Calendula: Medicinal and Immune-Boosting Edible Flower

by Juliet Blankespoor

Calendula is one of the primary herbs I recommend for GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), along with licorice, slippery elm and meadowsweet. I also find it helpful in healing peptic ulcers; it can be taken concurrently with antibiotic therapy, and then continued for two weeks after finishing treatment. Calendula is often combined with the aforementioned herbs to promote the healing of gastric and duodenal mucosa.

Calendula-officinalis-1-©Juliet-Blankespoor

I think of calendula as a weaker, more tonic antifungal as compared to some of our more heroic herbal anti-fungals, such as bloodroot and black walnut.  It is often taken as a tonic tea for people who are prone to recurrent fungal skin infections, after a two-week regime of hard hitting internal and topical anti-fungal treatment.

Calendula is one of my personal favorite wintertime teas. I find it so uplifting, especially when I am feeling the long-dark-night-blahs. Interestingly, a strong cup of calendula tea has a flavor reminiscent of unsweetened cacao. Most modern herbalists don’t typically use it as one of their primary anti-depressant herbs, but it is mentioned for that specific use in multiple historical texts. Calendula may be called upon for grief and sadness along with other cheering flowers: rose, mimosa and lavender. In addition, consider other helpful herbal companions, such as lemonbalm and lemon verbena.

I always keep calendula oil stocked in my frig and will also combine it with plantain, chickweed, saint john’s wort, and violet in salve form. When my daughter had chicken pox I made a fresh poultice from calendula mixed with other herbs and applied it daily. She had quite the outbreak and doesn’t even have one scar, thanks to this herbal poultice.

Calendula-officinalis-medicinal-uses-©Juliet-Blankespoor

Materia Medica

Common Name: Calendula, Pot marigold, Marigold

Scientific name: Calendula officinalis

Family: Asteraceae

Part used: whole flowers

Preparation/ Dosage:

1:2 95%             1-2 droppers full up to 4 times a day

1:5 70%            1-2 droppers full up to 4 times a day

Infusion: 1-2 grams in 8 ounces of water (about 1-3 Tablespoons dried flowers), up to three times a day

Topical preparations: poultice, compress, infused oil and salve. Dilute tincture with water (1 part tincture to 3 parts water) for topical use.

Actions:

Anti-inflammatory to skin and mucosa

Lymphagogue (moves lymph)

Vulnerary (promotes healing of damaged tissue)

Anti-fungal

Anti-bacterial

Emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual flow)

Cholagogue (stimulates bile)

Energetics: warming, drying

Indications/Usages:

Gastro-intestinal anti-inflammatory: calendula tea is commonly used to help heal peptic ulcers, esophageal irritation from GERD, and inflammatory bowel disease.  Calendula helps heal inflammation from infection or irritation through its vulnerary, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial actions.

Lymphatic: acute or chronically swollen lymph nodes: respiratory infection, localized infection, and tonsillitis. Also used for poor immunity, to help prevent infection through stimulating the lymphatic system.

Gums and mouth: gargle for sore throat, aphthous ulcers (canker sores), periodontal disease, thrush, sore and bleeding gums.

Emmenagogue: sluggish menses, amenorrhea

Topical applications: rashes, stings, wounds, burns, sunburns, abrasions, swellings, eczema, acne, surgical wounds, scrapes, chicken pox, cold sores, genital herpes sores, and as a douche for bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection and cervical dysplasia.

Calendula-edible-flowers-©Juliet-Blankespoor

Edible flowers

Soon after giving birth to my daughter I received a meal from an herbalist friend – a nourishing quiche crafted from homegrown veggies, speckled with the orange and yellow of calendula “petals.” Such a small touch made a large impression; I felt the warmth and sunshine of summer in every bite. The colorful “petals” of calendula are actually the ray florets (diminutive flowers, serving a similar function as petals). These ray florets are plucked from the more medicinal-tasting green flower base, and can be eaten raw or cooked. The florets may also be dried and rehydrated at a later date. My family enjoys them in salads, salsas, scrambled eggs, and frittatas; we also use them as a garnish on just about any dish.

The whole flowers can also be dried, and added to soups and stews in the winter as an immune tonic. This traditional folk use heralds from medieval Europe, where the flowers were also added to bread, syrups and conserves. Culpepper wrote, “The flowers, either green or dried, are much used in possets, broths, and drink, as a comforter of the heart and spirits, and to expel any malignant or pestilential quality which might annoy them.”

Another account, written in 1699, states “The yellow leaves of the flowers are dried and kept throughout Dutchland against winter to put into broths, physicall potions and for divers other purposes, in such quantity that in some Grocers or Spicesellers are to be found barrels filled with them and retailed by the penny or less, insomuch that no broths are well made without dried Marigold.”

Every winter I make a strong medicinal mineral-rich bone broth of calendula flowers, turkey tail, astragalus, seaweed, nettles, organic beef bones and shiitake. I cook it in a big pot all day, concentrating the brew with evaporation by leaving the lid off. After straining and cooling, it is frozen into small portions, and subsequently added to soups, stews, marinara, and chili all throughout the winter months. This herbal broth is an excellent way to sneak in extra minerals into our diets, and also doubles as an immune tonic, helping to keep colds and flu at bay.


Juliet-BlankespoorIn 2007, Juliet Blankespoor founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in Asheville, North Carolina, where she teaches and serves as director to this day. She will be traveling to Nevada City, California to teach a series of 3 classes in September 2015.

To learn more about immunity, check out her class Get Prepared for the Cold & Flu Season: Choosing the Right Herbs to Support the Immune System which takes place on September 26. Sign up by August 19 for the Early Bird Discount!

This article is excerpted by permission from Juliet's Castanea blog; click here for the full article and recipe links. All photos ©Juliet Blankespoor, all rights reserved.

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