Materia Medica: Calendula


  • Botanical Name: Calendula officinalis
  • Other Names: Bullseye, garden marigold, genda, gold-bloom, holligold, marigold, pot marigold, marybud, zergul
  • Etymology: The name “calendula” comes from the plant’s tendency to bloom along with the calendar, typically flowering at the same time in the moon’s cycle. The name “pot marigold” comes from calendula’s use in German stews.il_570xN.266567222
  • Appearance: Calendula flowers range from yellow to orange. The blooms resemble highly-colored daisies. The stems grow from 30-60 cm (12″-24″). The flowers open in the morning and close at night.
  • Cultivation: Native to the Mediterranean, calendula grows in its natural habitat nearly year-round. An annual, calendula seeds can be sown directly in the garden in April or even in the fall in warmer climates. Although calendula prefers sunshine, rich soil, and occasional watering, it still grows well when neglected. Don’t be afraid to pick the flowers; the more you take, the more calendula gives. Flowers are ready to pick when they are sticky with anti-fungal resin.
  • Parts used: Flower
  • Greek and Roman: Romans and Greeks used Calendula garlands in ceremonies.
  • Catholic: Some Catholics call the plant “Mary’s Gold” and use it in ceremonies to honor the virgin
  • Hinduism: Calendula has been used as decorating for Hindu temples, statues and ceremonies
  • Dye: Much cheaper than saffron, calendula is used as a dye for food and fabric
  • Battlefield: Calendula was used to stop bleeding and heal wounds during the American Civil War and World War I
  • Traditional uses: Dye, cuts and wounds, digestive system
  • Symbolism: Endurance, grief, pain, Virgin MaryB1hHA6rCMAAfVsn

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Medicinal and Practical Uses

*I write about uses for plants as a novice herbalist, not a doctor or scientist; this isn’t medical advice. If you want to use plant-based remedies, find a doctor you trust and respect who also trusts and respects you so that you can work together to make sure you’re the healthiest version of you.

  • Safety: Generally considered safe but may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals who are allergic to daisies, mums, ragweed, or asters. Calendula should not be taken by people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
  • Primary actions (Secondary actions): aromatic, mild astringent,diaphoretic, mucilaginous, (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, febrifuge, lymphatic, vulnerary)
  • Characteristics: dry, cool
  • Constituents: calendulin, beta-carotene9d0e69de968f774cf66af2f85a18fe04
  • Bleeding: Calendula applied locally can help stop small cuts from bleeding.
  • Indigestion: When consumed, calendula can sooth digestive issues such as cramps and diarrhea3-drying
Immune system
  • Wounds: Calendula promotes cell growth and keeps infection at bay, which can help wounds heal faster.
  • Fever: Calendula can be drank or used externally as a poultice to keep fevers down.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: Along with exercise, consuming calendula can stimulate the lymph nodes and remove congestion.
  • Ear infections: Calendula drops have been used to treat child ear infections.
  • Canker sores: A strong calendula tea used as a mouth wash can speed the healing or canker sores.
  • Itch: Calendula soothes itch associated with skin irritations.heal-all-salve-with-calendula
Skin and Hair
  • Burns: Calendula salve can help sooth minor cooking burns and sunburns.
  • Skin Irritation: Whether eczema, diaper rash, or a rash, calendula helps sooth itching and pain while promoting healing.
  • Insect bites and stings: Calendula salve or fresh calendula rubbed on the affected area soothes bee and wasp stings as well as mosquito bites.

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  • Calendula used to be used to color cheese and butter
  • Calendula is drank as a tea for flavor as well as its medicinal qualities
  • Calendula flowers can be eaten fresh in salads9241158_f520

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Carrot and Calendula Soap

So the thing is: I saw this baby food jar and it was really cute.

baby food jar


I wanted to buy it because it was so jar-ish and round and I wanted it for my jar collection. The problem? I have no baby to feed it to (and let’s be real, I’ll probably just make baby food when I have a baby because so far I haven’t met a DIY I haven’t liked. Except knitting. And making pickles. I digress.)

As it turns out, baby food is something you can add to soap. Sound gross? It’s not; the only ingredients in this stuff are pureed fruits and vegetables and water.

Using a an adapted recipe from the Nerdy Farm Wife, I made 12 pretty little bars of carrot calendula soap. The carrot gives it a great color but doesn’t do much for the scent since it all gets saponified, so you’ll need to add something extra if you want your soap to actually smell like carrots.

Also, I’d heard that using salt water will help your bars come out harder but had never tried it before this batch. Holy smokes, does it make a difference!


Now that I’ve got the whole function thing down, I took a stab at improving the form of my soap and took four extra steps that made for a really pretty bar. First, I added dried calendula flowers to the batter. I’ve got gobs of them lying around because I have eczema that attacks every winter with the might of a thousand jellyfish and calendula’s good for weird skin stuff. Second, I used my new soap stamp to put a little mammoth tusk in each bar after I sliced them up. Third, after the bars had hardened for a few weeks, I used a vegetable peeler to bevel the sides. See how the corners are square in the naked picture and kind of smooth in the wrapped one? That’s beveling. Finally, I designed wrappers for my soap so that anyone I give a bar to knows exactly what they’re getting.


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Soothing and Healing Eczema Balm

Once upon a time, I was a very little girl with eczema. My mom took me to the doctor, who told her that she shouldn’t let me sleep with socks on. I now realize that the no sock rule was instituted because socks would make me too hot and I would sweat all the moisture out of my tiny, eczema-covered, raisin-y body. However at the time I was sure that sleeping with socks on would cause my toes to grow together and I’d be stuck with two flippers for feet.

I think I was about 9 when I finally realized that my fear of webbed toes was entirely unfounded.


All this is to say: I’ve had eczema since I was a wee lass. It miraculously cleared up when I was about 17 and I had 7 glorious, eczema-free years before it came back with a vengeance when I moved to New York.

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