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Monday, July 6, 2015

Calendula, a Plant with a Sunny Disposition

Cheery Calendula is a definite favorite, not only because it is so useful, but because it was one of my first introductions to the world of herbal plants.

Calendula gazes up at the sun in such a warm-hearted manner. For centuries, this plant appeared in every rural garden as the go to remedy for the family and animals alike.
The many names given to Calendula reveal its history and purpose. "Rampant Flower" is evident with the how easy the plant can reseed and spread. Calendula blooms constantly from June to frost. Her name derives from the Latin calendae, meaning "the first day of the month" because she grows in so many months, hence the word calendis.
Calendula was also used at burial grounds as a symbol for salvation after death. It was said that her inexhaustible botanical energy is a sign of eternal life.

Several plants in the Compositae family are called "bride of the sun", including Daisy, Chamomile, Dandelion, Chicory, and our Calendula. This is because they each turn towards and follow the light of the sun, opening and closing their flowers as the day progresses. Old folk belief is that if the flower heads close up after 7 a.m. it is going to rain the next day. The sun was a sacred symbol of life and deliverance, therefore certain days of the year were celebrated as solar holidays. Flowers that bloomed at these times and resembled the sun's shape were considered sacred. The Daisy during the vernal equinox, St. John's Wort at the summer solstice, and Chicory and Calendula at the autumnal equinox. A plant of women and a plant of love, the English name "Marigold" represents the Christian Mary or the Germanic Freya. A plant that puts forth continual blossoms represents the undying love in one person for another, a love that never dies.

The two most thought of herbs for wound care in the Daisy family are Calendula and Arnica (Arnica montana). They look similar but are different in that Calendula has an orderly fashion to its petals, whereas Arnica looks disheveled. Calendula's scent is faint, while Arnica is aromatic. Calendula is only grown in cultivated gardens, while Arnica is a wildflower.

Calendula is a remedy for all wounds, especially for those that are inflamed and healing poorly. It is an anti-inflammatory and helps prevent the formation of scar tissue. Stimulating to the body's lymphatic system, Calendula can also be applied to swollen lymph nodes.
Calendula oil is  renowned old wives' remedy against breast cancer.
According to herbalist, Maria Treben, varicose veins can be treated with the application of a salve made from Calendula. Such treatments need to be consistent and patience is needed but over time such blood vessel problems may be helped with daily applications.
Calendula is a wonderful ally in treating your pet for not only wounds but to help clear up problems with eczema and hot spots. The challenge with using any salve on an animal is keeping it there long enough to do its job before being licked clean. This herbal balm contains nothing that would harm your pet if ingested.

Calendula is very easy to grow. It is an annual plant and if starting for the first time, plant seeds about 1/2 inch deep, six inches apart after the danger of frost when temperatures average 60 degrees. Here in zone six planting time is in April. After that first year, if you let some of the flowers go to seed you won't have to plant again. The seeds drop, work their way into the ground and easily germinate in the spring. If you do want to save the seed, just pull the seed heads from the plant, spread on a plate for a few days so any moisture evaporates, then store in a ziploc bag or jar; just so they're kept in a dry, dark place.

Throughout the growing season, the flowers are picked regularly in order that the plant's energy keeps them blooming and not go to seed as quickly.

Some of the flowers are infused in organic virgin cold pressed olive oil. After being given about 6 weeks to sit in a warm, sunny location, the flowers are strained, and the oil is put in mason jars and kept in the refrigerator until ready to be used for salves. Pictured here are Plantain, Calendula and St. Johnswort, all wonderful healing oils.

Flowers are also put up in jars containing apple cider vinegar. 
Herbal vinegars make wonderful hair rinses and facial toners.

Extra flowers are dried for later use. They can be air dried by spreading out on a tray until dry or they can be dried using a dehydrator. Once dry, they are stored in gallon size ziploc bags and kept in a dark, dry place till needed.

This sunny, appealing child and pet safe flower appears in many personal care and medicinal products. Below are wonderful ways to utilize this friendly plant. 
Click on the caption under each picture to go into my shop for more information or to purchase:

Sore nipple balm, Radiation balm, Wound care

Pregnant Belly Balm, stretch marks, itchy skin

Calendula, Chamomile, Nettle Hair Rinse for light hair, conditions, lightens

Calendula, Chamomile, Nettles Face Toner, Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, balances skin pH

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