If I had to choose just one herb to grow on the homestead, I would choose calendula. Calendula is an amazing herb that has many benefits and uses.
It can be used for food or medicine and can help attract beneficials into the garden. It’s also amazingly beautiful and makes a great cut flower for the dinner table.
What is Calendula?
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a brightly colored flower (usually yellow or orange) that is used in a variety of ways as food and medicine.
Calendula is also known as pot marigold (not to be confused with French marigold) bride of the sun, holligold, bull’s eyes, gold bloom, and ruddes.
This edible flower blooms monthly by the calendar (hence the name) and has a long history of use in Greek, Roman, Catholic, and Hindu traditions.
Health Benefits of Calendula
This amazing flower has a surprising number of health benefits. These include:
Anti-inflammatory and Anti-Viral
Folk medicine has used calendula for centuries for its anti-inflammatory properties. But science is catching up and now backs these claims as well.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology found that calendula extract reduced inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines (a molecule that comes from the immune system to signal for inflammation).
Calendula has also shown to be anti-viral. One 2004 study in the Medical Science Monitor suggests that Calendula water extract affected the immune response in chickens exposed to three different viruses.
Not only can you use these plants to help your family, but you could also use them to keep your animals in good health, too!
Calendula has been a go-to remedy for menstrual cramps, muscle cramps, and constipation. A study published in Phytotherapy Research shows it has anti-spasmodic properties which means it can ease cramping.
It’s definitely a must for those sore muscles after chopping wood! One thing that I really love about calendula is that it can be used topically or internally for these issues.
Supports Skin Health
Calendula is a wonderful herb for skin ailments. It’s often used in creams and lotions for eczema and psoriasis, for its soothing properties. It’s a great remedy for wounds as well.
In one study, wounds closed in 90 percent of animals who received topical calendula compared to 51 percent in the control group.
I have used calendula in topical preparations for years and it always adds a skin soothing and supporting boost!
One of calendula’s most amazing benefits is that it can be used as an antiseptic and antifungal. A 2013 review concluded that calendula has antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.
These things help fight infections and support the closing of wounds. This is one reason I always add it to ointments and creams!
Calendula may even have a future in helping with cancer. The above review found that calendula has anti-tumor and anti-mutagenic properties. While we still need more research to explore this use, it’s definitely interesting and promising!
Is Calendula Safe?
Herbalists agree that calendula has a great safety record. Studies in this 2008 review support this stance as well, explaining that calendula is generally safe. However, it shouldn’t be used by pregnant women in large amounts in the first trimester.
How to Use Calendula
Calendula is a potent but gentle herb that has many uses:
- Add calendula infused oil to healing salves. Rub it on cuts and scrapes in place of antibacterial ointments.
- Use oil or salve for diaper rash, skin rashes, and many other skin issues.
- Add calendula oil to an earache remedy (I use garlic oil and add whatever other helpful herbs I have).
- Use calendula tea as a gargle for a sore throat or mouth abrasions.
- Add some calendula tea to the bath to soothe the skin.
- Calendula petals are also wonderful additions to a salad. They will brighten up any plate of greens!
Calendula is also a great help in the garden, attracting beneficials, repelling some pests, and bringing beauty to the garden.
How to Grow Calendula
This gorgeous bloom is simple to grow in any garden. I love to plant easy-to-grow plants, and calendula definitely makes the list!
How to Plant Calendula
Calendula is easy to grow from seed. All you need to do is plant your seeds in seed starting soil and pots and keep them evenly moist. You can plant them inside 6-8 weeks before the last frost or direct sow them after the last frost.
When it’s time for them to go outside, plant seedlings (or seeds) at least 12 inches apart. The plants grow 18-24 inches high and 12-24 inches wide. I like to plant calendula with other plants to help with pests and bringing in beneficial. If there is an empty corner somewhere I’ll probably fill it with calendula.
How to Care For Calendula
Calendula likes full sun and rich soil and it will bloom monthly through the growing season. It can be encouraged to produce more blooms by removing spend flowers and adding fertilizer (like manure tea).
How to Harvest Calendula
Ideally, you will pick calendula flowers when they are at their peak. Once the flowers have opened fully, start picking! Then continue to pick every few days throughout the season.
The more you pick, the more flowers will bloom! If blooms start to go to seed, you may not get any more flowers, so keep picking those flowers!
For medicinal or culinary use, cut as close to the flower head as possible. Harvest mid-day when flowers are dry. If you want to use the flowers in a meal, simple take the petals off of the flower and add to your dish.
Once harvested, bring them inside and place on a drying screen or in a dehydrator at no more than 95 degrees F. If you live in a humid area, a dehydrator may be a better choice.
Dried calendula herb will keep for about a year if not longer.
How to Save Calendula Seeds
Calendula seeds are one of my favorite seeds. They are very unusual — looking like a worm or bug! They’re also really easy to harvest from spent blooms in late summer.
When you are ready to let your plant go to seed at the end of the season, simply stop picking the blooms. They will begin to change shape and grow greens seeds. Wait until the seeds are brown before collecting though.
Calendula is very good at reseeding, so you could also just let it do its thing and trust that you will have calendula next year!
Calendula Benefits and Uses for All!
I can’t get enough of this amazing flower/herb. It’s a go-to in my natural medicine cabinet as well as my garden.
It’s even a fun burst of color sprinkled on a salad.
I have also fed year-old calendula herb to my chickens who were very appreciative!
Do you love calendula as I do? What do you use it for?