The Flower of the Sun
by Gillian Nye

(as published in The Lighthouse Peddler, May 2012)

Spring is springing and a constant herbal friend in our coastal California gardens is the lovely and talented Calendula Officinalis, also known as the “common marigold”. Calendula has been popular at least since the days of the Romans when they used the tea to relieve fevers and the crushed flowers to apply to warts. Over the years the flowers have been used as a cosmetic, a dye for cheese and other foods, and countless medicinal applications.

Calendula is the center of many a folk tale, Culpeper called it the herb of the sun, ruled by Leo and thought the flower to be associated with the sun's journey across the sky as they open when the sun rises and close as it sets. William Shakespeare said “The marigold goes to bed with the Sun and with him rises, weeping”. Energetically some associate Calendula with recovery from grief and mourning, maybe because the flower daily mourns the departure of the sun when it's petals close. Other lore of South America and Mexico says that when Spanish conquistadores murdered many Aztecs in their search for gold, little red flecks began to show themselves on some of the golden flowers, symbolizing the blood of the Aztec people. There certainly are some stunning varieties of Calendula with flecks and layers of all spectrums of red. In Greek mythology there was a young woman named Caltha who fell in love with Apollo, the sun god. She was melted by the power of his rays, and in her place a solitary Calendula flower grew. It is said that the grief and pain of melting from lost love can be dispelled by mixing calendula and roses together!

Herbalists have been using Calendula for centuries, being said to not only comfort the heart and spirits, but as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, lymphagogue, choleretic, demulcent, and vulnerary.

Research shows Calendula to have anti-viral activity, support normal connective tissue, aid in healing wounds, burns, bruises, boils, rashes and to be beneficial for infectious diseases, as well as the prevention or treatment of congealed tissues or tumors.

Calendula is a very user friendly medicinal, with the one contraindication of “excessive internal use during pregnancy is not recommended due to emmenagogue and abortifacacient effects”. Interestingly enough, other sources site it as having in vitro anti – viral effects.

Calendula can be used as a tonic tea for swollen glands and lymph nodes, sore throats, and coughs. It is also extremely beneficial as a soothing demulcent for the gut, intestines, stomach and urinary tract. Calendula combines well for nurturing the healing of these areas with marshmallow and mullein, creating a very soothing and tonifying blend. A simple Calendula tea can be used as a mouthwash or gargle for mouth sores or lesions (including cold sores) and for sore throats. Calendula combines well with another wild warrior, Plantain, for these purposes.

Another main action of Calendula is as a vulnerary, promoting healing of wounds or irritated tissues. Calendula combines well with Comfrey, Lavender, Plantain, and Chamomile in herbal oils to create a very healing, nurturing oil or salve to support and create greater dermal health. Calendula is quite effective on it's own by making a “mouth tea”. In the case of a splinter, cut, or burn you can simply chew up a fresh flower until it begins to release it's resins and then slap it on the problem area and cover with a bandaid. The calendula will draw out a splinter and begin to aid in the healing of cuts, burns, abrasions, insect bites, stings, etc. If it's your mouth that's bothering you, just chew up the flower a bit and let it swish around your mouth. This can be beneficial to the gums, and for added benefit include a little Self Heal in your mouth tea. Self Heal is specific for gum and oral health when chewed on fresh.

To have the “flower of the sun” on hand in your garden to make your own mouth tea or garden concoctions, the growing needs of Calendula are simple. Calendula plants like rich, well drained soil, but are very tolerant of average to slightly poor soils. Improving your soil quality will produce much healthier plants and flowers, so add some compost. Once your Calendula plants are established, they should grow well, even if left unattended. Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week. Early in the summer, your plants will begin to produce large flowers on long stems. They will continually produce flowers even after the first light frost. Pick dead blooms to keep the plants neat looking and to encourage new blooms. It's fine to pick all your Calendula blooms, the more you pick the faster they grow! Calendula is a hardy annual, it will not be harmed by a light frost either in the spring or fall. It naturalizes amazingly well, and will quickly become a hardy member of your garden!

The entire flower of Calendula is edible. It's a beautiful, nutritious salad addition. Harvest the whole flower and add it to your meals, the center of the flower in particular is high in caratanoids . Lots of little creatures also enjoy Calendula, when I harvest it I blow on each flower. This is fun, and it evacates the flower hotel. If you dry your flower heads for future use, be sure they are completely dry before you put them in a jar, the centers are very resinous and tend to take a while to dehydrate.

Stop by Roots Herbal Apothecary, we'll have some free Calendula seeds for you to begin or accent your medicinal garden with!


Calendula Oil
Use about 4 oz. Dried herb for every 1-2 c oil (pure olive, almond, sunflower oils are the best to use for infusing)

Place herb and oil in to the top of a double boiler, filling the bottom of the double boiler with water.

Heat over low heat, making sure oil never boils and water level stays constant, for 2-4 hours.

Check lid of double boiler often, wiping off condensation as it occurs.
Let mixture sit and cool completely.
Strain through cheesecloth, discarding plant material and keeping oil.

Add 1 ounce Vitamin E oil to preserve freshness and decrease risk of molding.

Label and store in refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Use liberally as moisturizer, bath or massage oil or as a base for healing salve.

Gut Nurturing Tea

3 parts Licorice
2 parts Calendula
2 parts Oatstraw
1 part Nettles
1 part Slippery Elm

Blend herbs together, use 1 teaspoon/cup of boiling water. Steep for 30min.-1 hour, strain and enjoy. Strained tea may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.