“As a local remedy, [Calendula] has no equal in Materia Medica…and I would not be without it for a hundred times its cost.”— Dr. William J. Clary, King’s American Dispensatory, 1898
One of our favorite times of year here at the herb farm is when we harvest our Calendula fields: the multi-sensory pleasures of watching the plants transform green fields into a spectacular carpet of golden orange blossoms, of feeling the sticky, bio-active resin on our fingers as we pick the plants at the peak of freshness, of smelling the gentle scents that surround us, as we carefully dry, then slowly process, the flowers into various forms, including creams, infused oils, salves, teas and tinctures. If sunshine could smell, this is what it would smell like.
Interacting with these hardy, edible annuals always remind us of Calendula’s considerable phyto-nutrient benefits and endless practical uses, which have been well-documented over many centuries and across diverse cultures. In fact, Calendula was regularly used for ceremonial and practical purposes, throughout the ancient world: in Indian Ayurvedic traditions, Calendula, or Genda as it is commonly called in Hindi, was used to promote healthy digestion and gastrointestinal function; in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Calendula, or Jin Zhan Ju, was used topically, to stimulate circulation and support healthy skin; and in various Central and North American indigenous cultures, where Calendula was used both internally, for upset stomach, as well as externally, to aid in wound healing.
Here in Europe, starting in medieval times, Calendula was widely available and known as the “poor man’s saffron,” as it was used to color and spice various foods, including making butter and cheese look more yellow, as well as to dye hair and clothing. Over time, and with an increasing awareness of Calendula’s considerable phytonutrient properties, the plant is now processed into various forms, including ointments, tinctures and teas, and is suggested for a range of indications, including treating various skin irritations, oral health, relieving muscle pain, ulcers, acne, period pain, vaginitis, as well as soothing long-term intestinal distress or digestive upset.