Calendula brings such sunshine to this planet! This joyful little plant packs a gentle, but mighty punch of healing and immune-stimulating properties that have earned calendula quite a reputation as a favorite first aid topical and skincare ingredient. The many health benefits of calendula make this a plant you’ll definitely want more of in your every day.
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With summer comes all the summer blooms like the calendula, elderflower, and daylily. Just like the sun, they all burst forth into the world, bringing with them their food and medicine to share. If you haven’t met calendula yet, it’s high time, don’t you think?!
Meet Calendula officinalis. Here’s the skinny:
- Calendula is native to the northern regions of the Mediterranean, and like many plants, has now traveled around much of the world.
- Being a proud member of the Asteraceae (or sunflower) family, calendula has the distinct aster flower head consisting of slender petals, which are actually entire flowers in themselves, arranged like the rays of the sun around a center.
- Calendula grows to about 1 to 2 feet in height and has a reputation for being relatively easy to cultivate. It thrives in just about any soil, but prefers a happy medium when it comes to wet and dry.
- It’s an annual plant, but can be a short-lived perennial in warmer climates.
- Calendula flowers come in an array of sunset colored flowers, but the vibrant orange and yellow ones are most often used for medicine
- Its name comes from the Latin word kalendae, meaning the first day of the month. This refers to its long growing season and its ability to bloom through the calendar year in some locations.
- The secret to prolonging its bloom is to pick the flowers every couple days. The more you pick, the more they grow. She’s is a tenacious and determined beauty, and even self-seeds prolifically.
- Often called marigold, pot marigold, or even common marigold, calendula is actually a completely different genus of plants than the marigold commonly used as a garden ornamental. Marigolds in the Targetes genus are not interchangeable nutritionally or medicinally with the Calendula genus.
The Culinary Uses of Calendula
Edible flowers are an absolutely wonderful addition to so many foods. Calendula flowers add such a cheery pop of sunshine to any meal. Plus, you can’t help but feel like gosh darn earth goddess royalty when nibbling on edible flowers. They’re truly the food of the blessed.
When using in food, you can either use the whole flower head, green parts and all, or just the petals. The whole flower head is great for making teas and infusing all the medicinal benefits of calendula into your homemade medicinal veggie broths, soups, and more. But while edible and highly medicinal, the sticky green base isn’t the most pleasant part to eat.
However, the plucked petals are incredibly pleasant to eat! Simply pluck them from their sticky green base and add to cakes, cheesecakes, quiches, salads, salsas, fruit salads, herbal butter, and so much more.
My favorite spring and summer meals are often those that are full of edible flowers and other wild foraged foods. When adding calendula petals to your foods, you can use them either fresh or dried.
The Health Benefits of Calendula
Many of the medicinal compounds that make calendula such an equally gentle and powerful medicine are actually located in the resinous green parts of the flower head. When using calendula as a medicine, as in oils, creams, tinctures, or soups, be sure to use the entire flower head, green parts included.
Here are some of the most common and well-researched medicinal uses of calendula:
Calendula & Wound Healing
As a gentle, but incredibly powerful antiseptic, calendula shines as a topical treatment in wound healing. It’s often made into creams, ointment, nourishing body oils, or compresses to help disinfect, decrease inflammation, and promote tissue healing to reduce potential scarring.
Calendula & The Digestive System
The demulcent properties of calendula are very protective of the mucosal lining of the entire digestive system. A calendula gargle can be used to ease a sore throat and drinking the tea can help ease discomfort caused by ulcers, IBS, or heartburn. It helps to maintain the health and integrity of your gut wall, and a healthy gut wall allows for much easier and more efficient nutrient absorption.
Calendula & Immune Health
Calendula is highly antimicrobial and has been shown by many a study to help fight off infection. Plus, its high antioxidant content helps to strengthen the immune system. Adding the whole flowers to soups and stews when you’re feeling a cold come on can help ward off the oncoming ick.
Calendula is also known to stimulate the lymphatic system, helping to rid the body of toxins and metabolic waste, and to transport infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body. It’s a great herb to support daily detox!
Calendula & Skin Care
Lotions and creams made with calendula are incredibly effective in nourishing and hydrating skin. Accordingly, you’ll find calendula in many products intended for eczema, dermatitis, or dandruff. It’s also so gentle, safe, and effective in this area that it’s wildly popular for use with children in treating inflammatory skin troubles such as diaper rash and cradle cap. Used topically, calendula has absolutely no toxicity and makes a great addition to a hot bath!
These three uses: as a wound medicine, a remedy for affections of the lymphatic glands, and a general “immune tonic” as we would call it today are interlocking and bring out the true genius of [calendula].– Mathew Wood from the Book of Herbal Wisdom –
Are all calendula medicinal?
Over the years, I’ve heard many an opinion on whether or not all the different colors of calendula flowers are medicinal. If you’re wondering the same, the most common recommendation from practicing herbalists is to let your senses be the judge. The brighter and more aromatic the flowers and the stickier their green bases and leaves, the higher their medicine content.
What are the health benefits of calendula tea?
I’m glad you asked! Calendula tea is a sweet and subtle flavored tea with an ever-so-slight (and yet surprising) spice and bitterness. It’s an herbal tea that pairs so well with a little drizzle of honey. And the health benefits of calendula tea are the same as those listed above!
Calendula tea is high in antioxidants, helps to ease digestion, is a powerful immune-booster, and so much more!
Where is the best place to buy calendula?
The first best place is to always grow your own herbs, but I know that we don’t all have the time or luxury. Thankfully, there are people that do! If you can find calendula from you local herbalists, this would be the next best place.
Many natural food co-ops have bulk sections that sometimes will have medicinal herbs. And when all else fails, there are several online herb retailers. My go-to for all my medicinal herbs has been Mountain Rose Herbs for many years. Their herbs are incredibly and consistently high-quality and there’s always a huge focus on the ethics around sustainable harvesting and growing practices.
Mountain Rose Herbs offers many calendula products to meet all your medicine making, herbal wellness, & kitchen herbalism needs.
Try These Recipes With Calendula
Resources & Further Reading
- Blankespoor, J. (2012, November 15). Calendula’s herbal and edible uses: how to grow, gather, and prepare calendula as food and medicine. Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. https://chestnutherbs.com/calendula-sunshine-incarnate-an-edible-and-medicinal-flower/
- McBride, Kami. (2019). The herbal kitchen: Bring lasting health to you and your family with 50 easy-to-find common herbs and over 250 recipes. Red Wheel/Weiser.
- Nelofer, J. and Riffat, J. (2017). Calendula officinalis: an important medicinal plant with potential biological properties. Proceedings of the Indian National Science Academy, 83(4): 769-787. Accessed July 1, 2020. https://insa.nic.in/writereaddata/UpLoadedFiles/PINSA/2017_Art48.pdf
- Wood, M. (1997). The book of herbal wisdom: Using plants as medicine. North Atlantic Books.
DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.