settled sediment out of your finished oil as it can lead to rancidity in your final products. Store the oil for up to a year in a cool dark place; I prefer the refrigerator.
Calendula Cream and Coconut Calendula Oil
As a twist on this formula, calendula in coconut oil is a favorite option. Since coconut oil solidifies at temperatures above 76℉/24℃, coconut calendula oil is best made in summer. However, you can then store the infused oil for uses any time of year after straining. As with the olive oil recipe:
- Fill mason jar with dried blossoms, roughly chopped
- Add coconut oil to cover the calendula
- Cover and sit in a sunny window for a couple weeks.
Coconut oil may harden on cool nights in summer, but should melt during the day as temperatures warm up. Soaking in the warm sun will help extract the flavonoids from the flowers and infuse this into the oil.
Decant and strain this concoction while the oil is still hot and liquid. I put this oil directly into small jars and store in the refrigerator. I just take out a jar at a time, as needed and it stays pretty much solid and ready for use, like salve, if stored in a cool place. if you live in a really hot area, just keep it in the refrigerator and pull it out to use when you need it.
With the plants in the garden it is important to keep the flowers picked. Like many plants calendula has one goal in its life process: to produce seed. So to keep the plant blooming all summer and into the fall all you need to do is keep picking the flowers and remove any dead heads that are going to seed.
Picking the flowers makes more flowers.
Lovely Garden Gifts
Our favorite gifts ever are those from the garden. Consider turning your lovely calendula flowers (and other kinds) into gifts for holidays, birthdays and Mother’s Day.
Turn your dried calendula flowers into:
- Calendula cream – place it in these cute reusable hinged lid jars
- Calendula oil – place it in an elegant bottle
- Calendula salve – healing / medicinal in a short hinged lid jar
- Calendula tea – wrap the dried flowers with a tea infuser and teapot or tea cup
- Greeting cards – press calendula flowers onto card stock for homemade cards
For your gift giving homemade goodies, you can find your choice of cool labels to personalize your gift.
Enjoy growing and using this beautiful flower that can heal and help keep your skin healthy! This anti-inflammatory flower may protect cells from free radical damage via its powerful flavonoids which are known to help in UV filtration. One friend found my salve to be very helpful with his son’s eczema and it is useful in treating other skin conditions, as well.
While this is a DIY project if you are interested in pursuing creams and salves to sell to others I highly recommend Richo Cech’s book “Making Plant Medicine”; this man literally wrote the book on formulating herbal products.”
But… if you can’t make your own just yet, you don’t have to wait. You can find some on Amazon and make plans for making your own during the next growing season:
More on Culinary Calendula
Now while it’s true that the calendula flowers and leaves are edible, they can be very bitter. Some people like how they add beauty and a little gourmet touch to salads, but if you try it, you may want to start with just the petals sprinkled around for garnish and work your way up to the entire flower. Consuming the flower however does provide beneficial antioxidants. But if you don’t like the taste you can use the flowers externally for medicine instead.
One great culinary use of calendula petals that won’t affect a dish’s flavor is obtained by sprinkling them in rice instead of saffron which is quite expensive. The dried calendula petals will impart a rich golden yellow color to the rice, yet will scarcely be discernible as the dried petals are much more subdued in flavor and you won’t need to add much to lace the rice with a golden color.
Other culinary uses depend on whether you like the flavor of the flowers. In addition to adding flowers to salads, try using them in herbal butters and cheese spreads, or use the dried flowers to make tea.
More on Medicinal Uses of Calendula
Calendula is a commonly used as a topical gel or cream for skin rashes, diaper rash, skin sores, muscle soreness, acne, and a number of other conditions.
WebMD published a blurb on how early research points to Calendula ointment being applied to skin after radiation therapy helps reduce skin inflammation. Now that’s powerful… and promising!2)http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-235-calendula.aspx?activeingredientid=235&activeingredientname=calendula
Extensive research is still being done to find more conclusive evidence of Calendula and its positive effects in helping to treat cancer. But, we always recommend using caution when using Calendula or any other plant to treat ailments.
Calendula is not just a topical medicine. When drunk in tea form, it aids digestive problems, stomach aches, menstrual cramps, and urinary tract problems.3)http://www.calendulatea.net/health-benefits/
This bold and perky plant has more than looks and longevity. In the garden calendula helps deter pesky insects,4)https://www.growveg.com/guides/the-many-uses-of-calendula/ and in salves, tinctures, teas and decoctions it helps in healing and health.
Calendula: The little plant that does!
Happy planting and growing. Take good care of yourself!
About Jane Seely: Growing up in North Carolina, my first gardening friend was an elderly neighbor who grew a huge garden and engaged the neighborhood in evening bean shelling and corn shucking. Transplanted to Mt. Shasta California in the mid 90’s, I had the blessing of moving next to an organic gardener who taught me to garden at 3,500 feet at the base of a volcano where summers were short and winters were long and cold. I’ve been gardening here for over 15 years and learning each year how little I know as each season brings its challenges and rewards. Now I’m breaking new ground as a garden writer, sharing from my lifetime of experience and love of gardening.
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