Herb of the Month-Calendula

Calendula arvensis L.




Latin: Calendula officinalis

Family: Compositae

Parts Used: Flower Heads

Energy and Flavors: Spicy, Bitter, Nuetral

Systems Affected: Liver, Heart, Lungs

Primary Biochemical Constituents: contain carotenoids, resin, flavonol glycosides, triterpene oligoglycosides, saponins, and a sesquiterpene glucosides

Properties: Astringent, antiseptic, alterative, antibactertial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aperient, gynecological action, emmenogogue, cholagogue, diaphoretic, vulnerary

Cautions: Calendula is known to cause allergic reactions. It should be avoided internally during pregnancy and lactation



Description: Calendula is an annual or short-lived herbaceous perennial growing from 1 to 3 feet tall. The flowers are orange or yellow, with single rows of petals or “doubles.” Calendula is a cultigen, meaning that the plant we currently use is the product of ages of human selection (mainly occurring in southern Europe) from the wild Mediterranean ancestor (wild calendula = Calendula arvensis). The plant is a prolific self-seeder. The part used is the whole flower, either fresh or dried. Calendula seed is an after-ripener. That is, the seed germinates better after 6 months of storage than if planted immediately after maturity. This is an adaptation that allows the calendula seed to lie dormant and unsprouted in the soil all winter long, germinating only in the spring. The calendula seed itself comes in various shapes. The black ones that look like coiled alligators make nice plants, but the big beige calendula seeds that may easily be mistaken for pieces of chaff actually make stronger seedlings.


Cultivation: Calendula is easily grown from seed and may be sown directly in the garden from early spring on into summer, with plenty of time left to get a good harvest of flowers. Tolerant of poor soils, calendula will grow in partial shade or full sun. The plant requires regular watering. Sometimes known as “pot marigold,” calendula is easily grown in pots on the doorstep or in window boxes. Ideal for children, the seeds are large and easily handled, and germination is almost assured even if planted by the inexperienced gardener. Sow about ¼ inch deep and pat down the row. Keep weeded and thin to 6 inches to 1 foot apart. The first flowers are produced only 40 to 50 days after seed germination.

Harvesting and processing the flowers: Harvest is best done in the late morning, after the dew dries. As soon as the flowers come into their prime, pick them off. After the first harvest, pick again in a few days, when the newly developing flowers reach maturity. Spread the calendula flowers on screens to dry, in the shade, and turn and stir them several times daily. As soon as the calendula flowers are dry, store them in plastic bags or glass jars. A forced-air dehydrator is preferred for large-scale production of calendula flowers.

Traditional Uses:  Has been used over the centuries in combination as a supporting healing agent to treat just about every malady known to man. Infusion of the petals has been used as lotion for skin cleansing and softening; to treat boils and pustules; as a mouthwash for gum problems, mucous membrane and throat problems, thrush infections, gingivitis; as a wash or soak for conjunctivitis, blisters, athlete’s foot, herpes, cysts, minor injuries, eczema; as a lotion or douche for vaginal itching or soreness, vaginal warts; as a compress from the infusion to treat varicose veins, phlebitis, bedsores and facial thread veins. A combination infusion of Calendula, St.Johnswort and Yarrow has been used for cystitis. An infusion of the fresh flowers has been used in combination with lemon balm to treat shingles. The fresh juice of the plant or flowers can be substituted for an infusion. Has been taken internally for poor circulation, varicose veins, bronchitis, cancer, diarrhea, chronic inflammations, biliary insufficiency, jaundice, gall bladder problems, liver problems, gastric and duodenal ulcers, colitis, diverticulitis, hepatitis, pelvic inflammation, stomach cramps, nausea, headaches, toothache, flu, fevers (an infusion of the fresh flowers to induce perspiration), herpes virus, lymphatic infections, anemia, as a blood cleanser, and for skin problems. Viral infections of the liver have been treated with Calendula, although with caution to avoid overstimulation of the liver, gall bladder, and pancreas.

For external use, an oil has been made from the flowers for skin problems, sunburn, bleeding hemorrhoids, varicose veins, facial thread veins, measles, shingles, while a drop or two on a cotton ball has been used for earache; used in ointment form to heal acne and fade old scars and for external sores, dry eczema, cuts, bruises, burns, rashes, diaper rash, chapped skin, sore nipples, to repair minor skin damage and for broken capillaries; as a vaginal douche for yeast infections. Usually combined with Chamomile and Comfrey for a soothing ointment in cases of skin problems, burns, cuts, insect bites, stings and bruises.  An old remedy for toothache is to combine the juice of the petals with vinegar and rub on the teeth and gums. An infusion from the leaves is used for tired swollen feet; also to soak a cloth to use as a compress or poultice for swellings and gout. The leaves were once eaten as a cure for scrofula. Flowers have been used in infusion form as a wash for conjuntivitis and red, inflamed eyes in general. The tincture has been used for amenorrhea, cramps, toothaches, fever, flu, stomachaches, tuberculosis, and syphilis. Said to strengthen and comfort the heart and aid in digestion. In the bath 5 to 10 drops of the oil has been added for anxiety or depression. The fresh flowers have been rubbed into beestings for pain. Flowers have been steeped in vinegar for sprains.

According to herbalist Dorothy Hall (Your Herbal Profile), to treat varicose veins the ointment must be applied ABOVE and BELOW the site of the veins each day. Has been used to staunch bleeding in minor wounds such as cuts and abrasions. Seeds induce clotting of blood. Was extensively used in battlefield hospitals during the Civil War of the United States, the ointment being used as a wound dressing. The oil, salve, or poultice has been used for bleeding, to soothe pain and irritation and promote healing of wounds. Wounds have been treated using the fresh flowers in the form of salve, juice, or ointment. Either salve or diluted tincture has also been used for bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, sores, and boils. For bunions the salve or tincture (diluted) has been applied 2 or 3 times a day.

The infusion has been used to regulate menses, stimulating its onset if late, but also reducing flow if excessive. Has been also used for menstrual cramping, menopausal symptoms, cancer of breast and uterus (as both tea and poultice) and to treat abnormal cervical cells (in the form of a bolus).

Homeopathic:  Homeopathic tincture is used as an antiseptic, and for injuries involving broken skin; also mumps, post-op bleeding, sunburn, and insect bites.  I have used Calendula 30c to help my cats heal after a nasty wound was left from a cat bite and she was to feisty to let me place any herbs upon her skin.  One pellet inserted into the mouth morning and evening-the wound was healed within a week.

Veterinary:  Used to treat farm animals for vomiting, internal ulcers, problems of arteries and veins, heart problems, skin ailments, eczema, warts. 
A strong infusion is used for skin problems.
 The leaves are used for warts.
 The flowers are soaked in vinegar as a topical treatment for bee and wasp stings

Cooking with Calendula:  Flower petals are used fresh or dried, although they have little to no taste when fresh, but become savory when cooked. In Europe they have long been used in soups and broths.
 Dried and powdered petals can be used as a substitute for saffron and to color butter, custards, and liqueurs. 
Fresh flower petals are sprinkled on salads. 
Dried petals are used in soups, baked goods and tea.  In his book, Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, Stephan Harrod Buhner offers a wonderful recipe for creating Calendula (Marigold) Ale.

NOTE:  Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.

DYE:  Flowers produce a bright yellow.
 Flowers produce creamy yellow with alum mordant.

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