Calendula officinalis

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  • Common Name: Calendula
  • Scientific Name: Calendula officinalis
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Part Used: Flower
  • Taste/Smell: Slightly bitter, Salty

Calendula is a wonderful flower that is easy to grow and helps spread happiness, cheer, and sunshine throughout the year. Calendula officinalis is an annual plant native to southern Europe that grows best in full sun to part shade. It can be grown as a cover crop during the growing season, as a pollinator attractor, food, or medicine.

How to Grow

Seed propagation – sow outdoors 1–2 weeks before the last spring frost or start indoors 6–8 weeks before last frost. If starting indoors, keep temperature between 55–60 F; avoiding warm temperatures will produce a stronger plant that is easily transplanted outdoors. Light will inhibit germination, so cover seeds completely with soil. Germination generally takes 10–14 days. Plants will grow 1–2 feet tall and spread 1–1.5 feet. Blooming late spring to mid-fall. Calendula is a prolific seed producer and will easily self seed in your garden. Harvest or dead head spent flowers to keep flower production high. Pinching back early to mid season will produce a bushy plant. Calendula will tolerate mild frost and will produce flowers into the fall. A mid summer planting will extend harvest season into the mid to late fall.

Harvest and Medicinal Use

For culinary use, harvest flowers on the first day fully open. The petals can be snipped off and used fresh in salads and decoratively on desserts or as a garnish. Petals may also be used as a yellow pigment addition to rice or pasta dishes. The leaves are slightly spicy and may be used to flavor soups, salads or as a garnish.

For medicinal use, it is best to harvest the flower buds just before they open or on the first day they are fully open. Extractions can be done with either fresh or dried flowers. If you are choosing to dry your flowers for later use, start the drying process as close to harvest as possible. Here in the Pacific Northwest it is best to use a dehydrator at a low temperature (below 110 F). Store fully dried flowers in an airtight container in a dark area for up to 1 year.

Medicinally, Calendula has many uses including as an antiseptic, anti- inflammatory, lymphagogue, choleretic, demulcent, andvulnerary. Topically, the oil is great to help heal the skin after sunburns, small cuts, scrapes, or abrasions. (Make sure you seek the appropriate medical care!) The active compounds in the flowers are the resins, flavonoids, triterpenoids and polysaccharides. These different components are best extracted in different ways. The resins are best extracted in a high alcohol, oil, or as a fresh juice. The triterpenoids will be found in all types of extracts. The flavonoids will be extracted in water, fresh juice, or in low alcohol. 

Calendula can help us to connect to our essential nature so that we can better shine into the world. Its orange, sun-like flowers taken internally will help to instill courage and strength of will. Calendula will strengthen the solar plexus giving the heart a solid foundation to rest upon. Calendula will also help us to shine light into our dark places and give us the courage to heal them.

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