Sunshine Incarnated: Calendula!

In Mexico, bright golden yellow and orange Marigolds are associated with the Day of the Dead holiday, and Mexicans traditionally strew it on grave sites. According to folklore, that’s because it’s the plant that sprung up from the blood of Mexicans who once died at the hands of the invading Spaniards.

Edited to add: Marigold is the common name for Calendula officinalis, and it is also used for the similar-looking Tagetes spp. (In Mexico, it may be that Tagetes is the one used in rituals.)

Originally, Calendula is native to the Mediterranean, but once you know this flower’s amazing array of medicinal uses, it’ll be easy to see why the Europeans embraced it and introduced it. Today you can find it in direct sunlight throughout Europe and North America along roadsides and in gardens.

When applied externally in a poultice (paste made of crushed herb + water), or dried and then infused in an oil or salve, Calendula blossoms are excellent for healing burns and wounds. They can also stop bleeding because of its astringent action. If you make a tea of it and apply the cooled water to the skin, it can cure shingles. Internally, it is soothing and healing for ulcers and menstrual cramps. It is  anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial, too.

Note: Calendula is also an emmenagogue (an herb that sends blood to the uterus) so it should not be taken internally during pregnancy.

And that’s not all — the bright orange, daisy-like flowers are edible and taste really good! Slightly spicy, even.

According to the book Herbal Magick by Paul Beyerl, Calendula is used for divination, particularly for those who have been stolen from. It is said to cleanse negative energy and aid sight as well, and its astrological association is the sign Leo (my sign!).

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9 thoughts on “Sunshine Incarnated: Calendula!

  1. Pingback: The Many Wonders of St. John’s Wort | First Ways

  2. Hi Rebecca, I’m growing calendula now, and I would like to make salve. Should I harvest the petals while the blooms are fresh? Or wait until the flowers have dried up a bit, and harvest then? Thanks!

  3. Hi Becky,

    Thanks for being so good at sharing your plant knowledge and enthusiasm. Love it!

    I wanted to share that when I lived in Oaxaca Mexico, the “marigold” plant that was used during Day of the dead and other important cultural uses was different than calendula. Locally it was called “cempazuchitl” and it is the Tagetes erecta species. Here are some images: This may be a reflection of regional distinction. ?

    Hope your book sales are going well! Any news on the effort to ban herbicide/fungi/pesticides?

    Best, Melissa

  4. Pot Marigold (and leaves of plantain) are my go to mosquito bite treatments. Grab a leaf, smash it up, apply it to a fresh sore for a minute and it will reduce the swelling, itchiness and healing of a bite drastically. Applied immediately, the difference is between being relieved immediately and healed in a day, or, if left untreated, a week with a puffy, itching sore. The crazy looking seeds are easily saved for future seasons. It germinates well, the leaves are useable immediately and mature fully within two months in about any soil type.

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