Calendula: The Flower of the Sun
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) - also known as pot marigold or golden marigold, and though it is in the aster, or sunflower, family, is not a marigold at all. Calendula's name originates from the Latin name "Calendae" which means the first day of the calendar month and refers to its cheerful blooms that bloom every month of the year.
Calendula has been used for centuries as a “go-to” remedy for healing wounds, burns, and rashes. Once native to Southern Europe, Calendula is now grown all over the world, and in abundance throughout North America and Europe. As one of the easiest herbs to grow, it is usually one of a budding herbalist’s or gardener’s favorites to have growing in the garden. The flowers reminiscent of sunshine are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories as well as edible. Its medicine is found concentrated in the flower head, the resin found in the green base antimicrobial and healing. Though highly medicinal, it is still gentle enough for most people and animals to use safely.
A Little History
Calendula is first noted as having been cultivated in Third Century, BC, and was an important part of the kitchen garden in Fifth Century, France. The gorgeous, sunny plant has been harvested in England since the 1200’s. Calendula has been used in a variety of ways since, and not all of them medicinal. Once known as Poor Man’s Saffron, calendula was used to color and flavor foods like cheese, butter, custards, soups and rice dishes.
There is much folklore surrounding Calendula that adds to the richness of the plant’s story. One story which describes a beautiful, golden-haired child, Mary-Gold, who spent all of her days watching the sun until one day, she vanished and was never found or seen again. In the place she would sit, there grew a little sun flower. Her family proclaimed that she had been turned into a flower, and that the little flower was really Mary-Gold.
Some Impressive Benefits of Calendula
One of the gentlest, yet most versatile herbs is this pretty garden addition. With abilities to effectively address different health issues, calendula has made its way through the centuries, from the garden, to the apothecary, and to your kitchen.
- Rich in Antioxidants
We all know the effectiveness antioxidants can have neutralizing oxidative stress’s harmful effects. Calendula is rich with different types of antioxidants, like carotenoids, flavonoids, triterpenes, and polyphenols as well as anti-inflammatory compounds, like TNF- Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha. A study conducted on rats reported that calendula extract reverted the depletion levels of antioxidants by around 120 percent and lowered oxidative stress.
Calendula, a vulnerary, is notorious for its wound healing, skin healing and tissue-repair abilities, most notably rashes, cold sores, cuts, bites, stings, burns, wounds, swellings, abrasions, eczema, acne, scars, scrapes, chicken pox, athlete’s foot, and more. Due to its antiseptic properties, Calendula also helps keep wounds clean and promotes cellular repair and growth. In this study, it was concluded that “C. Officinalis presented anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities as well as angiogenic and fibroplastic properties acting in a positive way on the inflammatory and proliferative phases of the healing process.” In other words, calendula works effectively on properly healing wounds that exhibit symptoms of inflammation, redness, and tenderness.
Digestive System & Immune System
Calendula tea is a well-known remedy for soothing various internal infections or irritations such as peptic ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and heartburn due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It also exhibits a protective effect on your stomach, supporting your digestive system.
Calendula is a powerful tonic herb and is one of the best for nourishing and cleansing and draining stagnant a lymphatic system and help move congestion out of the body.
Calendula can be helpful in treating a variety of uterine and vaginal discomforts. The flowers can be prepared as an infusion, then used as a douche for bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections. It can also be prepared as a sitz bath for help in healing perinium tears, swelling, and inflammation after birth. While there is not yet specific scientific data, calendula has been used for menstruating women who suffer from pre-menstrual cramps for many, many years.
True to its sunny disposition, Calendula is wonderfully uplifting. Though no longer used as an anti-depressant by most modern herbalists, it was traditionally used by early European herbalists to help with wintertime blues and blahs. Combined with other cheerful flowers like rose and passionflower for sadness, or with lemon balm and holy basil for lifting your mood and adding some joy.
A Glimmer in Your Skin Care
Calendula is a gentle, soothing treatment regularly used in skincare as it is effective on combatting dry skin, redness and irritation, symptoms of dermatitis, and eczema. It helps to brighten skin, fade dark spots, and acne scars, as well as restore skin elasticity while providing smooth texture. It also helps by controlling sebum production, clearing clogged pores, and triggering collagen production.
May Support Your Oral Health
The sunshiny flowers’ antiseptic properties work to prevent gingivitis and plaque buildup. A study conducted on 240 people suffering from gingivitis “concluded that calendula mouthwash is effective in reducing dental plaque and gingivitis adjunctive to scaling.”
In Ayurvedic practice, Calendula is used much in the same way you would use coconut oil or sesame oil for oil pulling. Studies suggest calendula can help to repair the soft tissue of the gums while actively fighting plaque.
A Few Ways to Use Calendula
1. Calendula Oil
Add fresh or dried whole flower heads to a carrier oil (olive is generally my oil of choice) and either let sit in a shady windowsill for a few weeks or use a low heat method in a double broiler to infuse the medicinal benefits of the flower into the oil, then strain. The oil will be good for 6 months to 1 year. The oil can be applied directly to the skin to treat different skin conditions.
2. Calendula Balm/Salve
The oil can be added to melted beeswax, other butters and oils, and essential oils for a balm or salve.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy the benefits of Calendula is by making herbal tea infusion. You can use dried or fresh calendula. Just put them in water and boil them for around 10 to 15 minutes. You can boil 1 cup of water, then pour over the flowers and cover to infuse for 20 minutes. A stronger infusion can be made if using it as a sitz bath, oral mouth rinse, or vaginal douche.
For a more sunny tea, you would add the flowers to a mason jar, cover with cool water and let it sit in the sun for 5-6 hours.
As a most joyous, uplifting, versatile herb that has been proven over an abundance of time, Calendula is one of those herbs that should be a staple in every garden, kitchen and apothecary. It is by far, one of my favorites to use and work with. Included in my Boo Boo Balm for its wound healing properties, my Coco Cleanse for its magnificent skin care benefits, my Baby Booty Balm for its effectiveness in healing rashes, my Growing Belly Balm for its soothing and smoothing properties, my Nipple Balm for its ability to heal abrasions, inflammation, as well as create an antimicrobial protective barrier on the nipple, and the Pure Deodorant for its skin soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, it is easy to see how calendula is used across the board for many common, everyday issues.
Add a little joy and sunshine to your life by incorporating calendula wherever you can!
What are your favorite ways to use her?