Calendula, commonly called pot marigold, has been popular with gardeners all over the world for such a very long time that its origins are lost in antiquity. Some consider it a European native while others speculate that it could have spread from Asia or the Mediterranean.
Calendula’s extreme adaptability may be one of the reasons for its wide distribution. But its healing properties could have played the main role since this plant is part of the pharmacopeia of diverse indigenous cultures. The Latin name Calendula officinalis stands testimony to its well-known medicinal status, as in the case of all plants with the suffix ‘officinalis.’
Pot marigold used to be a staple of flower and herb gardens all over the temperate regions, especially English cottage gardens, and frequently used for healing and culinary purposes. However, its popularity has suffered lately, with it being mainly cultivated commercially for cosmetic and herbal medicine industry now.
Why depend on manufactured products when we can derive the benefits firsthand?
Here are some very good reasons for welcoming this delightful plant back into the home gardens.
1. Calendula looks beautiful in any garden
It’s stating the obvious, but calendula fits in equally well in ornamental, herbal, and vegetable gardens. In fact, it is all three rolled in. No one can find fault with calendula’s cheery yellow-orange flowers and neat habit. The plants remain compact; freely producing cut-and-come-again flowers throughout the season.
There’s nothing like pot marigold to fill up your garden with some sunshine. Colors range from creamy yellow to russet red. The wild variety of pot marigold has a single layer of petals around the central disc, but double layered varieties are more common today, some completely filled in with several layers of petals.
2. It is easy to grow and maintain
Calendula is an easygoing plant that is a perennial in mild climates but usually treated as an annual. It can adapt well to a wide range of growing conditions. Not surprisingly, it does well in USDA Zones 2 to 10 when grown as a cool season annual in warmer zones, and as a summer season plant in cooler areas. It suffers in summer heat and may die down in frosty cold winters. But that’s not an issue because it usually self-seeds.
Raising new plants from seeds is easy too. Calendula seeds are curved achenes that need light to germinate, so they should be just pressed onto moist soil and left uncovered. Sow them in situ or start in seed cups and then transplant to the beds. You will have them flowering within two months of sowing, and they will continue on until either extreme heat or frost kills them.
Pot marigold tolerates any type of soil as long as there’s no waterlogging. Sunny spots are preferred but partial sun is fine, especially in warmer areas. The plants are not heavy feeders, but good quality compost will ensure good flowering. Minerals like zinc and manganese are known to increase the carotene content in the petals that gives them high antioxidant power.
3. Calendula attracts predators to the garden
Although pot marigold is known to have some mosquito repellent property, it is French marigold (Tagetes spp.) that’s usually planted in vegetable gardens for pest control. However, pot marigold does have a role in bringing in some predatory insects that may help reduce pest populations.
For instance, black flies are attracted to pot marigold, and predatory hoverflies follow them. Hoverflies are excellent at keeping pest populations under control, so their presence is highly appreciated by gardeners. Calendula has a sacrificial role with aphids, drawing these pests to themselves. So it’s worth growing them in between your vegetable patches.
4. You can use it for cooking
Ever wonder how calendula got the common name pot marigold? It comes from its traditional use in cooking, which is still very common in some areas. Germans used it to flavor their soup and the English to color butter and cheese.
Called “poor man’s saffron,” the dried petals are often used in place of expensive saffron strands to flavor rice dishes like pilaf/pulao. If you come across a condiment called ‘Egyptian saffron’ in Far Eastern spice markets, it’d be nothing but dried calendula petals. That’s not anything to be miffed at, though. Calendula has healing properties superior to saffron.
If you have organically grown pot marigold, use fresh petals in salads and to garnish stir fries. The leaves are edible too, but may not be as palatable as other salad leaves. You can mix fresh and dried petals in cake and muffin batters and use them to color the icing a light yellow.
5. Feed it to your hens
If you have chickens, calendula is just the right thing to have in your garden. An extract of the flowers is often added to chicken feed in commercial poultry farms. It makes the eggshells darker and improves the color of the yolk. You can get the same effects by mixing the petals into your chicken feed. It actually increases the carotene content. The antimicrobial property of the herb may even help keep your birds healthy.
6. Use calendula flowers to make a healing tea
Calendula is loaded with phytochemicals that have strong medicinal properties. The Herb Society of America had declared calendula as ‘herb of the year’ in 2008 with the intention of making people aware of its medicinal value. It is widely used in homeopathy and herbal medicine.
Calendula has been approved by several countries, including the United States and Canada, as being safe for topical as well as internal use. You can get many calendula-based commercial products, but they cannot match the purity and reliability of your homegrown herb.
You can easily make a healing calendula tea for general use:
Using fresh flowers:
Gather a cupful of fresh, unblemished pot marigold flowers from the garden after they have fully opened. Make sure that they are aphid free. After rinsing them in plain water, put them in a heat-proof ceramic bowl or glass bottle. Boil 2 cups of water and pour it over the flowers. Cover the bowl/bottle, and let it sit for 20 minutes. Filter the tea out.
Using dried flowers:
You need much less quantity of dried flowers to make potent tea. If you have dried petals, one tablespoonful will do, otherwise, use 2 tablespoons of dried whole flowers per cup of boiling water. Add it to the boiling water immediately after taking it off the stove. Let it steep for 25-30 minutes before draining out the tea.
You can drink 2-3 cupfuls of warm or cold calendula tea a day to bring down fever. Use it to tackle stomach problems such as irritable bowel disease and gastric ulcers. Spoonfuls of this tea can be given to children to get relief from mild tummy aches. Lightly sweeten it to make it more palatable.
Calendula has both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties validated by in vitro studies.
The anti-inflammatory effect is attributed to a set of phytochemicals called faradiol triterpenoids occurring in pot marigold flowers. A German pharmaceutical company Dr. Theiss, has patented a calendula cultivar with the highest amount of faradiols, but the commonly available ‘Calypso Orange’ variety is just as abundant in them, if not more. All other varieties have varying amounts of these chemicals.
7. Calendula is excellent for skin problems
Calendula is best known for its skin-protective property. Homeopathy has long recognized this, and exploited it to the maximum, bringing out calendula extract-based skin ointments. When you have your own supply of this wonderful herb, it’s very easy to make DIY infused oils and healing salves at home. They are excellent for treating skin problems like eczema.
To make calendula infused oil:
Use dried calendula flowers to make oil infusions. Fill a mason jar halfway with dried flowers. Slowly add olive oil until it comes almost to the top of the bottle. Stir with a clean spoon to mix the flowers well with the oil. Close the bottle and keep it in a dark place for 6 weeks. Take out the bottle once or twice a week and shake it well. At the end of this period, you can strain out the oil and store it in smaller bottles.
Solar infused oil:
If you don’t have the time and patience to wait for 6 weeks, you can use sun’s energy to accelerate the process. Fill the bottle the same way as above and keep it in the sun for a week, shaking it every morning and evening. Strain out the oil and store in a dark place.
Heat infused oil:
When you need infused oil for immediate use or wishes to use coconut oil in place of olive oil, this is the method to use.
- Fill a mason jar halfway with dried flowers and top it up with oil. If you’re using coconut oil, melt it first by keeping its tin/jar in a bowl of warm water.
- When liquefied, pour it over the flowers.
- Keep the jar in a double boiler set to the lowest heat setting. Allow to steep in the warm oil for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Check the double boiler frequently and top up with water whenever necessary.
- Drain the oil out and fill into a clean, dry, bottle.
- Use a wide-mouthed jar when coconut oil is used for infusion since it will solidify on cooling.
- Allow the oil to cool completely before screwing on the cap.
Calendula infused oil can be applied on eczema affected areas to get relief from itching and inflammation. Its antiseptic action will prevent secondary infections that make this skin condition ever worse.
8. Heal cuts and bruises with homemade calendula salve
A salve made from calendula infused oil is an essential item in your herbal first-aid kit. You can use it to treat minor cuts and bruises. It has a manifold action, from keeping the wound sterile and free of pathogenic microbes to reducing pain and inflammation. More importantly, calendula is known to heal without leaving scars. The phytochemicals in this herb promote rapid tissue repair and regeneration.
How to prepare calendula healing salve:
- Melt one cup of beeswax pellets in a double boiler or over a bowl of simmering water.
- When the wax is completely melted, take it off the heat and mix in half cup of calendula infused oil stirring continuously. Pour into small tubs with tight-fitting lids.
- Allow to cool.
If you have made the oil infusion with coconut oil, it may be gel-like, so reduce the quantity of beeswax used.
This salve can be applied to help all kinds of skin problems, including minor burns.
9. Control or prevent acne with calendula
Many acne control ointments contain calendula as one of the major ingredients. But they also contain many unwanted fillers and preservatives. Instead of using products of doubtful composition and efficacy, treat or prevent acne with inexpensive calendula infused face wash.
To make solar-infused calendula face wash:
- Place a handful of dry calendula flowers or two handfuls of fresh flowers, in a large glass jar.
- Fill it to the neck with water and put the lid on. Shake the bottle well.
- Keep it in the sun for 5-6 hours, giving it a good shake every now and then.
- Strain out the infusion and use it as a daily face wash.
- You can use one batch for 3-4 days when stored in the refrigerator, but if you have these flowers in the garden, it’s good idea to have a routine of making fresh infusion every day.
Calendula infusion will act as both cleanser and toner, and reduce the bacterial load in the skin pores. It has an astringent action that pulls in the skin pores, reducing chances of dust and dirt entering them.
10. Soothe diaper rash, and contact dermatitis with Calendula
Calendula is gentle and safe; it can be used even on baby skin. When you see redness and rash in the nappy area, wash with Calendula tea at every nappy change. It will soothe the baby immediately and the rash will go down pretty fast.
Contact dermatitis, either from coming in touch with allergens or from constant rubbing of the skin against rough materials, can be relieved by applying calendula infused oil or salve. It rapidly reduces inflammation and brings relief.
11. Calendula for treating throat infections
When you come down with sore throat, you can use calendula for a quick-fix. It doesn’t matter whether it is viral or bacterial infection because Calendula is effective against both. Moreover, it fights inflammation, which is the main cause of pain and discomfort.
Prepare calendula tea with either fresh or dried flowers, and use it as a throat gargle 2-3 times a day. You can sip warm calendula tea slowly to get immediate relief. For sore throats in children, mix honey with the tea and give spoonfuls of it several times a day.
12. Use calendula tea for dental health and hygiene
Regular gargling at night with light calendula tea will keep the microbial load down. It prevents bad breath and reduces chances of gum infections and mouth ulcers.
To treat existing mouth ulcers on the inside of lips, you can crush a few petals and place it on the sore, holding it in place against the teeth. People report quick pain relief and healing with this simple remedy.
13. Control dandruff and other scalp problems with calendula
Calendula tea can be used as hair wash in case of itching or inflammation of the scalp. Use it as a final rinse or apply it on the scalp with fingers. Oil infusion can be used as a head massage oil before bath, but wash it off afterwards to avoid staining clothes. Avoid nighttime use too for the same reason.
14. Use calendula on your pets
Calendula’s healing properties are just as effective on animals as they are on us. You can treat minor skin and stomach problems in dogs, horses, and cows with calendula infused oil. It is particularly effective against sunspots and fungal infections.
Ear mite infestations in dogs are successfully treated with a few drops of calendula infused oil introduced into their ears.
When you grow this wonderful plant in your garden you will not only be charmed by its beauty but also thrilled with its therapeutic capabilities.
Want to try growing calendula yourself? Pick up some seeds from here and get growing!