July is Calendula Month!

Good news Plant Lovers!

July is Calendula Month!

Do you know what Calendula looks like? It looks like the Sun! And it loves the heat.  It holds a great deal of the Sun's energy. I've even started to use it to treat S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder). And yes, I realize that all plants contain the sun's energy through the mystery of photosynthesis (plants eat sunlight! How cool is that!), but I'm talking about a really strong relationship!Most people know of Calendula from diaper and skin creams that relieve itchy skin and rashes. It has a long history of treating skin issues and it does a really great job of it. It's a great moisturizer. And it's wonderful in a belly balm because it promotes elasticity in the skin.Even though I said that Calendula strongly holds the energy of the Sun, it's not a warming herb. In fact, it's very cooling and soothing. And it's these 2 properties that make it so great for a wide range of skin issues. This is why it's so successful when treating rashes. It's great for hot, swollen, itchy and irritated skin.It also helps to reduce scar tissue (and in some cases eliminate them entirely). In the herb realms, Calendula is called a “Vulnerary” which really just means that it helps to heal skin wounds. But Calendula does it a little differently from other herbs. Specifically, it improves skin re-granulation. Meaning that it helps the skin weave back together. This means less scar tissue.I think of it this way: Scar tissue is a toughness that develops as a way to sort of armour the body against future wounds. It's a sign of an un-processed trauma (same thing happens in our minds or psyches after emotional wounds) .So, I think of Calendula as an herb that helps us Integrate after wounding. It really love to combine it with Comfrey. They're a great team in a salve to speed skin healing at a near lightning pace. The Comfrey promotes cell growth and lots of it. Then the Calendula takes all that new skin and weaves it together, all the while reducing swelling and moisturizing to keep the skin supple and flexible.I'll also add that it doesn't have to be a “wound” that you're treating. I LOVE to use this in an herbal bath for mom and babe right after birth. My son's first bath (day 2, I think) contained a big handful of Calendula. I also give it to mama as a tea to support her body's recovery from the inside out.Lastly, I'd also like to highlight that Calendula is great for Infections (both topically and internally). Some books even list it as an anti-biotic. My understanding and experience hasn't shown it to single herb-edly treat infections, but is great paired with Plantain, Cottonwood or Oregon grape. What it seems to do is isolate and contain infections, making it easier to be neutralized.here's a link that I just found that lists some ways of using this plant that I don't know...click hereOne quick thought about identification... It can be a little confusing because it's sometimes called Marigold at nurseries and gardening shops. But there are actually 2 entirely different orange flowers called Marigold.  Sometimes it's called Pot Marigold and really emphasizes why Latin names are used by folks who want to make sure of the plant they're gathering... Calendula officinalisHere's a couple of pics side-by-side to help highlight the differences.Visually they can look similar, but there are some clear differences.

  • they both have strong scents, but they're quite distinct - once you learn them it'll be easy to tell apart
  • the Calendula flowers don't look as 'wrinkly' though do have a "bed head" look when pollenated
  • lastly, check the leaves - the Marigold leaves are compound and have a yarrow or tansy look, but the Calendula has simple, alternate leaves

Marigold (below right)

Calendula (below left)     Now, you may be wondering "hey, is there going to be a workshop in July all about Calendula?"  And you'd be right :)Sat. July 2310-2pm@ the Living Medicine Gardens in East Van.check out the Workshops page for more details.