One of the great joys of growing your own healing herbs and flowers is the gratification of knowing where the seeds came from, and what went into nourishing the soil to feed your garden. This summer I sourced several seeds from Urban Harvest in Toronto, a grassroots business with 40 years of experience growing purely organic herbs, flowers and vegetables. I purchased German Chamomile for its high potency healing properties and Calendula for its skin soothing properties. All summer I have been harvesting the blooms and drying them to prepare handmade oils, essences and teas. To date I have several bottles of dried roses, Calendula petals, chamomile flowers, lemon balm, Echinacea, lavender and gardenia blooms to name a few.
Today I will highlight one of my favourite winter remedies for radiant skin, Calendula formally known as Calendula Officinalis.
This beautiful bright yellow to orange daisy like flower has been nicknamed poet’s marigold, pot marigold or simply gold. Calendula is not to be confused with the common garden marigold. Unlike the garden marigold, Calendula flowers are edible. Calendula is a relative of the daisy family of plants (chamomile/Echinacea etc), so if allergic to this class, sensitivity to topical use can result in a rash.
Calendula has been prized for centuries for its healing/cosmetic properties, culinary and decorative uses. The flowers are used to decorate Buddhist/Hindu temples, used as a dye for clothing, garnishes on food and made into jams, jellies, gravy and baked into breads.
Traditionally, preparations were used internally for fevers, stomach upset, ulcers and more. Its main use was externally as a treatment for skin conditions, infection and minor wounds/cuts.
Research from the German Health Authority has approved Calendula for the treatment of wounds, showing the plants anti-inflammatory effects on helping wounds seal over with new tissue. The main medicinal actions on the skin are due to its Oleanolic Acid contents ability to inhibit a variety of bacteria. It also contains an antioxidant which reduces damage from free radicals in the healing process.
The plant is very adaptable and can thrive in subarctic or tropical regions. Grown from a seed it begins to flower in 4-6 weeks and continues to bloom until the first frost. In Canada, it is grown as an annual and prefers average soil and full sun. The flowers can be picked continuously throughout the growing season. I have been careful to pick most of the petals, preserving the seeds to grow for next year’s harvest.
Calendula has been used as a natural pest deterrent protecting other plants from infestation grown around it.
The discovery of Calendula came to me several dry winters ago when my skin became ultra-sensitive and very dry. After trying everything from coconut oil to cacao butter I decided to see my doctor who prescribed a petroleum based salve of which I refused to try. This led me to our local whole food grocer, Goodness Me. The staff was very helpful and shared their recommendations, one of which was a $20 per 30 ml sample of Calendula salve. I couldn’t wait to get home to lather up my parched skin. It worked really well; unlike anything I had tried and of course led to my need to grow and make my own.
As the Fall harvest is in full swing, I will be sharing more of the recipe experimentation process with our readers. Nicole and I hope that it plants a seed of curiosity and that you discover the rewards of patience, self-care and nourishment from your own garden, big or small.