Common Name: Calendula, Pot Marigold
Scientific Name: Calendula officinalis
Family: Asteraceae or Compositae (the Aster, Daisy, or Sunflower family)
Calendula, or Pot Marigold, is a beautiful flower known throughout the world as an ornamental, but has been used as a medicinal plant for centuries. This annual reseeds very easily and can withstand fairly cold weather, the flowers are edible, and they also attract beneficial insects and butterflies. Calendulas are an easy to grow plant, and they are a great way to add some functional beauty to your Permaculture projects.
Calendula is native to the Mediterranean, Southwestern Asia, Western Europe, and the islands of Macaronesia (which includes the Azores, where I currently live!). However, they have been grow for so long as a medicinal and ornamental plant, that they can now be found around the world.
- The name “Calendula” comes from the Latin, calendae, which means “little clock” or “little calendar”
- Calendula flowers close at night.
- Calendula flowers also close before the rain, and it can be used as a simple weather guide, which is why another possible meaning of the name “Calendula” is “little weather-glass”
- Calendula are considered good companion plants for tomatoes.
- Calendula flower petals have been used for centuries in soups and stews, and is likely the source of its other common name “Pot Marigold”
- True Marigolds are in the Tagetes genus, native to North and South America, and they are in the same family (Asteraceae) as Calendula
USING THIS PLANT
- Ornamental Plant – This is its primary use in modern times, and it is indeed a beautiful flowering plant
- Medicinal Plant – Historically, this was one of its primary uses (see Medicinal Uses below)
- Edible Flower Petals – has a bitter flavor, some flowers can be more tangy or spicy, but the flavor can vary. Used fresh in salads or dried in soups and baked goods. Can also be used as a yellow food dye, and has been used as a saffron substitute and to color cheeses, custards, butters, sauces, etc.
- Edible Leaves – used raw in salads.
- Tea Plant – made from the petals or whole flowers.
- General insect nectar and pollen plant – attracts beneficial insects, especially bees and hoverflies
- Butterfly Plant – the flowers attract butterflies
- Nematode Deterrent Plant – there are many reports of this plant repelling nematodes, similar to true French Marigolds
- Groundcover Plant – Calendula can form rather dense clumps, although I still have had many other “weeds” pop up between plants. Calendula would likely be a good candidate for a mixed groundcover planting. I have had some success with Parsley and Calendula growing well together, but this was not exactly planned. Also, it does make harvesting the Parsely a bit tedious. I will experiement with other combinations, on purpose, in the future and will share my findings.
- Cosmetics – with its history as a medicinal, especially for skin issues, it is no surprise Calendula is a popular cosmetic ingredient
- Dye Plant – yellow dye from the flower petals
- Calendula has been used from at least the 12th Centurey as a medicinal.
- When something has been used for close to 1,000 years as a traditional medicine, there is a pretty good chance that traditional medicine works, at least for some things.
- Calendula as a traditional herbal medicine is one of the most studied herbs by modern medical researchers.
- Calendula has been used to treat insect stings/bites, chapped/chafed skin, minor cuts, burns, bruises, and minor infections, and there is good, modern evidence that topical Calendula preparations help wounds heal faster.
- There is pretty good evidence that topical Calendula will help treat/prevent dermatitis, diaper rashes, and hemorrhoids.
- There is some evidence that gargling with Calendula-infused water will help sore throat and mouth/throat infections.
- There are a number of other medicinal uses, both topical and internal (typically in the form of teas), but there is not a lot or absolutely no modern research that has studied these uses. That does not mean these applications do not work, it just means they have not been studied in modern times.
- There are no known modern or traditional medication interactions with Calendula, although some researchers suspect there could (theoretically) be interactions with Calendula and hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and sedation medications.
- Most sources state that pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid Calendula, but I can find no good reasons for this, nor can I find any information if this is just for internal use or both internal and external use.
Calendula Oil – used for many topical skin conditions. The oil is easy to make. It can be used on its own, or it can be used to make other products.
- Take dried Calendula flowers or fresh Calendula flowers (at least 12 hours old, this allows them to wilt and lose much of their water content).
- Place the flowers in a glass jar.
- Fill the jar with olive oil covering the flowers by at least an inch (2.5 cm).
- Stir the flowers to evenly distribute the oil.
- Cover the car with an airtight lid and shake well.
- Place the jar in a sunny window.
- Turn and shake the jar at least once a day for 3-6 weeks.
- Strain the oil (a cheesecloth works well) into another jar.
- The Calendula Oil is now ready to be used.
- A double-strength Calendula Oil can be made by adding new Calendula flowers to the strained oil for another 3-6 weeks.
- Other oils can be used like grapeseed oil or sunflower oil.
- Store the Calendula Oil in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
Calendula Salve -used in much the same way as the Calendula Oil, but it is more of a cream, so it can be easier to apply. This one is great for chapped hands and lips.
- Chop up 1/2 -2 ounces (1/16 – 1/4 cup or 15-60 ml) beeswax.
- Take 4-8 ounces (1/2 – 1 cup or 118-236 ml) of Calendula Oil from recipe above.
- Place the oil and beeswax in a double boiler and slowly melt.
- Remove from heat.
- If desired, a few drops of lavender oil can be stirred in for additional scent.
- If desired, a pinch of tumeric powder can be added for additional color.
- Pour the salve into small jars or tins, allow it to cool, then put the lid on the container.
- The Calendula Salve is now ready to be used.
- Note that the ratio of beeswax to oil ranges from 1:4 to 1:8. The more beeswax will result in a thicker, firmer salve.
- Store the Calendula Salve in a cool, dark place for up to a year
Calendula Compress – this is a more gentle, and less oily/greasy, way to apply Calendula to the skin.
- Place dried or fresh Calendula flowers to a heat-resistant jar or bowl.
- Just barely cover with boiling water.
- Let the water sit until it was completely cooled.
- Strain the Calendula-infused water into another jar or bowl.
- Soak a clean cloth in the water, wring it out just a bit, and apply it to the skin.
- Let the cloth rest on the skin for 30-60 minutes, one to three times per day.
- I can find no good information on how long the Calendula-infused water will store, but it likely does not store for more than a few days.
Calendula Poultice – a poultice is a much more aggressive treatment than a cool compress. Calendula is often used to make a poultice either by itself or mixed with other herbs.
- Grind dried or fresh Calendula flowers – some experts recommend a course grind, and others recommend a fine grind with a mortar and pestle.
- Place the ground flowers into a heat-resistant bowl.
- Add just enough boiling water to make a paste (most herbalists recommend using another herb or something like slippery elm powder to make the paste more mucilaginous/thick)
- If the wound is not open (e.g. like a bug bite or sting), then the poultice can be put right on the skin.
- If the wound is open a little (e.g. abrasions or very shallow scratches), the place some gauze on the wound first, and apply the poultice to the gauze right over the wound.
- If the wound is open and large, then talk to your medical provider first – we don’t want to cause an infection while we are trying to treat/prevent one with a poultice!
- Once the poultice is applied, cover the poultice with some sort of dressing (e.g. additional gauze, plastic wrap, etc.)
- Leave the poultice in place for 30-60 minutes.
- The poultice should remain moist for most benefit.
- Heat will increase its penetration/effect, but is usually avoided when treating sunburn, heat burns, or when treating children.
- Heat can be added with a hot, wet cloth or a hot water bottle applied over the poultice dressing.
- Heat is a great adjunct when dealing with an infection like a boil (furuncle).
Harvesting: The flowers can be harvested when in bloom (Summer-Autumn). The leaves can be harvested in Spring and Summer.
Storage: Use fresh. Dried flowers can last for years, but it seems that 2 years is really the maximum they should be stored if they are to retain their medicinal properties.
DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
AHS Heat Zone: 6-1
Chill Requirement: None.
Plant Type: Small Herbaceous Annual, but can grow year round in some locations
Leaf Type: Annual
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer, Groundcover Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties available for this species.
Pollination: Each plant has both male and female flowers (pollinated by bees).
Flowering: Summer to Autumn, but this really depends on the growing location. Calendula is not sensitive to frost, and will often keep flowering after the first snowfall.
This is an annual plant (lives for one growing season), but considering that the plants self-seed so easily, this is not much of an issue.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
Roots: Shallow and fibrous
Growth Rate: Fast
GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
Shade: Tolerates mederate shade
Moisture: Prefers moist soils, but can thrive in a wide variety of soil conditions.
pH: 4.5-8.3 (tolerates a wide range of soil conditions)
Special Considerations for Growing:
Give Calendula good conditions, and you will need to do little for it.
Calendula is propagated via seed. It self-seeds very easily, so once you have a patch growing, it will often continue to pop up every year.
Removing the old flowers (aka “deadheading”) will stimulate more flower growth.
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