Calendula - What an amazing plant!
Did you know Calendula helps build immunity?! I think this beautiful flower can be a wintertime ally right along side or in lieu of Elderberry and other immune boosting herbal medicines!
Calendula Offers Many Medicinal Benefits
- Immune Building Tonic
- Stagnant & Swollen Lymph Glands Treatment
- External Wound Treatment
I have been enjoying Calendula in the gardens, especially in the spring and early summer when they are in full bloom! A nice thing about Calendula is that once it goes to seed there is a good chance it will start spreading throughout your garden. In my opinion not a bad thing because that means abundant beauty and medicine in the years to come! Even if it does spread in places you need reserved for other plants, not to worry - it is easy to pull out.
Common Names: Calendula, Pot Marigold, Common Marigold, Scotch Marigold
(Not to be confused with Marigold - Tagetes Genus. Although Calendula and Marigold both belong to the Asteraceae family)
Calendula is a relatively low growing Annual that personalizes via seed easily. There are several varieties commonly available and some are grown for medicinal qualities while others are grown for their beauty and variations in blossom colors and patterns. Calendula is not frost sensitive so it may have longer seasons in warmer climates. Bloom time is from late spring/early summer right through fall. (Give or take depending on your climate). Like with many flowers bloom time can be maximized by deadheading the flowers (regular harvest of your medicine :)
Calendula leaves, stems and flowers are edible. We enjoy Calendula flower petals fresh in salads!
Calendula leaves are quite nutritious and loaded with minerals. I have tried eating the leaf raw by itself and while the flavor was good it left a scratchy feeling in the back of my throat, so I think I will be reserving the leaves for cooking and/or drying for future meals.
Harvesting for Medicine
It is believed that much of the medicinal quality of the Calendula lies in the resin which is found on the leaves and sepal part of the flower. You can feel the resin of the Calendula as you handle the flower buds and leaves for harvest or just to say hi.
Traditionally the flower is used as medicine, but I would guess that the leaves have some value as well considering they are also covered in the resin and have much nutrients.
This is where I think the lines of food and medicine get blurry, especially in plants like Calendula that are quite nutritive. Taking the food is medicine approach I think incorporating both Calendula leaves and flowers would provide both nutrition and medicine at the same time.
Calendula can be prepared in many ways:
- Dried for food (both flowers & leaves)
- Dried for medicine
- Fresh Juice of crushed flowers & plant (succus)
Last spring I was excited to learn (thanks to Matthew Wood) that Calendula is an effective at boosting immune systems. In England Calendula flowers used to be dried in bulk and eaten throughout the winter time. The flowers were added into stews and soups in order to help build immunity and ward off colds.
When drying Calendula flowers for medicine it is best to clip off the whole flower including the sepals (the green part that the petals grow from)
These Calendula flowers were bred for many petals and their beautiful characteristics. It is often said that the marigolds with deep orange color are the only ones good for medicinal quality. I think I perhaps would not be so dogmatic but in harvesting my medicine I look for the Calendula that has the most resin.
Calendula doesn't stop with immunity by any means. It has the ability to remove the swelling from stagnant lymph nodes. However it is quite possible that working with lymph nodes and building immunity go hand in hand.
"Calendula is suited to people who have had swollen glands for some time, without signs of active inflammation, but with some dulling of immunity. Although it produced fever and chills during the homeopathic provings, I have never used it for active cases, but always for people laboring with unresolved lymphatic stagnation."
The Book of Herbal Wisdom by Matthew Wood
This is of particular interest to me as I have noticed within the last year or so that my own lymph nodes tend to get swollen, especially during times of prolonged inactivity or lacking of movement (such as spending time at the computer or last winter when I didn't get out and about enough - in addition to having a somewhat tense/stiff temperament in general). I suspect movement in general helpful in keeping the lymph nodes healthy.
This spring I made a Calendula tincture with fresh flower heads. It is definitely ready by now and so I am going to start working with it so see how what effects it has with my lymph nodes, if any.
When I first started hearing about Calendula I learned that it can help with healing external wounds like scratches and cuts, rashes and general skin care. Usually I hear about Calendula in the form of an oil or salve.
Again I am pleasantly surprised to learn that Calendula goes far beyond treating minor wounds and skin conditions.
The following quotes are also taken from Matthew Wood's The Book of Herbal Wisdom:
"Thorer used Calendula in terrible wounds, even in amputation of arms and legs caused by machinery or surgery. He found that it routinely prevented the suppuration of pus and helped the wound heal cleanly."
Amazing to hear how powerful Calendula is how it has been used in the past before our modern medicine.
"Calendula in material doses is not an antiseptic, but bacteriostatic. That is not to say, it does not kill bacteria, but contains them, keeps the wound clean and thus helps the body to cure itself."
Matthew Wood goes on to commend Calendula for keeping infection at bay especially from wounds that are forming pus and that suppuration cannot live in its presence.
"Calendula has been used by external application as a dressing for wounds which are tender, red, swollen, and tending towards the production of pus. They may be open or closed, with or without the loss of flesh."
It is no wonder Calendula is widely regarded as a general skin conditioner and treatment of skin problems or skin wounds.
The fresh juice of the plant can be used externally, as well as preparations of oil, cream or salve using the flowers.
I was taught to use Calendula in oil or salve making I should harvest the petals. I wondered why this was the case and why not use the whole flower, afterall the flower includes many more parts than just the petals. This is what led me to research Calendula in more detail and how I learned that the medicinal quality lies in the resin.
So with that knowledge next time I make a salve I will be harvesting and drying the whole flower.
Saving and Sowing Seeds
If you are not growing Calendula yet you really owe it to yourself to try. This plant offers so much beauty and joy in your garden!
Once you get some going havesting seeds is easy. Here is a patch that is going to seed.
You want to look for the seeds that are fully dried like the seedhead on the right. The seedhead on the left is still green and not mature yet. If the seeds are dry but the sepals or stem still have some green that is ok.
When you snip or pull off the dry seedheads it is easy to crush them and they break apart with all the seeds released.
Save them for planting next spring or take joy in scattering some or all of this abundance of seeds in areas of your garden where you want to see Calendula next year!
Or you can just leave them be and let the birds enjoy pecking and scattering them for you :)
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