Harvesting Calendula

It has been a hot dry summer in New York, especially in Trumansburg, where we’ve experienced record low since May. This obviously adds a lot of stress on our green friends. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) appears to be fairing better than others and kindly provides ground cover for the garden, keeping the soil from drying out and supporting the garden as a whole.


Calendula blossom

I just have to say this ~ I love our radiant Calendula! It is such a treat to have in the garden. Although, it’s technically an annual and needs to be sowed each year, once you have planted it, you never have to do it again. Each year, they self sow, bringing joy and sunshine. When I started to harvest the blossoms, I was delighted to feel my fingers sticking together, covered in bright yellow petals. I love when this happens. It is sticky due to the resin that forms on the bracts (the green base of the flower head). The stickier your fingers get, the more medicinally potent the blossoms are. I suspect the lack of rain inspired the Calendula to develop and concentrate more resins.

very sticky

very sticky

Calendula has a long history of medicinal use dating back to the ancient Egyptians. You know an herb has been used medicinally for a very long time when “officinalis” or a derivative of it is its species name. Basically, officinalis means that it was deemed an official herb of the apothecaries. Carl Linnaeus the “Father of Taxonomy” classified over 60 plants with the species name officinalis, officinale or officinarum in the 1700s for their medicinal uses.

When most people think of Calendula, they think soothing. Hey, I have a whole product line named Soothe Thy…. with you guess it ~ Calendula as a primary ingredient! Just look at all the skin care products in your local health food store; I bet you will find Calendula listed as an ingredient in the majority of them. The reason it is a fantastic ingredient for soothing and healing the skin is due to its anti-inflammatory, vulnerary (promotes healing of damaged tissue), bacteriostatic (instead of killing the bacteria it inhibits its growth), immune stimulating (a fabulous combination) and anti-fungal properties.

In addition, the properties that make it healing and soothing to wounds and skin irritations can help heal problems experienced internally.  Not only is it an anti-inflammatory for the skin it also reduces and soothes inflammation of the mucus membranes, more specifically the digestive system. Drinking Calendula tea reduces inflammation and helps heal peptic ulcers, esophageal irritation from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  Gargling with tea Calendula soothes sore throats, canker sores, periodontal disease, thrush, sore and bleeding gums.

Calendula is also a lymphagogue, it stimulates the lymph system and helps it from being stuck or stagnated. It reduces inflammation of the lymph nodes by mobilizing white blood cells and stimulating lymphatic drainage. Keeping lymph moving is key to supporting the body’s immune system. Taken internally and applied externally will clean wounds from the inside out through the lymph system. A treat during long winter days is to add blossoms to soups and simmer all day long; this will support the immune system and bring some sunshine during those dark days.

When harvesting blossoms, the best time is on a dry sunny day, after the dew has burned off and the blossoms are completely dry. Remember the stickier the better. I dry them on a screen out of direct sunlight. The screen is elevated so there is airflow. After a week, if they appear to be dry, I put them in a paper bag for another week. It is critical to make sure all the moisture is gone before you store them in a glass jar. No one wants moldy flowers. If stored well, dried Calendula blossoms will retain their vibrant color and are good for 6 months to a year. Some people freeze them, giving them access to fresh blossoms all year long.

Bees love them too

Bees love them too

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.