Find out all about the Calendula plant, including top growing tips and how to make wound-healing salve and herbal tea.
With its lovely, sunny, marigold-like flowers, calendula has well-known wound-healing powers. Though it’s often referred to as “pot marigold” it’s not a true marigold. Its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antiseptic and astringent qualities, which have been confirmed by pharmacological studies, make it ideal for topical use, though it can be taken internally as well.
Calendula is rich in flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals, particularly rutin and quercetin, which is why it turns up as an ingredient in an endless list of skincare and cosmetic products as well as creams and ointments to soothe irritated, inflamed, chapped and burnt skin. It has been widely used for healing wounds and abrasions.
Taken internally, calendula is said to improve blood flow and to heal inflamed mucus membranes. Usually, it is drunk as a tea, though the petals are edible and can be sprinkled into salads.
Calendula’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make the tea useful as a gargle for sore throats, too.
Calendula is very easy to grow in full or part sun in almost any kind of soil that’s well-drained. In fact, it is so easy to grow it can become invasive. Like true marigolds, its flowers range from cream to yellow and gold to bright orange. The plant flowers virtually all year round, so you can make use of the flowers almost any time of year.
DRYING THE FLOWERS
Drying your calendula is easy. You can string the stems in a sunny window or pull off the petals and lay them out on kitchen or baking paper, cover with more paper and leave in a warm place. To oven-dry, lay out in the same way and leave overnight with only the oven light on. This will provide enough warmth without actually turning the oven on, which would be too hot for the delicate petals. Easiest of all is to place them in a food hydrator and set to the recommended temperature.
MAKE CALENDULA SALVE
Dry your calendula flowers and put them in a jar filled with olive oil. Cover with clingwarap or cheesecloth and a rubber band. Leave to infuse in a warm spot (not direct sunlight) for 2–3 weeks, shaking often. Strain the oil into a pot, add some beeswax (about 50g to 1 cup of oil) and heat until the beeswax has melted. Pour back into the jar and add your favourite essential oils for fragrance if you wish.
A teaspoon or two of vitamin E oil as well will extend its shelf life. Allow to cool and it will firm into a salve. Use on skin irritations and chapped lips.
Pour 600ml of boiling water over
2 teaspoons of dried petals and allow to infuse for 10 minutes and strain. Drink three times a day for more beautiful skin.
Use it also as a gargle for sore throats and, for wounds that are weepy, soak a compress in the tea and apply to the wound for half an hour a couple of times a day.