My first memory of the beautiful Calendula flower (Calendula Officinalis) was the cheerful patch of them that my first riding teacher, a tiny feisty Irish woman who was more fairy than folk, always grew in her garden. In her tiny stable yard, everything had a purpose, and she grew Calendula to infuse into vegetable oil. We used this healing oil every time our ponies got scrapes or skin rashes. She believed it to be helpful in preventing infection and for soothing the irritated skin. The affected areas would always begin to heal nicely within a few days. Since those early days, it seems I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this happy golden plant and I always have a place for it in my gardens.
Calendula has a spicy, interesting and delicious flavor when used as a culinary herb. It has a very important history of usage as a winter tonic. Traditional German folk medicine calls for the dried flower heads to be used in soups and stews in the colder months, because Calendula is a flower that is historically used to boost immunity. This is why this beautiful flower is often referred to as the “Pot Marigold “. I love to add dried Calendula petals, dried stinging nettle, leeks and butternut squash to a bowl of steaming chicken broth into which I’ve whisked a beaten egg. These additions turn a simple bowl of soup into a mineral rich and comforting tonic that always helps to rescue me from the wintry doldrums!
Infused Calendula oil can easily be used on its own, but when blended into a creamy salve with beeswax and coconut oil, it becomes one of the most soothing dry skin remedies that I know of. I know many a woman who used my recipe for homemade calendula cream for cracked and inflamed nipples while nursing their children and proclaimed it healing and cooling.
Calendula is truly one of the most versatile of the healing herbs. It is traditionally made into a mineral rich herbalists’ infusion of the dried petals and water which is then drunk to help soothe the stomach spasms caused by inflammatory bowel disorders. My husband who periodically suffers from canker sores will use this same tea cooled and with raw honey added as a mouth rinse to soothe his gums. I’ve used that same Calendula infusion (without the honey) as a cooling splash for my sunburned skin.
Don’t drink the tea or use the ointments and oils on your skin during pregnancy because calendula is a known emmenagogue…in other words it can cause miscarriage and please don’t use Calendula internally if you’re breast feeding. If you’re allergic to ragweed, daisies or chrysanthemum you should be extremely careful as it’s a member of the same family.
To make a simple infusion of Calendula you will need:
1 heaping teaspoonful of the dried petals or 2 teaspoonfuls of the fresh
6 ounces of boiling water
Place the Calendula petals into a large mug or teapot and pour the boiling water over them. Cover and steep them for ten minutes. Strain before use. You can use the infusion as a tea or a facial toner. Its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties make calendula an absolutely wonderful herb to use when you have either a sore throat, canker sore or urinary tract infection.
To make a macerated oil of Calendula you will need:
3 ounces of dried petals or 10 ounces of fresh Calendula, finely chopped
Sixteen Fluid ounces of a light vegetable oil such as sunflower, almond , coconut or extra virgin olive oil. You can even use a mixture of oils.
Put the chopped or dried calendula into a bowl and add enough oil to completely cover the petals. Place this bowl over a pan of boiling water, cover the bowl and heat it gently for about two hours. You may need to add more water. Strain the oil mixture and add more plant material into the bowl of heated oil. Put it back on the pan an continue heating gently for one more hour. Strain the oil completely and put it into a dark and sterilized bottle. Labeling with the name and date is always good practice. You can use this oil all by itself as a massage oil or bath oil, but personally I love to use this oil as a base for soothing and wonderful smelling calendula salves, creams and lotions.
To make a simple Calendula Salve you will need:
Macerated Calendula oil
Grated beeswax - approximately one ounce per one cup of infused oil
Essential oils of lavender and carrot seed 10-20 drops per cup of infused oil
Put the infused oil into a double boiler and bring the water to a simmer gently heating the oil. If you do not have a double boiler you can use a pot of water and a stainless bowl. Add the grated beeswax, whisking occasionally until the wax has completely dissolved into the oil. Add the essential oils and continue whisking. When they are blended in evenly, pour the salve into a tin or a shallow glass container and let it cool. Once it’s cool you can use it on any number of skin eruptions such as diaper rash and eczema. I’ve also discovered that Calendula salve makes an excellent wound dressing, especially when mashed with a little bit of garlic and raw honey. Also, grab this salve the next time you have a bad sunburn or dry and cracked chapped lips. I’ve always found it quite healing and soothing in those cases.
Please, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me at any time!