May 1, 2013

Calendulas for Beauty and Herbal Healing

Calendulas* are one of my favorite garden plants. They are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring, and they keep going strong until the first hard frost of fall. They spread (if you allow them to) and have cheerful flowers. And they are good medicine.

The yellow or orange petals are the most-used part of the plant - and they are sometimes called "Russian penicillin."  Calendula officinalis has astringent, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral, and immunostimulant properties. It's often used to clean cuts and scrapes; heal chapped skin; ease burns, bruises, and bee stings; treat acne; cure rashes, athlete’s foot, and yeast infections; sooth diaper rash and more. It also stimulates the body's production of collagen - which means you're less likely to scar if you apply calendula.

You can also gargle with calendula-steeped water to ease sore throats - and it's good for painful periods, too. It's traditionally used to add color to butter, cheese, and sauces, and can be sprinkled atop salads, cakes, and...well, whatever you wish.

Plus, the plant is pretty as can be in the garden, and easy to grow from seed. It's even said to repel aphids, tomato hornworms, eelworms, and asparagus beetles. And, according to Discovery Health, there are no known side effects when using calendula as food or medicine.

How to Harvest Calendula
Ideally, wait to harvest until the morning, after the flowers have opened up and the dew has dried from them. But, truly, it won't matter much if you get to the harvesting later in the day. Use scissors or pruning shears to snip off the flower heads just above a double set of leaves. This ensures the plant will continue blooming. Don't be afraid to harvest the flowers often; it will only encourage the plant to bloom more.

How to Dehydrate Calendula
Dried calendula petals are perfect for tea. They can also be used in cooking (rehydrate first) or medicinal recipes. Place full flower heads on the tray of a dehydrator set at 105 degrees F. Dehydrate until the petals are completely dry and crispy. Pull the petals from the flower heads and place in an air tight container stored in a cool, dry, dark location.

Calendula Menstrual Tea
Place dried calendula petals in a tea ball. You may either pack the entire ball with calendula or you may pack half the ball with the petals, filling the other half with another menstraul-relief herb like dandelion root, red raspberry leaf, or sage.

Place the tea ball in a cup and pour boiling water over it. Cover the cup with a saucer and allow to steep until the water stops steaming.

Soothing Calendula Oil
This oil is appropriate for cradle cap, rashes, or  chapped skin. It can also be used for massages, or it may be added into lip balm, cream, or lotion.

Pour some dried calendula petals into a non-reactive double boiler. Pour organic olive oil over the petals, covering by 1 inch. Stir. Place the double boiler over low heat and keep at 100 degrees F. for 5 hours. (Alternatively, put the calendula and oil in a glass jar and place in a warm location, like a sunny windowsill,  for 6 weeks, shaking the jar every day.) Strain, lining the sieve with cheesecloth. Pour the resulting oil into a clean jar and store in a dark location.

Calendula Salve
It's easy to make a healing salve out of calendula oil. Just stir together one part calendula oil and approximately one part melted beeswax. Pour into a glass jar and cover with a well fitting lid. The mixture will thicken and can be used for rashes and abrasions.

Calendula in Cooking Recipes
The easiest way to use calendula petals is in a salad, but for more ideas, check out the recipes at the bottom of this article.

To Allow Calendulas to Spread in the Garden...Or Not
 If you want Calendulas to spread in your garden, filling in blank spots, make sure you let some flower heads go to seed in the fall. To prevent calendula from spreading, just cut off the flower heads when they look spent. Planting calendulas near driveways and other areas of cement will also help limit spreading.

WARNING: Calendula should not be taken internally during pregnancy.

* Calendulas are sometimes called "pot marigolds," but they are not truly a type of marigold.

I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website ( be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

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