Welcome to another Herb of the Month post!
I love, love, love the herb for this month for a few reasons. It’s so beneficial for families with young children, it grows easily in the backyard, and it’s downright bright and cheerful.
It’s time to meet calendula!
Calendula is an herb commonly found in products that promote healing and soothing of the skin. Since families deal with scrapes and bumps quite often, this is a great herb to have on hand. It has other great uses, too, typically when used for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Though calendula can seem like a more expensive herb to purchase, it readily grows in the backyard and will self-sow, too. That means that though it isn’t a perennial, I see it year after year in my garden from the spent flower heads graciously depositing their seeds for me.
Our small patch of calendula keeps us stocked for the year, and I’m always glad to have a surplus of such a useful herb. Let’s learn more about calendula!
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Calendula is a low-growing annual with long rounded leaves and sturdy stems covered in fine hairs. The plant produces brightly colored yellow and orange flowers typically about 2 inches in diameter. Though the plant is sometimes called a pot marigold, the flowers resemble small daisies in shape. (It should not be confused with the common garden marigold). The plant is resinous, leaving a sticky feeling to the hands after picking flowers. Spent flowers produce curved, slightly spiked seeds that readily drop and self-sow, spreading the growth.
The petals and whole flower heads are used in herbalism. In cooking, the petals are used apart from the whole flower head.
Actions in the Body
- Calendula is a gentle, yet very effective anti-inflammatory, benefiting both internal and external inflammatory conditions.
- It has potent vulnerary properties, which means that it helps with the healing of skin wounds, especially those that are slow to heal.
- In scientific research, calendula also shows anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.
The herb is used most frequently when first made into an infused oil. The oil is then used in compresses, salves, balms, lotions, and other topical skin preparations. Calendula-infused oil is also beneficial in relieving the inflammation from ear infections.
The petals are sometimes used as a frugal coloring substitute for the very expensive herb saffron. They can be added to soups, stews, salads, baked goods, and any other recipe that might benefit from their bright color and mild flavor.
An infusion may be made from the petals or flower heads. Two teaspoons of petals or flower heads in 8 ounces of boiled water, then steeped for 10 minutes, makes the infusion that can be used topically or consumed.
Though typically a very safe herb with little toxicity concerns, it should be introduced with caution to those with known allergies or sensitivities to the daisy family (Asteraceae).
Have you ever used a product with calendula in it?
Fritchey, Philip. Practical Herbalism. Whitman Publications, Warsaw, Indiana. 2004. (found here).
Hawkins, Jessie. Botanical Medicine in the Home. Vintage Remedies, Franklin, Tennessee. 2013. (found here).
Hoffman, David. Medicinal Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont. 2003. (found here).