Common names: Calendula, Pot Marigold.
Latin name: Calendula officinalis
Parts used: Flower and petals
The herb we’ll talk about today is Calendula, also known as Pot Marigold. Don’t confuse this with all the other marigold’s you’ll find. Check the botanical name. You’ll want to look for Calendula officinalis, not Tagetes spp., which is your typical garden marigold and does not hold the same properties. Calendula can be hard to find at your local greenhouse but it is extremely easy to grow.
Calendula is a wonderful herb for skin care and skin healing. It is great in salves, creams, infusions, fomentations and teas. As we go over this herb don’t forget to reference our vocabulary library to go deeper on the properties we mention.
Calendula has bright yellow or orange daisy like flowers. It has long oval, oblong leaves with smooth edges. It has a straight, upright stem and a deep taproot.
Calendula can be grown in zone 2-11 but it grows best in zones 5-6. In zones 7-9 planting in the fall provides the best growth. In zones 2-4 starting the seeds indoors before the last frost gives a longer growing season.
You can directly sow calendula seeds in the warm ground after the last frost. It likes full sun to partial shade and will grow in most soil. If you have extremely hot summers partial shade will be best. It does like well drained soil. Leave about 10 inches between each plant.
The Latin translation of Calendula is “little calender” as a reference to it’s long blooming season. Calendula will start to bloom in mid to late spring and will continue to bloom well into the fall and sometimes even after a few frosty days in most zones.
Calendula is considered a garden flower, it is not found in the wild. It is an annual plant that does not regrow from its roots or runners each year but if left to go to seed it will self sow wonderfully!
You can also collect the seeds and replant them the next year just incase it doesn’t self sow. Dead heading, or clipping the flower tops, encourages the plant to keep blooming. The more you pick the more you’ll have.
Harvesting Calendula is incredibly easy. You know it’s time to harvest calendula when the flowers are sticky with resin. You can collect the whole flower or just the petals in late spring or early summer.
You really don’t need anything but your fingers to harvest calendula but you can use garden snippers too. There are two ways you can do it. I just walk out and use my pointer finger and middle finger to pop the heads right off into my hand. You can also clip the stem at the node nearest to the flower with a pair of garden clippers. As with most herbs you want to gather your harvest in the morning after the dew had dried.
Preserving and storing Calendula
It’s always wise to have a plan for the herbs you’ll be harvesting prior to harvesting them. If you know what you’ll be using them for you will know how to harvest them. You can use your freshly harvested calendula blooms in teas, salads or soups or you can dry calendula to preserve it for teas, tinctures or oils at a later time.
Depending on what herb you are using, you can directly harvest a plant and throw it in an oil or alcohol to make an infused oil or tincture. The fresh calendula flower however is full of moisture so I add an extra step. Sometimes I don’t want to wait for my flowers to be completely dried before I make a tincture or oil with them, I get impatient. In this case I will at least let them sit out to dry for 12-24 hours before letting them infuse in my menstruum of choice. This way my oil doesn’t go rancid or my tincture won’t have a high water content. Fresh calendula is also a good option for doing a warm infusion on the stove or in the oven because of the high moisture content.
If you have a screen to lay the flowers on you can just pop the tops of with your hands. Place them on a screen, in a safe place, out of direct sunlight. It is best to leave your screen in a warm, (not hot) area with good airflow. Depending on your humidity levels, calendula can dry as quickly as overnight to just a couple of days. In very humid areas try a dehydrator on very low heat to dry your flowers.
Your flowers are ready for storage when they are crispy, not soft and still have most of their color. When the flowers are dried you can store them in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.
If you don’t have a safe space to lay out your flowers, clipping the stem can be helpful. You can then wrap the stems and hang them in a safe place to dry out of direct sunlight. If you use this method I would place the flowers in a brown bag to catch any falling petals. This option may affect how many blooms return on your growing plant so I recommend finding a place to lay them out safely.
Seed saving Calendula
While calendula comes back pretty easy without help, you can be safe and sure that you’ll have calendula next year by saving some seeds from the blooms. Towards the end of the season, choose a few of your favorite plants and don’t harvest the blooms. Pick your best blooming plants to be sure you have quality seeds and will grow quality plants.
When the petals have fallen you’ll be left with the button like center of the flower. This is where you’ll find the seeds. These seeds will be green in the beginning and turn brown as they dry out. Start to check the flowers often as the seeds start to change colors.
With a brown bag or other container ready to catch the seeds, grasp the button head and wipe it with your thumb. If the somewhat spiral seeds come off easy the time’s right. If they don’t come off easily then check again in a day or so.
You can start the harvest when the seeds are green and dry them in a brown paper back, shaking occasionally to make sure they are completely dry. Or you can wait till they are a bit more brown and dry, shortening the indoor drying time. When the seeds are dry, label and store them in an airtight container of your choosing.
Actions or Properties:
Anti-inflammatory, astringent, vulnerary, antifungal, bacteriostatic, cholagogue
Calendula heals so well because it promotes cell repair and growth, it’s vulnerary action. It does not kill bacteria but it prevents infection in wounds and stops the spread of infection already in wounds. It is also said to help improve lymphatic drainage from wounds.
Internally calendula is very beneficial. Using the dried flowers throughout the winter in broths and soups among other things will help keep your immune system strong through cold and flu season. As a cholagogue it can help with gallbladder issues and the digestive complaints that come along with it. It can help with inflammation of the digestive tract and is good for the mucosa of your body. So when you’re insides are just a bit off, try drinking some calendula tea throughout the day with other dietary changes. As it helps internally with the digestive tract you may also see external relief of eczema or psoriasis.
When I say Calendula has powerful skin care properties I mean it. It is the first herb I start with on a mystery rash, itch or inflammation. Calendula can be used for burns, stings, diaper rash, fungus, cradle cap, sunburns, skin infections, eczema, psoriasis to name a few. It is also useful for hemorrhoids, ulcers, mouth ulcers, gum disease and more! Calendula is good for inflammation of the skin whether it's from infection or trauma. It is also a fantastic and safe herb for babies from top (cradle cap) to bottom (diaper rash.)
Poultice: A poultice of Calendula can be used in many of the ways the salves or even the teas can be used. Squishing the flowers and allowing the resins to flow will help impact many topical irritations. Think wounds that are swollen, inflamed, red and or itchy.
Teas, infusions and fomentations: A strong tea or infusion of calendula can be used in many situations. A tea or infusion for problems of the throat and mouth is very beneficial. You can use it as a mouthwash or a gargle for mouth ulcers (canker sores), sore, inflamed throats, gum disease or thrush.
A cooled calendula tea can be used as an eyewash for simple eye infections or dry irritated eyes. A warm (certainly not hot) infusion can be as a sitz bath for vaginal dryness and hemorrhoids. A calendula tea can be used as a wound wash as well.
The tea can also be taken internally for many reasons. It has immune boosting ability and can be helpful to the digestive tract. Using it internally can also help with issues such as skin eruptions that you are working on externally.
Fomentations can be used on any sort of skin problem as well, an eczema rash, a sunburn, you name it you can use it.
Oil: I always have some calendula oil on hand if possible. The oil alone can be used on topical irritations but having the oil on hand makes it easy to mix up a salve. You can make a simple salve of just calendula or a combination salve with other herbs such as plantain.
Salve: I am never without a calendula salve in my first aid kit and I always keep extra in my medicine cabinet. After a rough bout with both cellulitis and a fungal infection my dad pretty much milked me dry of the calendula I had on hand so now I plan ahead.
The salve is useful for scalds and burns, sunburns, eczema, psoriasis, vaginal dryness, hemorrhoids and other inflamed wounds from either infection or trauma.
A note on eczema and psoriasis:
Eczema is an allergic disease that causes terribly itchy skin. It is usually dry, thick, red and irritated. Sometimes it will be crusty and weepy. While Calendula and other herbs can help to sooth the irritation of eczema it requires more attention. It requires a look at the diet. It can be a symptom of digestive tract and immune system issues.
Psoriasis can also be a sign of immune system deficiency and digestive tract issues. It can lead to psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is red, scaly, patches of dry skin, most often found on the scalp, lower back, elbows, knees and knuckles. Along with calendula and plantain, sunlight can help ease the symptoms of psoriasis. It is a true problem that needs to be reviewed before it progresses.
In this and the following herb profiles know that these are suggested doses to get you started. Proper dosage is a topic all it’s own that I hope to cover in the membership at some point.
These dosages refer to remedies made with flowers.
An Infusion of 1-2 tbsp in 8 oz of water. You can drink one cup a day to one cup each hour.
Tincture 15-30 gtt 3-6 times daily.
A fomentation, from a strong tea can be left in place for 1-2 hours, change this as needed to ensure the fomentation stays warm. Do this twice a day, or as often as needed.
Salves and Oils can be used as often as needed.
Tinctures can be used topically when diluted in water. 1 part tincture 3 parts water.
Avoid internally in high doses in first trimester of pregnancy. Rare allergic reaction may happen if you are sensitive to the Asteraceae family.