The sun has been shining here for the last few days and it has me craving all things spring, and warmth, and bright. In honour of all things sunny, I decided to write about one of the first herbs I studied and has become one of the most commonly used in my house and clinic!
Calendula officinalis – a stunningly beautiful flower in deep oranges and yellows, and an herb that has also become a staple in my herb garden each year, taking up a good few rows entirely for itself. Best known for its treatment of cuts, scrapes, burns, skin conditions, insect bites, and minor wounds, this plant is commonly referred to as pot Marigold and contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties – making it one of my most versatile and favourite recommendations for many cases that come through the office.
Not to be confused with the annual marigold plant found in many household gardens, Calendula has been used for medicinal purposes as far back as the 12th century. It is native to Mediterranean countries and contains high amounts of flavonoids, which are plant-based antioxidants that help protect cells from free radical damage. This sunny plant’s dried petals are used to fight inflammation, viruses and bacteria and have long been associated as a detoxifying herb to help conditions characterized by fever and infection.
As an herbalist, it’s important to take the time with a plant to feel it’s energies and be attentive to the traits it possess in order to effectively use it in practice. Calendula is an easy to use herb that is both gentle but a strong healer, with a binding energy that is amazing for injuries and illness alike. I have also found Calendula to be especially effective for women – I give this tea to patients for painful periods, menopause symptoms, as a tonic for the ovaries. It has a well-documented mild estrogenic effect that I have seen to be successful (when taken regularly) at easing menstrual pain and regulating their cycles.
Even with many preparations available, my favourite way to use Calendula is as a tea. Although it has a short shelf life (1-2 days refrigerated), it is a simple and easy way to use the herb. And really, there are so many other ways to use a tea than simply to drink it!
I make Calendula tea in the summer months with fresh petals. I love to fill a jar with the gorgeous bright flowers, cover it with boiling water and allowing it to infuse until it cools. When it’s not in season I will use 1-2 tablespoons of dried petals covered with boiling water and allowed to steep for 20mins.
Here are some great ways you can use a Calendula tea
- Use it as a gargle for a sore throat. Because the herb has anti-inflammatory properties and is great for healing, it is excellent for soothing your throat when it is sore. In the same way, it can also be used as a rinse for the mouth to help with inflamed gums or any blisters or canker sores.
- Make some homemade baby wipes and dip them in the tea to help with a diaper rash.
- Calendula tea can be used in a sitz bath to help soothe hemorrhoids, yeast infections or any swelling/mild irritation.
- If you are prone to acne breakouts, wash your face with the tea. Its antiseptic properties are helpful when you use it on a compress, or in a spray bottle to soothe and heal inflamed skin or on rashes. It can also be used as an eye rinse for itchy, irritated eyes from allergies, dryness or even pink eye.
- Calendula is a great anti-pyretic. It can help reduce fevers by causing you to sweat (use only 2-3 cups per day in this case and not while pregnant), as well as being able to help clear congested lymph nodes.
- My favourite (and my kids too) is to make Calendula ice cubes. Make, freeze, and have on hand to rub over any bruise, cut, scrape, rash or other minor injury as needed! The added bonus of numbing the area is helpful with little ones!