This golden beauty has always had a special place in my heart, but when a couple rigorous plants overwintered in our 3500′ elevation garden….well, she became an herbal champion. She was named for the Greek word for Calender signifying her proclivity to year round blooms, but I was still surprised at her tenacity after so much snow!
I’ve written about calendula briefly before, but there are so many reasons for everyone to be growing this plant I though I would repost reasons of her magic. First of all the seeds look like curved little worms and are really fun for kids and adults alike to plant. The spread of zones she will grow in is amazing. Calendula makes a great companion plant. I’ve found the flowers attract many of the insects that love to damage the other yellow and orange flowers in the garden like the wax beetles and cucumber beetles.
This old world plant is a great first aid herb and is easy to process into usable forms. I gather the flowers in the late morning after the fog, dew or mist has dried. The resinous flowers should be open and sunning themselves. Paper bags, cardboard flats and baskets work great for drying and each day I add the new flowers to the basket.
Dried flowers work best for making oils, but the fresh or dried flowers can be used for tinctures, teas and can be added soups, salads and used as garnish. If you are using the fresh petals in food, pluck them from the calyx as it is resinous and bitter. Use the gold and yellow petals to flavor and color a million dishes!
Infused oils are easy to make. I like olive oil over nut oils for the versatility and lack of allergens. Add dried flower to olive oil and set in a warm place. A paper bag in the window sill makes a nice little warm incubator without the harmful UV rays, which will damage the plant constituents. Some folks use crock pots, but be careful not to heat the oil too much so that is goes rancid. I prefer a very minimal heat approach and time. In the winter, snuggling well sealed jars up to a wood stove or furnace works nicely.
After your oil has infused for a couple weeks to a couple months strain your golden product through a strainer and coffee filter, an old t-shirt or cheese cloth. You just want to make sure there is no rogue plant matter left in there. Allow the oil to settle. Is there any separate on the bottom of the bottle? That would be water and if you used fresh plant material you will want to make sure you poor off your oil so that no water is left to contaminate your oil. Oils with water extracts on the bottom will not last long.
Alright. You have an oil. Congratulations! You can use this oil to emulsify into lotions, add beeswax for a salve, formulate into lip balm, add to your soap bar making, or just use straight as a medicated oil.
But what can you use this new slippery treat for? So many things, my friends, so many things. Externally as a wound healer calendula is unsurpassed. I hesitate to use the words anti-septic and bacteriostatic because I am not sure the exact mechanism by which this and other plants work, but they do. For any abraized and damaged skin calendula is a savior. Calendula is antiinflammatory and not only helps to heal the skin, but to clear infection and move debris away through the body. I love this as a single herb salve and so do my customers!
Internally, calendula is also a wound healer and is one of the best gastrointestinal herbs for ulcers, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome and colitis. As an immune stimulator calendula excels because it is so good as moving the lymph and clearing the systems. It is heating and stimulating and resolves stagnation. I use calendula as a major part of my Lymphomaniac Formula, developed for the sole purpose of moving and cleansing the lymphatic system.
The alacrity with which calendula aids in epidermal growth is amazing. Put some salve on your lips at night and you will have a new layer of skin grown in the morning! For this reason I used calendula in treating my own cervical dysplasia after receiving and Class II abnormal papsmear a few years ago. She brings light to dark places.
I use her in so many of my combinations and formulas including my Sore, Stiff, Sprain oil made specifically for carpal tunnel and sprains. Even the topical use can and does have deep effects on the tissues and tendons beneath.
What are you waiting for? Plant some calendula seeds today and brighten your garden all year.