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Natural Beauty with Calendula

The popularity of these bright colored marigolds has never been higher. Calendula or “Pot Marigold” as it is often called is easy to grow, edible and a key ingredient in body care products that can be used by all ages. Calendula flowers are bright orange to yellow flowers that bloom profusely from spring to fall. Sometimes, given the right growing conditions they will grow year-round. Old-time gardeners will tell you that the plants usually flower on the first day of each month. This may be the reasoning behind the botanical name taken from the Latin calends or “calendar.”

Throughout history calendula petals and leaves have been used. The Ancient Egyptians valued it as an herb that helped rejuvenate the body. Hindus used the colorful flowers to decorate their altars and temples. In Europe calendula has been used to flavor soups and stews and color butter and cheese. During the Civil War doctors used the tender leaves to help treat wounds and promote healing.

It is one of the most versatile of the blooming herbs. It brightens your garden space and tolerates most soil types and also works well when planted in containers. The plants love a sunny spot and you can pick the flowers when they open. The fresh petals can be used as an edible flower in making flavored oils, vinegars and butters. They also add a colorful touch to cookies and salad mixes. They also produce a light yellow dye when boiled in water.

Calendula is a soothing antiseptic and excellent skin healer. It works especially well for dry cracked skin conditions and is often infused in a rich natural oil such as olive or grape seed oil and applied directly on the skin. The dried petals are often added to creams and bath soaks for cleansing and softening of the skin. You will see calendula as a key ingredient in children’s products because it is so mild and gentle. It is also found in products for people with sensitive skin because it is so soothing and also helps calm inflammation.

Here are some recipes for you to try at home. If you do not have calendula growing in your yard, you can easily find dried flowers and petals at most natural food stores and online herb sources. Gardeners that grow calendula also are very happy to share small plants and seeds. It is an herb that loves to self-seed and spread out across your flowerbeds. Enjoy!

Growing Calendula

You may find small plants at our local nursery but calendula is very easy to grow from seed. Plant the seeds in the early spring or start then indoors six weeks before your last heavy frost date. They love sun in fact the more sun the better and they are not too picky about soil type. Calendulas are in the marigold family so they do well in vegetable gardens and are good companion plants and will help you keep garden pest away because of their strong scent. Pollinators also love the flowers which will benefit all of your plants. Calendula loves be cut and used and this also helps them bloom and spread. Harvest your flower heads at the hottest time of the day. They will be the most potent and full of natural oils and resins. You can allow a few flower heads to mature and go to seed. These can easily be collected and saved for the following growing season. Deadheading or removing the spent flower heads is also a nice way to not only clean up your garden space but also scatter seeds and keep your plot or container growing. A light raking with a hand fork after trimming, keeps everything nice and tidy and planted.

Drying Calendula Flowers

Picking your fresh flowers when they start to bloom and drying them for year round use is one of the benefits of growing your own herbs in your yard. You can make a simple drying rack using a clean old window screen or use a cotton dish cloth on a tray or cookie sheet. Pick your flower heads when they just open and lie them down on your drying rack stem side up. Keep them in a warm spot but out of direct sun. When the flower heads are dry you can store in a clean jar or paper sack. Storing your flowers in a dry, dark spot will keep the color nice and bright. You can also remove the petals from the flower head and save just those in a container. If you wish to save fresh flower petals you can do this in the freezer.

Seed Saving

Calendula seeds are very easy to collect and save. Leave a few flower heads to bloom completely and then dry out. They will drop their petals and form a seedpod. Pick these dried flower heads, that are full of the seeds. Calendula seeds are easy to identity as they are light beige in color, and curved like a comma with a knobby backbone. Lay the seeds out on a tray and let dry completely then package in dry glass jars or paper envelopes. Calendula seeds make a welcome gift from the garden.

Infused Calendula Oil

One of the easiest and most popular ways to use calendula for body care is in making an infused natural oil. This oil can be used to help soothe and heal your skin and also as an ingredient in making creams, lotions, balms, and baths. It is simple to do and the one rule of thumb is to only used dried plant material when making infused oil. Fresh herbs and flowers contain moisture that could break down in the oil and cause bacteria to grow. To create your own calendula oil simple fill a glass jar with dried flower heads or petals. Cover the herb with a natural oil such as olive, grape seed or almond and let the mixture sit for a few weeks in a dry, dark spot. Test the oil after a few weeks. If you like how it feels and looks then strain the flower petals and pour into a clean container. If you are giving the oil as a gift you might want to include one dried flower head as a decorative touch. If you desire a stronger infusion let the mixture sit for another week. If you feel it is too strong, strain the mixture and dilute with more oil. Make sure to keep track of how long you let your mixture sit. You may also want to add other dried herbs to the oil. Lavender, Thyme, Lemon Balm and Mint all work well when mixed with calendula.

Calendula Foot Powder

Dried calendula flower petals have antibacterial properties and combined with baking soda make a soothing, deodorizing foot powder that can be massaged into your feet or sprinkled inside your shoes and garden boots to keep them fresh and clean smelling.

1 /4 cup cornstarch or rice flour

2 Tablespoons baking soda

1 Tablespoon finely ground dried calendula petals

1-2 drops essential oil of geranium (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a dry jar or re-sealable plastic bag and shake well to mix. Pour the powder into a clean, dry container. To use: Sprinkle the powder on clean, dry feet and gently massage into the skin, especially between the toes.

Yield: 3 ounces

Calendula Petal Hair Rinse

Yellow or orange calendula petals produce a dye for the hair that was used by European women as early as the sixteenth century. One publication from that time, The New Herbal (1551), states: “Some women used to make their heyre yellow with the flowers of the calendula plant not being content wit the natural colour which God hath given them.” Today calendula petals are used in skin toners, creams, and bath products. They still do make a wonderful highlighting rinse that can be used by both brunettes and blondes.

1 /4 cup fresh calendula petals or 2 tablespoons dried

2 cups boiling water

Place the calendula petals in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let the mixture cool completely. Strain the liquid. To use: After shampooing pour the rinse water through your hair.

Yield: 16 ounces, enough for 1-2 rinses

Lavender Calendula Gel

Lavender and calendula are two herbs that go well together because they are both excellent skin soothers and both have antiseptic properties. This is a light skin gel that can be used to treat dry skin conditions, sunburn and insect bites. It is also gentle enough for children and sensitive skin types.

1 /2 cup aloe vera gel

1 Tablespoon dried lavender buds or 2 Tablespoons fresh lavender buds

1 tablespoon dried calendula petals or 2 Tablespoons fresh calendula petals

Mix together the aloe vera gel, lavender buds, and calendula petals in an ovenproof glass container. Heat the mixture gently, until very hot but not boiling. You can do this by placing the container in a water bath on the stovetop. Let the mixture cool completely and sit for 24 hours. Strain out all of the flower petals and solids, and our into a clean container. To use: Massage into clean skin, or use on minor cuts, scrapes, and bites.

Yield: 4 ounces

Healing Calendula Salve

This is an easy to make herbal salve that will help heal small cuts, scrapes, burns and bug bites. It uses infused calendula oil which is easy to make. A basic recipe is one cup of dried flower heads to one cup light oil such as olive or sunflower, let sit for a few weeks then strain.

1 /2 cup infused calendula oil

2 Tablespoons grated beeswax or vegan emulsifying wax

In a heat proof container or jar mix together the infused oil and wax. Heat gently on a stovetop in a water bath until the wax is melted. Stir well and remove from heat. Pour into a clean jar or jars and let the mixture cool completely. To use: Apply to your skin.

Yield: 4 ounces

For more recipes and ideas check out Natural Beauty from the Garden and my new workbook Beautiful Flowers!

You are beautiful -- xoxo Janice


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