Calendula- Calendula officinalis, also known as Pot Marigold
Calendula is Latin for “little calendar or little clock” referring to the flowers tendency to open in the morning and follow the movements of the sun
Marigold is referring to The Virgin Mary
A member of the Asteraceae or Sunflower family
Asteraceae or Compositae refers to one of the largest family of angiosperms including asters, daisies and sunflowers. The main feature being the daisy like flower head known scientifically as a composite flower, thus the genus name Compositae. Aster is Greek for “star” and refers to the unique characteristics of the composite flower head, a capitulum of many tightly packed flowers. The capitula can range from small clusters to hundreds or thousands of flowers grouped together to form a single flower like structure made of florets, the disk flower and the peripheral ray petals. A sunflower is a great example of a composite flower, from afar it appears as one giant flower, however, closer inspection reveals many hundreds of smaller florets. The floret generally consists of 5 petals and stamens fused to form a corolla tube. Pollen is released inside the tube. Pollination occurs by insects or entomophily.
Asteraceae contains more than 20,000 accepted species of herbaceous plants including annuals, perennials and some trees, shrubs and climbers inhabiting most everywhere on Earth except extreme Artic and Antarctic conditions. The leaves can be alternate, opposite or whorled and the margins lobed or toothed. The most distinguishing feature is the composite flower head.
Calendula is also a genus of plants containing about 15-20 species of annual and perennial herbs. The plants of the genus are native to Southwestern Asia, the Mediterranean and Southern and Western Europe. It is believed Calendula officinalis or Pot Marigold is native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean. The plant is an annual or biennial (in mild winters) and is cultivated from seed. The sunny bright orange and yellow thick double blossom daisy like flowers are a prominent feature along with its pungent scent. The flowers are heliotropic or follow the sun’s movements through the sky. Petals open in the morning and close in the afternoon. Marigolds prefer a sunny location, grow in most soils and tolerate drought. The plant will blossom spring through frost and in mild climates throughout the winter. The height reaches 2 feet high by 18 inches wide. The leaves are a grayish green and elongated growing on a stalk. Fine almost invisible hairs lend a slight texture. The straw like flowers and the leaves both have an aromatic flavor. Marigold is easy to grow and can be found in many home gardens. The Early Settlers to America brought the plants and the sunny flowers can be found in fields, meadows and along roadsides. Flowers should be harvested on a sunny day after dew has dried. Lay flowers in thin layers in a shaded area. To encourage more flowers, harvest regularly. The leaves are harvested before the plant blooms. Leave a few flowers to save the knobby seeds and sow the following season. Marigolds are heavy feeders and will rob essential nutrients from nearby plants. Be sure to fertilize and amend the garden soil before and after planting the cheerful sunny flowers.
French Marigold, Tagetes patula, T. lucida, T. tenuifolia, is popular in the garden as an insect repellent but does not have the same herbal, medicinal or culinary properties.
Parts used: fresh young leaves, fresh or dried flower heads and petals.
*Cautions- not all flowers with the common name Marigold are Calendula officinalis. Please investigate, educate and read labels. When in doubt ask a qualified professional, who understands the intended use.
Culinary Arts: Calendula or Pot Marigold petals are considered to be the poor man’s saffron. Pot Marigold owes its namesake to the flowers use in stew pots. The petals impart a nice golden color to rice, soups, eggs, butters, cheeses and oil infusions. The petals lend a mild bitter taste that mixes well with other flavors in a dish. Cooking with Marigold petals was popular in England and Europe during the Middle Ages, especially in winter when the cheery dried flower petals could brighten a dark winter’s dish. The young leaves are used in salads for a spicy aromatic zest.
Garden Lore: Calendula and other Marigold varieties frequent many a garden, from the most experienced botanist to the novice homeowner. Marigolds are very easy to grow. The flowers are heliotropic or follow the movements of the sun. Thus, Calendulas and Marigolds are a solar plant. The name Calendula is from Latin “calendae” meaning “little calendar” or “little clock,” referring to the flowers opening in the morning and closing in the evening. Marigolds symbolize fire, the sun and are considered a masculine plant. Flowers are best picked at noon, when the sun is strongest and hottest. If a Marigold flower has not opened by 9 or 10 in the morning, ancient wisdom predicts there will certainly be rain that day (Arrowsmith, 180). Marigolds help deter destructive nemotodes in the garden soil and are a good companion plant for tomatoes. The pungent aromatic smell of the flowers, also help confuse other insect pests. The name “Marigold” references the Virgin Mary and the flowers are used in the many Catholic ceremonies around the world. Marigolds grown in the garden or garlands strung above the door are believed to stop evil from entering the house. The flowers picked during a Virgo moon are used in love potions and spells. In The Language of Flowers, Marigold is a symbol for grief and despair. Possibly to the poet, the bright cheerful flowers are a reminder of “sunnier” days and lost love. When combined with roses, the combination suggests “the bittersweet and pleasant pains of love,” (Harvey, 50). And my favorite superstition, A girl who touches the petals of marigold with her bare feet will understand the language of birds, (Cunningham, 149).
Herbal Arts: Calendula officinalis is best known for it’s cosmetic use. However, the sunny flower also makes a pleasant herbal tea. The tea is used to stimulate the kidneys, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and helps relieve digestive inflammation. *Do not take for more than a couple of weeks at a time due to the cumulative nature or build up in the body systems. **The herbal tisane may also increase sedative effects of medication for anxiety and insomnia (Balch, 40). Calendula is mildly antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which is why so many herbal soaps, lotions, creams and salves include this healing herb. The plant is believed to increase collagen production and is regenerative to damaged skin tissue as a compress or salve. As an unguent, long-term use is suitable for healing dry or damaged skin, and wrinkles. According to certified nutritionist Phyllis A. Balch, research has revealed Calendula washes kill staphylococcus aureus, a common germ that infects abrasion, burns and cuts. The fresh flowers or a tincture applied to cuts or wounds and rubbed on insect stings can alleviate pain and inflammation.
A healing Calendula oil is easy to make at home.
First, fill a sterilized glass jar full of dried calendula flowers.
Next, pour any vegetable oil suitable for cosmetic use until flowers are fully submerged.
Then, replace lid and store the flowery jar away from light and heat for up to 6 weeks.
Finally, decant oil into a clean jar, compost flowers.
Cautions: Not all flowers with the common name Marigold are Calendula officinalis. Please investigate, educate and read labels. When in doubt ask a qualified professional, who understands the intended use.
*Do not take the herbal tea for more than a couple of weeks at a time due to the cumulative nature or build up in the body systems.
**The herbal tisane may also increase sedative effects of medication for anxiety and insomnia.
*The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is provided for your reading and gardening pleasure.
Arrowsmith, Nancy. 2007. Essential herbal wisdom: A complete exploration of 50 remarkable herbs. Herbarium Magicum, Germany: Allgeria.
Balch, Phyllis. 2002. Prescription for herbal healing. Penguin Putnam: NY.
Bremness, Lesley. 1988. The complete book of herbs: A practical guide to growing and using herbs. Penguin Studio: NY.
Capon, B. 2005. Botany for gardeners. Timber Press: OR.
Chevallier, Andrew. 1996. The encyclopedia of medicinal plants. DK Publishing:NY.
Cunningham, Scott. 1990. Encyclopedia of magic herbs. Llewellyn Publications: MN.
Harvey, Gail. 1995. The language of flowers. Gramercy Books, NJ.
Hoffman, David. 1990. Holistic herbal: a safe and practical guide to making and using herbal remedies. Harper Collins Publishers: London.
Houdret, Jessica. 2010. An illustrative encyclopedia of herbs. Anness Publishing: London.