This month’s herb is Calendula officinalis or pot marigold a member of the Asteraceae (sunflower or daisy) family. Culpeper called it “flower of the sun” and noted it under the influence of Leo (a bit like us right now!).
Calendula officinalis is not the same genus as some of the other marigolds in the garden such as marsh, desert or corn marigold. Calendula officinalis is the marigold commonly used in herbal medicine today.
This bright and cheery plant is definitely one of my favourites. It has so many uses one of my herb teachers (Keith Robertson) called it “Aunty Calendula” as it’s list of “anti’s” is extensive. Amongst others, Calendula is known to be:
- Anti-bacterial (especially against straphlyococus and streptococcus)
There is research that discusses Calendula as a bacteriostatic rather than an antiseptic as it does not kill bacteria but instead contains them stopping the spread of infection. Its action on the lymphatic system supports keeping the wound clean and therefore aids the body to heal itself (Wood, 1997).
I have seen it used many times in practice in tinture and dried herb mixes for its ability to help move the lymph. By aiding movement in the lymphatic system, it aids cleansing and thus provides increased immunity. In combination with other herbs (e.g. Galium aperine) it is an excellent remedy when there is congestion and swellings.
Calendula is also a helpful “aunty” for the digestive system too. It’s anti-protozal and anti-inflammatory actions were shown to me a few years ago when my cat Bella was a kitten. She had diarrhoea for weeks and the different medicines from the vets unfortunately had no effect. I was lost as to what to do next. I then witnessed a remarkable moment whilst sitting with a cup of Calendula tea. Bella stopped for a moment in her little kitten world and started to smell the air, following the scent to my cup and started drinking my tea! She had found her medicine. I made her small amounts of tea and when cooled put it in a syringe to which she drank willingly (in contrast to having other medicine forced by syringe). She recovered quickly and now if ever she gets a knock or is not quite herself I make some Calendula tea (cooled first!) for her. The Calendula tea also helped me with the many scratches from having to clean her up in the middle of the night…kittens don’t like being washed when they are covered in poo!
Often for skin inflammations from cat scratches to boils a compress of Calendula works wonders. I would make an infusion of the flowerheads (1-2 per cup of boiling water) and once cooled applied the flowerheads to the area and have the patient drink the water from the infusion. Above all this plant is a remedy for the skin. As well as stopping bleeding it is soothing, cooling and aides the inflammatory process. It is also known to evoke rapid epithelisation in damaged skin externally and internally. Definitely a handy aunty to have in the cupboard!
It’s easy to grow, low maintainence and the seeds can be collected in autumn and stored for the next spring. I get my seeds for my herbs and vegetables from Stormy Hall http://www.stormy-hall-seeds.co.uk/
This is also a handy website http://www.biodynamic.org.uk
The petals alone are often used and sometimes that is all that is available when purchasing the dried herb. I try and use the whole flower head when possible as I feel it holds the full medicine of Calendula.
An infusion (or tea!) can be made using 1-2 teaspoonfuls of dried herb per cup of boiling water (up to 5 cups per day). If using the flowerheads I would use 2-3 flowerheads per teapot (makes 4 cups of tea).
The infused oil can be made by filling a sterile jar with flower heads and covering with a good quality oil (preferably cold pressed and organic). I usually use sunflower oil. Make sure all the flower heads are covered in the oil to prevent it spoiling. Seal the jar and place in a sunny window for up to 3 weeks or until golden orange. Check the jar daily, shake and adjust to ensure the oil is still covering all the flower heads. When ready, drain the oil, store in a sterile bottle and label (include the date made). Calendula infused oil is excellent for massaging (especially in the winter time) and can also be added to creams for skin conditions. We will make this oil on the weekly herb class starting Wed August 10th (see workshop section).
Calendula brings the golden sunshine even in the winter and for this reason has been used to treat those diagnosed with Seasonal Affected Disorder. It beams its light in places were the sun doesn’t shine.
Of course there is much more to say on this treasure of a plant. I have included a list below for your interest and further reading.
Enjoy the sunshine!
(For pharmacology information see Pengelly or Skenderi below)
CHEVALLIER, A, 2001. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. Second Edition. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd.
CULPEPER, N, 2002. Culpeper’s Colour Herbal. England: Foulsham & Co Ltd.
FRAWLEY, D, & LAD, V, 1992. The Yoga of Herbs. Second Edition. Twin Lakes USA: Lotus Press.
GRIEVE, M, 1971. A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications Inc.
HOFFMANN, D, 1990. The New Holistic Herbal. Great Britain: Penguin Books.
HOLMES, P, 1997. The Energetics of Western Herbs. Colorado: Snow Lotus Inc Press.
MABEY, R, 1988. The Complete New Herbal. Great Britain: Penguin Books.
MCINTYRE, A, 2004. Herbal Treatment of Children. London: Elsevier & Co.
MCINTYRE, A, 2002. The Complete Floral Healer. New York: Sterling Publishing
MCINTYRE, A, 1999. The Complete Woman‘s Herbal. London: Gaia.
MILLS, S, 1985. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. UK: Thorsons Publishing Group.
PRIEST, A.W., & PRIEST, L.R., 2005. Herbal Medications. Great Britain: Daniel & Co.
PENGELLY, A, 2004. The Constituents of Medical Plants. Second Edition. Oxon: CABI.
ROGERS, C, 1997. The Women’s Guide to Herbal Medicine. Middlesex: Penguin Inc.
SKENDERI, G, 2003. Herbal Vade Mecum. New Jersey: Herbacy Press.
TRICKEY, R, 1993. Women, Hormones & The Menstrual Cycle. Australia: Allen & Unwin.
WOOD, M, 1997. The Book of Herbal Wisdom. California: North Atlantic Books.
WOOD, M, 2004. The Practice of Traditional Herbal Medicine. California: North Atlantic Books