Sunday, August 23, 2009


Also known as ‘Pot Marigold’, or "Edible Marigold", Calendula (Calendula officinalis) was once used as a vegetable. The leaves were added to soups and stews, and the bright flower petals strewn in salads. While I haven't (yet) tried cooking with it, I have made copious use of it's other well-known feature: as a medicinal. Remember, the "officinalis" means a plant was used by early apothecaries.

I really am kicking myself for not getting some Calendula plants going in the herb beds and flower gardens this spring. I usually have plenty for drying the flower petals and still enjoying the sunny yellows, light and dark oranges of these sturdy plants sparkling among the summer and fall flowers. Hybrids can have double or single flowers, darker centres, or petals tipped with another colour. Calendula is one of the easiest to grow annuals, performing well in sun and dry soil or semi-shaded borders and rainy gardens. The tips should be pinched out to encourage bushiness. It also self-sows, so once you plant it, you can usually count on hardy volunteers the following season!

This year I'll be ordering dried calendula petals from bulk herb suppliers. I use home-made calendula oil as one of the components of my favorite healing salve. Calendula is known as a healing herb, most notably for the healing of wounds. It has antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties that prevent infections. It can also support coagulation and scab-formation in sores that resist healing. Calendula salve or cream helps with healing skin conditions such as sunburn, eczema and psoriasis.

Calendula oil is a supurb healer. Easy to make, easy and very safe to use. Not only one of the most effective topical oils, it also makes an excellent base for salves, facial creams and many other natural cosmetics. It is gentle, cooling, and soothing. Calendula oil is the most successful oil for assisting us with dry and damaged skin, skin inflammations, rashes, diaper irritations, and other skin disorders. It makes a wonderful baby's oil, in fact there is a whole line of baby products based on Calendula. Being safe enough for babies, of course it is exceptional for those with sensitive skin.

How to make your own Calendula oil

Things You'll Need:

1/2 cup calendula blossoms
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, sweet almond oil or jojoba oil
3 capsules vitamin E oil (optional, but acts as preservative)
Quart-sized canning jar
Cheese cloth
wooden spoon
Dark colored bottles, sterilized

*Pick the calendula blossoms on a warm dry morning. If the blossoms are still damp, spread them out on a flat surface and let them dry in the sun for a few hours. It's important that the blossoms are dry because moisture on the blossoms can cause mold to grow in the calendula oil.
*Put the calendula blossoms in a quart-size canning jar, and pour the oil over the top. Stir until all of the blossoms are covered with oil.
*Cover the jar with cheesecloth to allow any moisture to evaporate, and place the jar in a sunny window. Leave the jar of calendula oil in the window until it has turned a deep golden color, usually one to two weeks.
*Strain the calendula oil through a folded cheesecloth laid in a strainer, squeezing the blossoms with a wooden spoon.
*Pour the calendula oil into the sterilized bottles and store in a cool, dark place. It will keep for a year.

The oil may be used as-is, or with other oils and beeswax to make salves and ointments. Here is a simple basic calendula salve:

Things You'll Need:

1/4 cup dried calendula flowers
1/2 cup oil (olive oil, almond oil, saffower, or sunflower oil)
1/8 cup grated beeswax, or beeswax pellets
40 drops therapeutic grade (not aroma grade) lavender essential oil
pint canning jar
small saucepan
several wide-mouthed jars, i.e. baby food jars, with lids

*Make an infused oil by putting 1/4 cup calendula flowers into a pint-size canning jar. Add 1/2 cup oil and stir well. Cover the jar with a lid and place the jar in a sunny window. Once the oil turns a deep golden yellow (this generally takes one to two weeks), strain the oil through several layers of cheesecloth to remove the flowers.
*Combine the Calendula oil with the grated beeswax (or pellets) in a small, heavy saucepan. Heat gently until the beeswax is melted.
*Add 40 drops of lavender essential oil to mixture in the saucepan.
*Pour the mixture into several wide-mouth glass jars.
Allow the salve cool in the jars, then lid. Store in a cool, dark place.

This gentle healer will bless you body and soul, as you enjoy it in bouquets, in your borders and gardens, and in your medicine kit. You will find yourself turning to Calendula again and again, for healing and soothing skin upsets and injuries. Make a point of planting some next year, don't miss out like I did this season!

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