Calendula flowers have a sunny disposition in the garden. Use its golden petals in the kitchen and be sure to keep it well-stocked in the medicine cabinet for an array of medicinal uses, including soothing ointments and astringent tinctures.
Since antiquity, calendula flowers, or pot marigold, have been used in infusions for many maladies.
Since antiquity, calendula (also known as pot marigold) flowers have been used in infusions for many maladies. The Egyptians used the petals to heal wounds. In the Middle Ages, calendula was used for indigestion and healing bruises and burns. In World War I, the herb was used on the injured to prevent inflammation and infection. According to Annie Burnham Carter, author of In An Herb Garden (1947), “In England during that war, Miss Gertrude Jekyll gave a field on her estate for the exclusive cultivation of pot marigolds . . . the flowers which bloomed there were sent in great quantities to France to be used in dressings for the wounded.”
Historically, calendula was used as a restorative for the eyes; famed 17th-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper claimed it strengthened the heart and spirit, and he used it as an expulsive to expel malignant and pestilential qualities. In 1606, Charles Stevens and John Liebault wrote in Maison Rustique, or The Countrey Farme, that marigolds were used as “a remedy for headache, toothache, jaundice, red eyes, and ague.” They also noted: “The yellow leaves (petals) of the flowers are dried and kept throughout Dutchland against winter to put into broths, physical potions and for divers other purposes, in such quantity that in some Grocers or spice sellers are to be found barrels filled with them and retailed by the penny or less, insomuch that no broths are well made without dried Marigold.”
Calendula Uses Today
Calendula is wonderfully soothing to the skin. Because it is anti-inflammatory, astringent and antimicrobial, it can be used to help heal wounds, cuts, scrapes, rashes, bee stings, burns, and bruises. The plant contains large amounts of iodine and manganese, as well as carotene, and all of these attributes promote the regeneration of skin cells. Calendula is mild enough that it can be used in salves and ointments for diaper rash on babies, stretch marks on pregnant women, and in creams for nursing mothers. As always, there are individuals who are susceptible to an allergic reaction, so if you have allergies to ragweed or any daisy-like blooms, proceed with caution and consult your health practitioner before using the herb.
Calendula extract or tincture is used as a gargle for sores in the mouth and inflammations of the mouth, throat, and nose; toothpaste with the extract is now being marketed. The herb eases digestive disorders, such as colitis, peptic ulcers, and gastritis. Calendula is a cleansing and detoxifying herb, good for ailments of the liver and gallbladder. Due to its concentration of carotenoids, calendula flowers are high in antioxidants, which protect against cell-damaging free radicals.
Scientific studies reported in Tyler’s Honest Herbal by Steven Foster and Varro E. Tyler, Ph.D. (Haworth, 1999), and other sources confirm that calendula does have medicinal properties, although more human studies are needed.
A few sources state that only the common deep-orange flowered variety is of medicinal value, while others say that only the single-petaled varieties are. According to Steven Foster in Herbal Renaissance(Gibbs Smith, 1993), “Herbalists consider single-flowered varieties to be medicinal; however, this notion has not stood up to scientific scrutiny in other members of the aster family.” From our experience, we have found that these golden petals are easy and rewarding to grow, flavorful in the kitchen and full of medicinal qualities.
Making Calendula Medicine at Home
To prepare a remedy at home using calendula flowers, you must first make an extract. Extraction methods include infusion, fomentation, poultice, tincture, oil, lotion and herbal bolus (suppositories).
Although we do use calendula’s gold petals in the kitchen, we probably use them more often in recipes for topical applications. The golden yellow infusion, long used as a healing compress and as a dye, also is used as a facial cleanser and as a hair rinse for blondes. Besides infusions, calendula oil, salve and tincture are where most of our flower petals are used. For these preparations, we tend to use dried petals.
Calendula Oil Recipe
• 4 parts oil
• 1 part dried calendula petals
1. In a clean glass jar, pour oil over herbs, covering them completely. Place jar(s) into a yogurt maker or turkey roaster (the temperature needs to remain between 110 and 120 degrees) and leave them for 10 to 14 days, stirring every day. The oil will become infused with the aroma and color of the herb.
2. Strain finished oil through cheesecloth into a clean jar, pressing on the herb to remove the essence. If there is any extra particulate in the oil, let it sit overnight and pour off the clear oil, leaving anything that settled in the bottom behind.
3. Label the oil, and store in a cool, dark place. Use within a month or two.
Note: Any time an herb leaf, flower, stem or root is mixed with oil, the process creates a chance for bacteria, mold or fungus to grow. Therefore, it is important that all equipment be scrupulously clean and plant material is clean and dry. Adding a small amount of vitamin E oil (about 2 to 3 teaspoons vitamin E oil per cup of finished oil) will help prevent the mixture from turning rancid. We make our oils and salves in small amounts and use them fairly quickly. Otherwise, adding a preservative is recommended.
Calendula Tincture Recipe
Dried Calendula Tincture
• 1/2 cup tightly packed whole, dried calendula flowers
• 1 ounce distilled water
• 4 ounces grain alcohol, 190 proof
Grind dried flowers in a spice or coffee grinder (one not yet used for coffee) or use a mortar and pestle. Grinding will reduce the flowers to a powder measuring ¼ cup (about 20 grams, or a scant 1 ounce). Place the powder in a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add water to alcohol in a measuring cup and stir. Pour this mixture of alcohol and water over the herbs. Stir to completely dampen every particle of the herb. Shake the tincture twice a day for 14 days. On the 15th day, let the jar sit undisturbed. On the next day, gently pour the tincture (decant) into another container, such as a jar or measuring cup. Press the finished calendula petals by using either a tincture press or by emptying the herb into a piece of cheesecloth or muslin, wrapping and pressing down to extract all of the essences from the tinctured herb; combine this final-pressed mixture with what has been poured off. Filter if desired. Store in a labeled opaque glass bottle.
The approximate dose is 1 to 2 milliliters, three to four times a day.
Fresh Calendula Tincture
Chop and crush enough calendula flowers to completely fill a 1-pint canning jar. Slowly pour in enough pure grain alcohol to completely cover the herb. Secure the lid tightly. Shake and turn the jar every day for 14 days. On the 15th day, let the jar sit undisturbed. Gently pour the tincture into another container. Press the finished calendula petals by using either a tincture press or by emptying the herb into a piece of cheesecloth or muslin, wrapping and pressing down to extract all of the essences from the petals; combine this final-pressed mixture with what has been poured off. Filter if desired. Store in a labeled, opaque bottle.
The approximate dose is 1 to 2 milliliters, three to four times a day.
Calendula, Honey & Oatmeal Soap Recipe
Soapmaking can be just as satisfying and addictive as creating delicious recipes. Combine ingredients to suit your mood, whether you want to uplift, energize or promote relaxation. This is a pretty and soothing concoction. Calendula is a natural anti-inflammatory; honey nourishes and moisturizes the skin, and oatmeal is a gentle exfoliant. Cheering, soothing, citrus-based essential oils provide the perfect fragrance.
• Soap molds, muffin pans or small tart pans
• 1 tablespoon sweet almond or peanut oil, for greasing molds
• 18 ounces melt-and-mold white soap
• 3 tablespoons honey
• 5 tablespoons dried calendula petals
• 4 tablespoons coarse oatmeal
• 10 drops bergamot, neroli or mandarin essential oil
1. Lightly but thoroughly grease the molds with oil or line molds with parchment paper or muffin liners.
2. Grate soap coarsely and place in a heat-proof bowl large enough to fit over a saucepan. Alternatively, you can use a double boiler. Add honey to soap. Place bowl over a pan of barely simmering water—the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl—and melt soap with honey, stirring from time to time, until it’s liquid and well-blended.
3. Remove bowl from heat. Stir in calendula petals, oatmeal, and essential oils; mix thoroughly. Pour liquid soap into a measuring cup and then pour it into greased or lined molds. Rap molds gently on the work surface to eliminate air bubbles (not necessary if you are using silicone molds) and leave to set for at least 4 hours.
4. If you’re using silicone molds, simply press the soaps out. If using metal molds, use a small, sharp knife to help ease them out. Leave in a cool, dry place for 3 to 4 weeks to “cure” or harden. Makes about 10 soap bars.