It’s time for another meet the herb where we go ham on a plant medicine we are absolutely loving for the season… a plant that’s speaking to us perhaps in dreams or in color and energetic draw, a plant that is so multifaceted in use both internally and externally that it deserves *alllll* the blog posts… say hello to Calendula Officinalis, our golden girl!

What is Calendula?

Calendula officinalis, known for its striking orange and yellow flowers, is one of the most common remedies used in folk and clinical herbalism, both topically and internally, as well as in culinary applications. As an herb of the sun, Calendula contains many different antioxidants and phytochemicals including lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene, and quercetin; all of which can actually help protect our skin from oxidative damage due to sun exposure!

The genus name “Calendula” is derived from the Latin word, “kalendae”, which means the first day of the month. This refers to the fact that the flowers are in bloom at the start of most months of the calendar year in their native regions.

Benefits of Calendula

Calendula has countless benefits, including supporting the lymphatic system and ducts, aiding liver health (especially when ‘damp heat’ is present), soothing the digestive mucosa and other mucous membranes, warming the stomach, and helping to aid microbial balance both internally and topically.

Traditional Uses

Many different cultures and systems of traditional medicine have learned how to lean on Calendula over the years for everything from topical to internal to immune to skin support. Some of these traditional uses include:

  • Most universally, as a topical healer (salve, oil, ointment, bath, poultice, etc) for wound and burn support
  • Western Eclectics used this soothing flower for its ability to calm ‘heat’ within the skin and mucous membranes: eye conditions, gastric irritation, skin rashes and as a mouthwash.
  • European Folk medicine highlights Calendula as a bitter tonic and lymphatic, known to support liver conditions and encourage convalescence after ailments by moving the lymph.

There are also a few traditional ‘spiritual’ uses of Calendula for protection and the like, including:

  • For protection against ‘evil’ (often metaphorically associated with pathogens and disease). Back in the day when someone fell ill, due to a lack of the scientific paradigm and understanding we have in modern times, it would often be chalked up to “evil” forces invading the body. We now understand germ theory, pathogens, and the immune system in a much different way, so any herb that was protective against “evil” is generally an immune supportive herb that can support microbial balance!
  • Often grown around the home or strung upon garlands at the door to protect spiritually and encourage intuitive and meaningful dream states.
  • Also soaked in a bath for strengthening the spirit and intuition.

Immune Benefits of Calendula

As lymphatic tonics go, Calendula is a gentle mover that helps to promote the healthy circulation of your body’s innate immune cells. While you’re feeling under the weather, it’s important to keep your immune cells — such as your body’s Natural Killer cells — moving all throughout the body where they can do their best work.

This is why it’s important to keep taking small, short walks if you can while you’re ill, as walks have been shown to help circulate these beautiful cells. In addition to walks, herbs like Calendula support with a similar moving effect by way of the lymph.

Adding Calendula to Chicken Soup for Recovery

Did you know that you can add Calendula flowers to your chicken soup towards the end of a seasonal bug? With its lymph-moving properties, Calendula supports clearance of lingering, residual imbalances through your lymphatic system as you begin to enter the ‘convalescence’ or recovery stage. Simply add a handful of dried flowers to your broth or soup batch, and let them infuse for 20-30 minutes before straining and removing. You can watch my video about this here!

Calendula to Hydrate + Moisten the Intestinal Tract

Have you ever felt like you just can’t get hydrated no matter how much water you drink? Do you feel like you’re not fully absorbing nutrition from your food; perhaps not feeling nourished afterwards, often constipated with dry bowel movements that cause you to strain? Do you often deal with dry skin or mucous membranes, especially as the weather gets cooler?

This week on the podcast, we sat down with clinical herbalist Kelsey Barrett. She shared that dryness within the intestinal tract is actually quite common in the context of our modern diets. Our digestion is often under-functioning in our culture due to environmental toxicants in the food supply (like glyphosate) and processed foods in general, which lack the fiber and moisture found in fresh produce and traditionally prepared foods.

She combats this by moisturing the digestive tract with Calendula (for example, calendula tea!) in order to help the cells truly absorb the water we’re consuming throughout the day.

“I utilize Calendula because when you just pour water on something that’s dry, it’s kind of like the desert. It all runs off. So when we soften and moisturize the tissue with something like Calendula, the cells can actually take in water and deep hydration.”

– Kelsey Barrett

How to Consume + Prepare Calendula

My all-time favorite (and perhaps the simplest) way to consume Calendula is in a lovely, warming tea, like the one Kelsey is referring to above. However, Calendula may also be consumed as an:

  • infusion (long-form tea)
  • tincture
  • infused oil or cream
  • wash or poultice
  • as an addition to broths + soups

You can also grow this flower in your backyard, like we do! If you live in a warm climate you just might see her flowers all year long, but here on the East Coast we get to enjoy her for the Spring and Summer months. x

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