Get down and dirty in the garden
Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources. She has written about gardening for various online venues and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.
Calendula officinalis, or pot marigold, is an herbaceous annual or perennial plant related to daisies and asters. It is native to Macronesia, the Mediterranean and Iran. Calendula is not the same as the more familiar French marigolds, annuals with pungent foliage and orange and yellows flowers, and other marigold varieties. It is a separate species of flowering plant that grows in a small clump with fragrant lance-shaped leaves; it produces flowers that resemble large yellow and orange daisies.
Calendula is different than the more familiar French marigold.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Calendula needs a sunny location with rich soil to grow well and sprouts quickly in the warm late spring garden. Both flowers and leaves are edible and make tasty additions to mixed salads or colorful garnishes for lunch and dinner plates. (Discover delicious Calendula officinalis recipes.)
Calendula flowers have many healing properties. They are used as teas for stomach ailments, to relieve hemorrhoids, to soothe infected eyes and for healing skin irritations. Calendula was used in ancient Greece and Rome in cooking and medicine. The name of the flower comes from the Latin word kalendae, from which the word calendar is derived, because it could be found blooming at the beginning the month. Calendula has been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, astringent and wound healing properties. Use calendula salve on dry lips and skin, blemishes, burns, slight scrapes and cuts. While there are a multitude of commercial cosmetic creams and lotions available, it is easy to make a rich, soothing calendula salve in your own kitchen.
Make a Calendula Salve
Pick 2 cups fresh calendula flower petals at mid-day on a sunny, dry day to avoid dew or moisture, pulling the petals from the flowers and avoiding any green leaves. Use only smooth and silky petals that are not wet with rain or dew. Gather other ingredients and utensils: 1 cup extra virgin olive oil or pure sweet almond oil, 1/4 cup pure bee’s wax, a stainless steel sauce pot to melt bee’s wax, a double burner, a large piece of unbleached cheese cloth and several small sterilized jars with lids.
Cook the fresh petals in oil for an hour, slowly over low heat and stir constantly. Don’t boil or burn, or leave the pot without stirring. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When cool but still warm, press calendula oil from the petals by straining the oil and petals through cheese cloth and squeezing all the oil from the cooked petals into a clean bowl. Put the freshly squeezed calendula oil into a new sauce pot and warm over low heat again while melting the beeswax in the double burner at the same time. When the beeswax is melted, pour it into the warmed calendula oil and mix well over low heat. Pour the warm mixture into sterilized jars, adding a few fresh petals for color if desired and a few drops of vanilla essential oil or other essential oils for fragrance; let set for 15 minutes before putting on lids and sealing. Label the calendula salve and store in a cool, dark place, putting the batch date on the bottom of the jars.