Summer is a wonderful time to make friends with the Calendula flower. The warm, golden glow of the sun at its peak is mirrored in her bright blossoms. Velvety-soft petals in hues from light lemon to deep orange adorn Calendula’s flower heads. They open at morning, follow the sun’s path across the heavens, and fold themselves closed as dusk sets in. To drink a cup of homegrown calendula tea is to draw in liquid sunshine, and her balmy, gentle curative powers make her especially helpful to mothers and children. This flower offers her aid wherever you may need healing.
While remaining a wonderfully safe herb, Calendula officianalis, also known as ‘Pot Marigold,’ carries potent antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and tissue healing properties, making her an excellent help whenever you face viruses, colds, inflammation, allergies, or infection. Calendula aids in the production of collagen, and is highly useful when mending damaged or irritated tissues – she offers her repair services for those suffering from eczema, gum problems, gut problems, diaper rash, cuts, cradle cap, canker sores, and more.
I was especially grateful to the powers of this herb after the birth of my daughter. Calendula sitz baths, with a bit of comfrey and lavender, aided in speedy healing. Before my son was born, I dried as much of these herbs as I could grow, and gave some to friends who were expecting, as well. Calendula combines nicely with other herbs – try her flowers in a steam, stiz bath, or hot pot with lavender and rose petals; in a tea with rosemary or peppermint and rose hips; or in a salve with plantain leaves.
I love when herbs are easy to use, and this one certainly is. A small handfull of dried flowers or petals in a quart jar of hot water makes a day’s tea. In the summer, it makes a lovely sun tea, and the bright orange color and mild flowery taste are refreshing after an afternoon’s work! Calendula is also versatile — the flowers can be used to make tinctures, sitz baths, nasal rinses for a neti pot, compresses, poultices, oils, balms, soaps, or creams. Instructions for making many of these herbal preparations can be found in Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year.
Calendula is not only easy to use, it is delightfully easy to grow, and makes an excellent plant to grow with children. She is wonderfully hardy, can be grown in a variety of soil, and is often the last flower blooming in our autumn garden. Her mysterious, sickle-shaped seeds can be gathered from dried heads in the fall and scattered in the garden throughout spring and summer.
Some vegetables can be companion-planted with calendula, as she can aid pollination by attracting bees and helpful insects, and as well as repelling some common pests. The plants can re-seed themselves many times over. Like the sun, Calendula requires little of us, yet it gives abundantly and generously.
The blossoms can be harvested in the morning after the dew has dried, and laid flat in a shady spot to dry. You may also hang them upside-down by their stems. If you live in a damp climate, you can dry them in the oven – let them wilt for a day, then lay them on a cookie sheet covered with a flattened brown paper bag, and turn the oven to around 150 degrees (or ‘warm’). Leave it propped open a smidge to let the steam escape, and check on them every hour or so. The flowers usually dry nicely within a few hours, depending on their moisture level.
The best thing about drying and storing calendula blossoms is the comfort in being able to drink a cup of sunshine in the chilly months of the year, when the sun is taking her rest. Calendula may be the Queen of Summer, but she can lend a hand in keeping us healthy all year ‘round.
Special thanks to herbalists Ann Drucker and Paul Bergner, for opening my eyes to Calendula and her wonders. Please consult a knowledgeable practitioner or healthcare provider before consuming or using any herbs.
Kate lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband, daughter, and son. She loves to grow herbs, vegetables, and native plants, and work with wool. She blogs at Apple of the Forest and has an etsy shop for her needlefelted creations.