The sunny and bright disposition of Calendula is incredible to work with in a variety of ways. Named for the Latin word calendae, this herb blooms nearly every month of the calendar year in some places. With strong alterative and lymphatic functions, Calendula is a great topical and internal aid for wounds, digestive issues and immune support, among many other vitalizing and supportive functions.
Calendula Key Information
Common Name: Calendula, Marigold (different than pot Marigold, which belongs to the Tagetes genus)
Latin Name: Calendula officinalis
General Characteristics: Annual or short-lived perennial that can grow 1-2 ft tall. Soft and hairy alternate leaves. Grows yellow and orange, daisy-like flowers in rays and disks. Has long blooming season.
Harvesting info: Harvest entire flowerhead when in bloom and dry in the shade, don’t let the characteristic bright orange and yellow coloring fade. Harvest at high noon, when they are putting out the most volatile oils to attract insects. If growing in a garden, take care not to let Calendula spread to wild areas as they can be invasive.
Precautions/Safety: Can cause allergic reactions for people with Aster family allergies
Sunflower Family Allergies?
Calendula belongs to the Asteraceae, or Sunflower family. This is a family that you get to learn a lot about in Artemisia Academy's classes. The second largest plant family in the world, this family evolved relatively late in the game and members of the Aster family are extremely good at spreading themselves across the globe.
Many Aster family flowers grow in a head inflorescence, which looks like one single flower but is actually a collection of a bunch of little, tiny flowers. These flowers have sterile ray florets on the outside, which look like the petals of the flower, but are actually their own individual flowers. Then, the inside has disc florets that look like the center of one big flower but are a composition of many tiny, individual flowers.
The yellow ray florets and orange/brown disc florets of a Calendula head in my garden
The Sunflower Family has a wide spectrum of uses, with many medicinal and edible plants. Some common relatives of Calendula are Yarrow, Burdock, Chicory, Echinacea, Dandelion, Artemisia (this school's namesake), and Milk Thistle. Many plants are aromatic, bitter, and resinous and have laxative, expectorant and emmenagogue effects, just to name a few.
This is a plant family that MANY people VERY are allergic too, so it is important to practice caution when interacting with these herbs. In Artemisia's classes, it is recommended that students obtain children's chewable Benadryl to help with any allergies that show up that we may not have known about as we try different herbs, as the chewable form is processed more quickly by our bodies. If you sneeze while blowing on Dandelion puffs, it's likely a good idea to avoid plants from this family.
Calendula Herbal Actions
Antifungal, antiviral (some constituents)
Medicinal Ways to Work With Calendula
Calendula is a soothing and supportive being with many properties that can help promote vitality and wellbeing. As an alterative, they help the body process and release toxins, primarily through the lymphatic system.
Our lymph is a collection of fluid that drains from cells and tissues and travels through a wide lymphatic network spread across our bodies. It also includes other substances like proteins, minerals and foreign materials and our lymphatic vessels serve as a highway to transport infection-fighting white blood cells, called lymphocytes.
Our lymph is an integral part of our immune system and, unlike our blood, it does not have a pump to move it around. This is a big reason why regular movement and gentle exercise are so important to maintaining our health. Without physical movement, it is very hard for our lymphatic system to identify and remove toxins, invading microbes and other malicious substances from our bodies.
Coupled with movement and healthy lifestyle practices, lymphatic herbs like Calendula can assist us in clearing out lymphatic drainage and keeping our immune system in tip-top shape. This can be helpful for a variety of conditions where toxicity may be an underlying factor, all-too-common in our chemical and pollutant-laden world.
Calendula’s lymphatic qualities also make them an excellent wound healer when applied topically. They boost the immune system locally, increase micro-blood vessels and speed wound recovery. This herb is particularly indicated for slow-to-heal wounds but is good for many different topical uses.
They also astringe the capillaries, helping with cuts, varicose veins, bruises, minor infections, burns, wounds and various inflammatory skin conditions, including acne, rashes and fungal conditions. Calendula can be used to soothe sore nipples for breastfeeding and an infusion of the herb can be a helpful wash for yeast infections. Bringing down swelling, this herb can be a great aid for sprains as well.
As a vulnerary, they can also help prevent scarring when applied regularly to a wound as it heals. This herb can help us rebuild cellular tissue, speeding and enhancing healing of all types. And they can also help reduce discharges from wounds, keeping them clean as they heal.
Taken internally, Calendula is an excellent digestive support, especially for inflammatory issues like gastritis, peptic ulcers and colitis. They help cleanse the liver and gallbladder and can be useful for jaundice. This herb is also tremendous to work with if you are an individual who menstruates. An emmenagogue that is slightly estrogenic, they can help reduce period pain and regulate menstrual bleeding.
Generally, Calendula serves an expulsive function in the body and is supportive of systems that do the same.
Culpeper called this plant an herb of the Sun under Leo and as such, they are an herb that can strengthen the heart and comfort the spirits. Applying them topically to the breast during fevers can be a support. Moving up from the chest, Calendula can also make a great gargle for sore throats and mouth inflammations.
The ways to interact with this herb are seemingly endless, and it is important to note that these functions are a product of the ways that Calendula operates as a being and an individual. When interacting with Calendula in a herbal context, it is important to recognize that we are working with them, NOT using them in an exploitative manner.
Being in relationship with herbs helps us be respectful and considerate while recognizing the interconnected nature of all things.
How to Formulate Herbal Blends with Calendula
Calendula's bright, beautiful flowers make a wonderful and aesthetic addition to any herbal tea formulation. In Artemisia Academy's classes, we learn how to formulate herbal blends using William LeSassier's Triangle:
Primary Herbs (~60%) - select herbal actions that specifically address the underlying need or the condition that you/the client has.
Supporters (~30%) - to help build or tone the body or specific body system(s) through nutritive actions, or act as synergists for primary herbs with other herbal actions.
Balancers (~10%) - to help round out the energetic and emotional context of the formula.
To formulate using this method, make a list of relevant herbal actions for each of the three categories and select herbs that perform those actions. This method helps ensure that herbal formulations are primarily focused on addressing the relevant health issue(s) you are trying to support. This method can be used to make teas or tinctures, which are both great ways to process the medicine of Calendula.
Herbal Apprentice Program
If you want more fun herbal information and guidance on how to be a healed healer, Artemisia Academy’s Herbal Apprentice Program might be perfect for you. I completed this program in 2022 and learned so much about herbs, nutrition, medicine making and plant identification.
The information I shared in this post comes from my own relationship with Calendula, Artemisia Academy’s classes, Michael Tierra's Planetary Herbology, David Hoffman's Medical Herbalism and Holistic Herbal, Nicholas Culpeper's Complete Herbal, A Peterson Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs, and Andrew Chevallier’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine.
About the Author
Alicia Cielle Heiser is an Astrologer, Herbalist and student at Artemisia Academy. Her work centers on facilitating a greater understanding of the cyclical nature of the world and the ways that we as humans fit within the greater whole. She is writing a series of materia medica blog posts for Artemisia to make the wisdom and knowledge of herbal medicine more available to more people. Alicia also has a podcast called Conversations with the Planets and she offers herbal astrology readings and crafts personalized herbal tea blends. You can find her at www.aliciacielle.com.
Disclaimer: Information presented on this webpage is for educational purposes only, and does not include the diagnosis and treatment of disease nor replace the advice of a licensed physician. Please refer to a licensed health professional for any illness or persistent symptoms before using herbal remedies.
Herbs can sometimes cause discomfort or side effects, and may interact adversely with pharmaceutical medications. Do not use herbs internally without the approval of a doctor or medical professional if you are currently on medications or have a history of medical conditions.