As we move through the Wheel of the Year, there may be no better flower to welcome the initiation into summer and the beauty unfolding under the emerging summer sun than Calendula.
From Ancient Gardens
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) blossoms into bright and joyful bursts of sunshine, intoxicating us with its heavenly scent from late spring right through the first frosts of autumn.
The name Calendula comes from the Latin word ‘calendae’, which means long blooming season, and the species name ‘officinalis’ refers to its traditional use as a medicinal plant in ancient apothecaries.
Our beautiful calendula spiral sits in an open sunny spot in the garden and thrives in well-drained soil under a protective layer of wood chip mulch. This hardy self-seeding annual is adaptable and resilient and it’s hard to walk by its stunning yellow and orange blossoms without laying in their soft embrace as they follow the sun across the sky.
We harvest the blossoms almost daily throughout the season, with big smiles on our faces and the sweet medicine sap sticking to our fingers.
Medicine of Sunshine
With its slightly bitter taste and mildly warming effect on the body, calendula is packed with powerful medicine that has been used for centuries to support the body and uplift the spirit.
As a wound healer, the infused oil can be used in balms and creams on wounds, abrasions, rashes, burns, and bruises. Its anti-inflammatory properties can reduce pain and irritation caused by skin issues, as well as internal inflammation when made into tea or tinctures.
Calendula is a gentle lymphatic mover helping toxins to leave the body, prevent infection and speed up recovery from illness and surgery. The tea or tincture can soothe gastric irritation such as ulcers and GERD. It makes a wonderful breast balm for nursing mothers to heal sore or cracked nipples.
It’s also a great ally during menstruation, helping to balance blood flow and ease cramping. Calendula gifts us with her beauty medicine, adding a glimpse of sunshine to any day.
Food as Medicine
The blossoms can be dried for teas and infused in oil for creams and balms.
The flower petals can be added to salads, veggies, eggs and desserts to brighten up any meal.
The dried flowers are also a wonderful addition to a winter broth to boost immunity and brighten the cold dark season.
The Witch's Nail
If you take a close look at Calendula's seeds, you may notice that they look like cut fingernails. There's an old folk tale about Calendula that is dear to us here at the farm, telling the story of how the plant and its medicine came to be:
Long ago and far away, there was a small village where everyone lived together in harmony. One day a woman appeared from out of the forest asking for shelter, and was taken in and cared for by the people of the village.
This woman was a healer who knew the medicine and songs of all plants, and she started to offer healing through herbal remedies. The people came to her with their ailments and troubles, and she would go out and harvest roots, flowers and leaves and make medicine for them, and she was beloved by everyone in the village, except for one person.
The healer who already lived in the village who had been serving the community for years became jealous and full of greed, and decided to poison the medicine woman. It was a powerful poison that had no remedy in her garden.
On her deathbed, she called her apprentices to come to her and told them to cut her fingernails and plant them like seeds, and they would grow a beautiful bright flower that will heal all illness. When they planted her nails, the stunning orange and yellow blossoms of calendula appeared, and they used its medicine to continue to help and heal the people of the village.
The magic and medicine of Calendula is used far and wide to this day.
Calendula at Raven Crest
You can find Calendula in many of our teas, balms and lotions. Our Soothe Thy Skin HEALING BALM combines organic olive oil infused with our farm grown calendula, comfrey, St. John's wort, plantain and yarrow to make a soothing and wound healing blend. It is a wonderful balm to have around for rough dry skin, cuts, bruises, insect bites and burns.
Plant some calendula seeds this year and enjoy the beauty and medicine of this plant. Whether it is nourishing your body or delighting your senses, Calendula will add a bright spot of sunshine and joy to your whole being.