Saturday, December 21, 2013
Also known as: marigold, marybud, bull's eye
Parts used: flowers, leaves
Meridians/Organs affected: liver, heart, lungs, skin
Properties: anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiseptic, vulnerary, astringent, antispasmodic, stimulant, diaphoretic, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic, emmenogogue, alterative, tonic, sudorific, styptic
Calendula has a long history. It is a member of the Compositae family. It is a well-known annual that can get up to two feet tall. It is a native of southern Europe but is has been naturalized in North America and Asia as well.
Calendula has light green leaves and daisy-like flowers that vary from yellow to bright orange. It blooms the first of the month (hence the Latin name "calends" or "the first") from May until the first frost. Typically it is only the petals that are used for medicine although the leaves are also used in some cases. The petals should be separated from the green stem and then hand-plucked off and onto newspaper to dry. The petals should be dried in the shade as they are sun sensitive and once dried they should be stored in a dark jar and out of the sunlight.
The history of calendula is full of poetry. William Bell Scott (1811-1890) wrote about them in his "Witches' Ballad"; John Keats wrote of them in "I Stood Tiptoe upon a Little Hill" (1817) and it was mentioned by Josselyn in 1672. A lot of folklore also is attached to this plant. The French believed that if you stared at the flowers of the calendula a few minutes every day that your eyesight would improve. Garlands of the flowers were put on door handles to keep away evil and infectious disease. It is also believed that is one cut the flowers when the sun was highest in the sky they would fortify the heart. In medieval England, it was believed that the Virgin Mary wore the golden blossoms so the term "Mary's Golde" (marigold) came into being. Calendula was first brought to this country by the early colonists who believed the gold flowers would protect them from witchcraft.
The colonists also used calendula to make teas for measles, fevers, jaundice, toothaches, and as a heart tonic. The leaves would be used in soups and salads. In WWI, this flower was used for its hemostatic capabilities and early physicians would use it in ointments for skin infections. In fact, even now it is well known for its ability to heal skin conditions. It is a cousin to arnica and seems to have similar abilities. Calendula poultices were used to heal small pox scars, broken capillaries, varicose veins and burns. Dried calendula infusions are great for itchy eyes due to hay fever and to tone the skin. A strong tea was used topically for shingles.
In "The Country Farme" (1699), Stevens wrote that "A conserve made of the flowers and sugar, taken in the morning fasting, cureth the trembling of the harte, and is also given in the time of plague and pestilence."
The sap from the stem was used for corns, callouses and warts. The tea was used as a gargle for sore throats and to get rid of thrush, it was also taken internally for ulcers and gastritis and to stimulate bile flow.
In more modern times calendula has been found to be effective against auto-immune diseases including HIV and AIDS as well as cancer. It has the ability to not only fight infection but to stop new infections from forming. It has been used for swelling of the lymph nodes, for joint and muscles aches and pains and for damaged stomach lining. It also is used for hemorrhoids, leg ulcers, eczema, etc.
One of the earliest used of this herb was as a dye for foods and fabrics. It is still used for these today. Also called 'poor man's saffron', calendula is used to color butters, cheeses, rice and other dishes.
Calendula should not be used by pregnant women due to its ability to stimulate menstruation.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your benefit. May you find them helpful and informative. Use them as you seem fit.