Likened to the sun, Calendula (C. officinalis) opens its brilliant orange petals in the morning rays and closes them upon nightfall. Both engender warmth and disperse dampness, stagnation, and emotional patterns of coldness. Calendula illuminates our innate capacity to listen — to perceive — opening us to enhanced consideration for the world around us. Partnering with Calendula can bring about the dawning of insights within our relations, especially strengthening our empathy and moving in a way that radiates inclusivity for the feelings of others.
Its genus name stem "calends" refers to the new moon of each month, indicating that this plant will bloom nearly all 13 moons of our cyclical year. The species name officinalis denotes it was the "official" Calendula in the apothecary's shop. It is also affectionately known as Marigold from the times when its flowers were used to adorn festivals held in honor of the Virgin Mary.
Many know the benefits of turning to Calendula's aid for supporting lymphatic and blood circulation. It's become a legendary choice among the flowers in skin care remedies due to its affinity for enhancing the body's innate immune response when the skin is harmed. Women in their journey from maiden to crone always have a friend in Calendula, as she eases both menstrual and menopausal symptoms. And culinary connoisseurs the world over add sunshine in the middle of winter with Calendula blossoms, ensuring enhanced digestion and absorption of their delightful dishes.
Botanical Description of Calendula
Calendula officinalis, Asteraceae family
Growing Calendula. Photo Credit: Lauren Ann Nichols
Parts Used: Flowers (some folks, herbalists, and gardeners also use the leaf)
Phytochemicals: Triterpenes (calendulosides A-D), carotenoids, flavonoids (isoquercitrin, narcissin, rutin), volatile oils and resins, chlorogenic acid, polysaccharides, minerals (iodine, found mostly in the leaf)1
Contraindications: Avoid internal use during pregnancy due to its emmenagogue effects. (Emmenagogues are herbs that stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area, including inducing menstruation.) Also use caution if sensitive to other members of the Asteraceae family.
Harvest: Collect flower heads as they appear, in the heat of the day. Dry in a basket or on a drying rack in a warm, shaded, well-ventilated area. Circulating air is essential, as this flower is high in resin.
Grow: Propagate this annual in spring or autumn by sowing seeds directly in moderately rich, well-drained soil with a pH of 5–8. Make sure to choose a spot that will receive full sun and limited shade. Plan for 1–2 feet in height and spread. Deadhead regularly to ensure continued flowering until the first frosts. If allowed to go to seed, it will self-sow freely. Beware! Do not let your beloved free-range chickens in your Calendula beds if you want them to self-sow in the same space.
Home Apothecary: Calendula for Eye Health
While many home apothecaries hold Calendula in the form of oils, salves, and dried flower heads/petals for compresses, teas, and steams, many are still learning about the herb's positive and powerful role in eye health. Particularly for contact wearers, like me.
Fresh-picked Calendula. Photo Credit: Lauren Ann Nichols
Back in 2017, I was living in a bus in southern Oregon's Applegate Valley during historic wildfires. The particulates in the air were impacting my ability to wear my contacts with ease. One night I stumbled across Calendula's potential partnership for my eye issues in the latest published research from the Journal of Ophthalmic (a peer-reviewed open access journal publishing current clinical and experimental research on a range of ophthalmic topics under the brand SpringerOpen). To my delight, I looked up at my basket of freshly harvested Calendula and knew I could make a tea to use as contact solution!
The research was the first description of a model that studied the anti-biofilm activity of Calendula officinalis extract on soft contact lenses. The study showed that Calendula officinalis extract had an excellent effect on inhibition of biofilm formation and removal of preformed biofilm, which makes it a promising agent that can be added to new, more effective contact lens-care solutions.2
In other words, making an herbal extract in the form of tea could be used as a contact solution and an eye wash. For the next few months, my eyes were a more vibrant shade of green, as the tea slightly tinted my contacts the color of sunshine, and my contacts stayed in my eyes without issue, even in the midst of smoke, ash, and debris.
I continue to call upon my friend Calendula as an eye wash and compress after long days in the soil, in the city, or when hiking in the smoky skies of my current home in the Rocky Mountains. I trust in doing so that Calendula is supporting the inhibition of biofilm formation and assisting in the removal of particulates present in the air, which the breeze blows into my eyes.
Calendula Eye Solution
- 3–5 Calendula officinalis blossoms (fresh or dried)
- 1–2 cups spring water, boiled
- Place the Calendula in a sterile jar, pour boiling water on top of flowers.
- Steep 10 minutes, strain, and cool to room temperature.
- Once room temperature, use as solution to wash contacts, suspend contacts, and/or as an eye wash.
- Store any excess in refrigerator up to 2 days.
May you find an ally in Calendula, helping you radiate more fully your own inner sun, see your capacity for compassion increase, and find warmth in the growing of the night. Remember to wash the hardness of life from your eyes, clearing the way for new perspectives, and watch as new possibilities illuminate. In the closing of the day, may we fold in with humble gratitude for the grace that life provides, like Calendula does.
- Muley BP, Khadabadi SS, Banarase NB (2009) Phytochemical constituents and pharmacological activities of Calendula officinalis Linn (Asteraceae): A Review. Trop J Pharm Res 8(5):455–465
- El-Ganiny, A.M., Shaker, G.H., Aboelazm, A.A. et al. Prevention of Bacterial Biofilm Formation on Soft Contact Lenses Using Natural Compounds. J Ophthal Inflamm Infect 7, 11 (2017).
- Green, James. The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook: A Home Manual. Berkeley, California: The Crossing Press, 2000.
Dawn Amber Miller has apprenticed and studied across the United States of America and has received certificates in traditional and medical herbalism from the Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism, the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism, and the Hawthorn Institute. She is a passionate steward of the sacred realm of Nature and moves with the wildflowers, tending the rituals of wildcrafting by heart and hand. Currently she is a customer journey representative at WishGarden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.
Feature Photo Credit: Miriam Clark