The pot marigold is a wonderful healing plant that has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-fungal actions. The petals have antifungal, anti-bacterial and stimulant properties, and promote perspiration; and the mucilage in both the flowers and the leaves makes them valuable for the complexion. These make calendula excellent to treat all flesh wounds, oral thrush, throat infections, mouth ulcers, leg ulcers and eczema. A strong infusion of the petals makes a good eye wash for treating mild eye infections or mild conjunctivitis, usually indicated by ‘weepy’ eyes. The tea can also be used as a face wash.
Calendula infusion (tea): Pour a cup of boiling water over a tablespoon of fresh or dried petals and leave it to draw for 10 minutes. Allow it to cool before applying externally to the infected area with cotton wool. If using for the eyes, it is advisable to strain the tea through fine muslin or gauze to remove any pollen before applying.
Calendula ointment: Place 25g of the fresh or dried petals into 600ml of your favourite oil; like olive, sunflower, or almond; and allow them to infuse in the oil for a week or more. Strain the preparation and add 25g of beeswax while stirring gently over a low heat until all the wax has blended in. Pour into sterilised jars and cool down before sealing.
Calendula oil: Take one cup almond oil and one cup of chopped petals and a couple of young leaves and mix them together well in a closed bottle. Stand the bottle in simmering water for about 30 minutes and allow it to cool. Repeat the boiling procedure the next day before straining the mixture and rebottling. This makes wonderful bath oil and can be used for cracked lips, heals and nipples.
Calendula has been used topically for many years to treat dogs and cats. Put calendula tea into a spray bottle and spray it onto your pet's coat to relieve itching, or soak a cloth and apply it directly to the skin or wound. You can also buy calendula tincture and add a few drops to the water in your spray bottle. Be careful not to apply calendula cream to wounds that are oozing or weeping; use watery preparations only, such as calendula tea or tincture, and allow the area to air dry completely between applications. If the wound needs to drain, for example an abscess, then calendula might cause the wound to heal over too quickly and should not be applied until the wound is closed.
Although Calendula is one of the safest herbs to use, it should not, however, be given internally to pregnant animals or to salicylate-sensitive species such as cats. To use calendula internally for dogs, you can add a few drops of liquid tincture, or some fresh calendula petals and leaves to your dog’s food.
Pet owners are cautioned against buying supplements without knowledge of the manufacturer, as supplements are not highly regulated and some supplements may not contain the labelled amount of ingredients. Your veterinarian may have preferred brands of supplements that he or she will recommend.
Both the leaves and petals are edible and although the leaves can sometimes be sweet, they are more commonly bitter, but may be used in salads. The petals have a great piquant flavour and are added to salads, cheese dishes, stews and soups. They are also be added to breads, biscuits and egg dishes. The orange petals are usually used in cooking and can be a substitute for saffron in soup, fish and poultry dishes. The petals are also soaked in milk or water before being added to rice, cakes and puddings, to colour them yellow.
In the Garden:
Both dwarf and tall strains are available, varying in height from 20 to 75cm tall, but the dwarf varieties are the most freely available in South Africa. Plant them in window boxes and pots or sow them into massed beds, or as an edging plant alongside walkways.
Calendula contains alkaloids, enzymes, etheric oils and resins amongst other substances, making it a valuable companion plant for vegetables, herbs, strawberries and other berries, and under fruit trees. The roots of Calendula emit a scent that keeps nematodes (eelworm) at bay. Dig the entire plant into the soil as a green manure once it has finished flowering to enrich the soil.
Cultivation and Harvesting:
Calendulas grow throughout the country in full sun or light shade and are hardy to all but severe frost. They will grow in almost all kinds of soils but for best results plant them in good, well-drained soil. The seeds can be sown directly into garden beds in autumn and grow quickly, flowering for about 10 weeks in winter and spring. Sow seeds when the soil has cooled down and the daytime temperatures are between 20 to 22°C. Cover them lightly with about 2cm of soil and water well until germination. Feed with a good organic fertiliser like 3:1:5 when they come into bud; 13 to 14 weeks after sowing. Continually pick the spent flowers to encourage more blooms.
Harvest the flowers when they are in full bloom and use them fresh whenever possible. The petals can, however, be dried and stored for a short time for later use.
Allow a few plants to set seed at the end of the season, collect and store in a paper bag .
Pests & Diseases:
Calendula is bothered by few pests or cultural problems providing the soil is well-drained.
Calendulas are often referred to as pot marigolds but do not mistake Calendula officinalis with Marigolds because they are part of the Tagetes genus and do not have the same healing properties.
Allergic reactions are common to plants of the Aster family, of which calendula is a member. There is thus a slight risk of mild irritation when calendula is applied topically. It is estimated that perhaps only one percent of people may experience such a reaction, and perhaps even fewer animals. If redness or itch occurs in response to calendula, discontinue its use.
Be careful not to apply calendula cream to wounds that are oozing or weeping; use watery preparations only, such as calendula tea or tincture, and allow the area to air dry completely between applications. If the wound needs to drain, for example an abscess, then calendula might cause the wound to heal over too quickly and should not be applied until the wound is closed.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only, documenting the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner or veterinarian before starting a home treatment programme.
Our Herb & Spice section is overflowing with handy information on herbs. Sign up today as a member to have access to this section.