Five Ways Herbalists use Calendula
Finally, a warm day – a day that invites you into the garden to reacquaint yourself with old friends, plants that have survived the long harsh winter, showing their resilience by pushing up through the soil to say hello to a new Spring.
I find it reassuring that the herbs we use for their culinary and medicinal qualities are the ones that grow with abandon, taking over our garden beds and boxes. They are tenacious, all glorious and territorial in their expanding reach.
In my garden, the lavender bushes sit close to the calendula bed and as I was pruning the lavender and enjoying deeply inhaling its oil into my lungs, I found it was the idea of the calendula that was taking up space in my thoughts. Would its seeds have survived this year’s long, cold winter? How much will I have to thin them? Should I perhaps prepare another bed for this abundance of nature?
The more calendula flowers are picked, the more they produce, and it is this gift that fills us with gratitude. Like sunflowers and pansies, these bright orange flowers draw little children in, gardeners love them as bright border plants, cooks love them as an addition to salads, and herbalists love them because this plant has so much to offer us.
Calendula has that wonderful natural rhthym of closing it's flower at dusk, unfolding again at dawn and following the sun as it moves across the sky during the day.
Botanical name: Calendula officinalis
Common name: marigold, pot marigold, Mary’s bud
Parts used: Flowers
Constituents: carotenoids (lutein, xanthophyll), triterpenoids, flavonoids, sterols, resin, saponins, mucilage, coumarins
Actions: anti-inflammatory, vulnerary (healing), antifungal
Preparations: Ointments, creams, salves, infusions, tincture of 25% alcohol and tincture of 90% alcohol.
NB: 90% alcohol extract is used to extract the resin for more specialized use.
Contraindications: If you have allergies to plants of the daisy (Compositae/Asteraceae) family, you should be cautious with calendula and try a small skin test first. Plants in this family include chicory, chamomile, dandelion and echinacea.
Avoid taking calendula by mouth during pregnancy. There is not enough known about its safety profile.
Calendula is probably one of my favorite plants, definitely ranking in the top five. Its beauty is captivating, and its jolly repose on a summer’s day draws attention. No wonder it was noticed so many years ago and would become a stalwart of the traditional healing systems of Asia, north Africa and Southern Europe.
Calendula’s Benefits and Uses
1. BURNS, SCALDS, MINOR CUTS AND SCRAPES
Calendula is a herb par excellence for the skin. It can be used safely on small local inflammations of the skin. Many studies have illustrated the healing properties of calendula when applied directly to the skin. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and vulnerary (healing) properties, accelerating new tissue growth and wound healing. Adding a few drops of organic essential oil of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) to your ointment provides added antimicrobial protection.
2. DIAPER RASH
A baby’s delicate skin is vulnerable to breakdown. An ointment made with calendula flowers provides healing and anti-inflammatory action as well as a barrier action. It is particularly effective when a diaper rash is associated with teething.
3. FOLLOWING CHILDBIRTH
Calendula ointment or cream is a safe and soothing addition to cracked nipples. Adding lanolin to the ointment augments its healing action.
An infusion made with calendula and aloe vera and cooled in the fridge makes a soothing compress for the perineum following birth. Adding a calendula infusion to a sitz bath can also bring comfort in the days following birth. A 2013 study found that an ointment made with calendula and aloe vera, applied to episiotomy wounds every 8 hours over 5 days, improved outcomes. There was less swelling, redness and bruising than for women who did not receive the ointment.
4. STOMACH, DIGESTION
Calendula infusion has an anti-inflammatory and soothing effect on the lining of the digestive tract. It is often prescribed to relieve indigestion and combined with herbs such as marshmallow root (Althea radix), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), and liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra).
Calendula cream or ointment may be effective in preventing and reducing skin inflammation (dermatitis) following radiation treatment to the breast, head and neck regions.
Calendula infused oil – Solar/Lunar method.
There are several ways to make calendula-infused oil: The quick stovetop method, the slow cooker method, and the slower solar/lunar method. The solar/lunar method is my favourite way to introduce infused oils.
The flower heads should be thoroughly dried, being careful to keep them away from bright light so their colour is preserved. If they are not dried thoroughly, any remaining moisture could set up a medium for the growth of microbes in creams, oils or ointment preparations.
To make calendula oil, the flowers are macerated in oil to extract the healing constituents.
Simply fill up a sterilized jar with dried calendula flowers, leaving about 2 inches of space at the top.
Cover the flowers with an oil of your choice such as sweet almond, jojoba or olive oil.
Cover the herbs by at least an inch.
Leave the jar on the windowsill in the sun for about two weeks.
Give it a shake daily or as you are going past.
Once the oil has taken on the characteristic orange colour, strain the contents through a muslin cloth and there you have your oil.
If some debris remains, let the oil sit overnight to let the contents settle and pour off the good oil into another jar.
Label and date your jar of lovely oil.
Keep in a cool, dark area or in the fridge. It can keep for up to a year. You can add a little vitamin E oil or rosemary antioxidant extract to prolong the shelf life.
Where can you buy Calendula Plants?
Katey at The Herb Garden in Almonte has potted calendula
Wayne from Belle Terre Botanic Gardens is at the Chelsea Farmers Market on Thursday evenings.
These wonderful people are in their greenhouses right now, early in the season, so we can enjoy these gifts from nature all summer. Once you have 3 or 4 plants you can harvest the seeds each year or let your plants self seed to abundance.
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