Open fresh your round of starry folds,
ye ardent marigolds!
Dry up the moisture from your golden lids,
For great Apollo bids
That in these days your praises should be sung!
—“I Stood Tiptoe” by John Keats
Latin name: Calendula officinalis from the Asteraceae family. The asteraceae family is huge! It includes sunflowers, daisies, lettuce, safflower, dahlia, Texas Tarragon, echinacea, chamomile….and the list goes on!
Native to: Probably Southern Europe, though it’s not certain.
Popular Cultivars: The cultivars are basically differences in colors and petal production. Some flowers have double-layered petals. Most calendula flowers range in color from pale yellow to bright orange-red.
Growing Calendula: Calendula is a relatively easy plant to grow, especially from seed. You do need to plan though. For this year’s crop, I sowed the seeds in late last September (I’m in Zone 8B, click here to find out your Zone) and kept them moist throughout the winter. Winter was mild, so I didn’t have to protect them much. The seeds sprouted in October. Greenery grew slowly throughout the winter, and I saw the first buds in early February. I began harvesting in early March. I pulled up the plants in early April, because they were attracting too many caterpillars.
Next year, I’d plant calendula (and chamomile) in a completely separate bed from any vegetable seeds you might be starting. Calendula tends to attract the bugs with the munchies, and chamomile attracts aphids.
As with most flowers, cut the bloomed flowers as you see them. This will encourage more blossoms. Drying them is easy: lay them on a kitchen towel in a well-ventilated area, dry, room that doesn’t receive much (if any) sunlight. Rotate them around every couple of days to ensure even drying.
Using Calendula: After the flowers have dried thoroughly (2-3 weeks) pull the petals off and place into a clean glass jar. Keep the jar away from sunlight and too much heat (don’t store next to your oven, etc.).
Calendula is typically used to help with inflammation, eczema, and sunburn. It has antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral as well as astringent properties. Truly, a very useful herb.
The easiest way to use dried calendula is to simply make a tea with it. Take a couple of tablespoons of dried leaves, pour near-boiling water over the, steep for 10. Strain and drink. The tea can be used for upset stomach or sore throat. You could use the tea topically either in a bath or by making a compress.
Since I haven’t worked much with my own batch yet as far as actual products go, here is a good link on how to get started with salves, creams, sprays and oils.
Magically: Calendula/Marigold is associated with the sun (as are many of the asteraceae family). Calendula’s element is fire, and its associated gender is masculine. According to Cunningham, marigold aids in protection, prophetic dreaming, legal matters and psychic powers.
To me, calendula has a gently masculine feel. It was the first hot-colored bloom of the spring, vigorous and so showy! But when working with the plant itself, the feel was comforting and…old. The petals gave off a calm, warm, healing energy as I processed them. As if to say, “Lady, I’ve been around a long time.”
1. Complete Guide to Medicinal Herbs, DK Natural Health, Penelope Ody, 2000
2. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Revised Edition, Llewellyn, Scott Cunningham
3. A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year, Destiny Books, Ellen Evert Hopman, 1995
4. Growing and Using Healing Herbs, Rodale Printing, Gaea and Shandor Weiss, 1985
(On that note…I need a more up-to-date herbal!)
(One more note…be careful when using Calendula/Marigold that you’re using the real deal: Calendula officinalis, not the other ornamental ‘marigold’, whose botanical name is Tagetes. Tagetes is *not* a medicinal herb.)
Disclaimer: Before using any herbal remedy, check with your doctor.