Calendula Officinialis

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Calendula is the first bush of flowers that I recognized when I moved onto The Villa.

Now, almost two years later I am writing an article about this very bush that I cared for, fed, and harvested from. To many people, calendula looks like any old marigold but this marigold variety is full of amazing medicinal qualities. 

Much different than the ornamental marigold, which provides very little to you or your garden except for attracting pollinators. Stay away from store-bought marigold plants, in my experience, they often do not survive the transplanting process and I have not seen bees hanging out or thriving around these marigolds.

Calendula is one of the easiest plants to start growing in your herbal garden.

With loose soil for the seedlings’ gentle roots to push through, regular watering, and sun, you will have blooms within 6 weeks. I would avoid planting seeds directly outside in the dead of summer or middle of a frost spell but besides that, I tend to just throw the seeds out in the garden and reap the benefits. 

Calendula is used in many different cultures around the world. In my National-Geographic Guide to Herbal Medicinal, it explains how it is cultivated and harvested in all different climates around the world, from the subarctic to the tropics. Now at the end of January in the Sierra foothills, our calendula bush is the brightest, liveliest plant in the garden. The golden rays of color come from the little blooms just calling out my name and waiting to be picked. 

Every few weeks I go out to the garden and pick a handful of blossoms, careful to leave the bees alone and to leave a couple of the younger and smaller blooms for them. I thank each flower and tenderly lay them out to dry on the kitchen counter. Unlike other herbs that we harvest in bulk and have an area to process, we use calendula so often that I have a special place for them on our counter. 

Tea 

We add calendula to every pot of tea we brew, it offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to your body. That means if you are having arthritic pain, menstrual cramps, or a slight fever, adding calendula to your tea can be of great benefit. 

Topical

Calendula was in the very first batch of salve I made years ago, when I knew next to nothing about herbs, I learned how to make comfrey, calendula, and lavender salve. Now, I can’t live without my magic salve. I use it to massage into my back, shoulders, and neck daily. 

During the summer when I have all kinds of scrapes, scratches, and bruises from working hard on the land, I rub my salve on every bit of nicked skin. It speeds up the healing process, prevents infections, and leaves no scars (on minor cuts). 

Compress & Poultice

A calendula compress or poultice can be used on areas of your skin with issues such as rashes, burns, eczema, acne, abscesses, or abrasions.

A compress is made with 2 spoonfuls of dried calendula buds soaked in a cup of hot water. Strain out the flowers and keep the liquid to be soaked into a cloth which is then applied to the affected areas. 

To make a poultice, keep the soaked flowers and put them straight onto the affected area with a damp cloth to keep the flowers in place. I do not recommend doing this on open wounds. 

As the medicinal flower sits on your skin their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties start going to work. In general with herbal medicine, I always say the more the merrier. I would use both the poultice and the compress together, followed by applying the salve once the skin has air-dried.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of the volunteer plants popping up around The Villa in the spring. It makes me so happy to think of all the birds, bees, and various pollinators coming to the garden and benefiting from the medicinal plants. I love watching the birds eating seeds that have fallen, fruit off the trees, or little bugs in the garden and I know that the beehives around here must be making some truly amazing healing honey.