Herbs for Skin, Hair & Nails: Calendula & All-Purpose Healing Salve
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Energetics: Neutral (after reviewing a variety of sources with differing opinions of calendula energetics, I have surmised that it is an adaptive herb that improves tone and protects cells – essentially neutralizing acute condition.
Therapeutic Actions: anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, astringent, demulcent, emmenagogue, hemostatic, lymphatic, vulnerary
Calendula. A mainstay of the herbal apothecary, this sunny, flower has virtually unparalleled potential uses. It is one of the first medicinal herbs that I knowingly grew and my very first bulk herb purchase. It is, without a doubt, one of the most indispensable botanicals for the home herbalist.
Calendula Medicinal Benefits
Chiefly known as a healing herb for the skin, calendula is a veritable first aid in plant form. I tend to consider this herb when any skin irritation and/or discomfort are concerned – from slight itchiness to cuts and scrapes. I infuse the flower heads in oil for the balms I make from blossoming mama bellies (after the first trimester) and tender baby bums for its dual ability to tone irritated, chafing, itchy skin, while also offering gentle emollient action. It is traditionally used to reduce the appearance of scars, freckles and age spots. Minor chemical, scalds or slight sunburns may be relieved by application of a cooled calendula compress.
It is an extraordinary herb for wounds, abraded skin, fissures, and minor cuts as it helps to staunch bleeding while also encourage rapid wound closure (NOTE: if a wound is infected, use with a strong antimicrobial such as Hypericum or Achillea). Psoriasis suffers may also find relief in the use of calendula infused salves and balms. Herbalist Matthew Wood indicates that juice expressed from the fresh plant material can reduce wart size. A gargle prepared from the cooled herb infusion is also said to soothe a sore throat and an infusion may ease ulcerative conditions of the GI tract.
Calendula is also a notable lymphatic. It is associated with the reduction of inflamed lymph nodes, sebaceous cysts, and is even thought to decrease underarm odor!
Calendula Identification and Growing Conditions
Calendula is a sunny annual in the Asteraceae family and is not to be confused with its botanical cousin, the marigold (Tagetes spp.). It tends to prefer sunny locations with well-drained, somewhat rich soils. The pale yellow to vibrant orange flowers can be picked just as the buds begin to open (frequent picking encourages the growth of new buds, so – happy harvesting!). The buds will feel somewhat resinous and sticky (a good sign of its medicinal value).
Calendula is an excellent companion plant in the garden, deterring a variety of pests and is also a lovely edible flower. Side note: the seeds are really cool looking and are easily collected from seasoned flower heads. Speaking of seeds, I get mine from Strictly Medicinal Seeds. Learn more about growing calendula in this post.
Calendula is quite a safe herb to use, both internally and externally. Avoid use on festering, infected wounds without using a strongly antimicrobial supporting herb concurrently, as wound closure may become too rapid, effectively sealing infection in. I would not recommend its use internally for pregnant women. Please consult your physician if you are pregnant, nursing, have a chronic illness, or are taking prescription medication before using this or any other herb.
Safe internal use: 1-2 droppers full, up to four times daily or infusions prepared with 1-3 tablespoons in 8 ounces of water.
Find wonderful, vibrant dried calendula at Mountain Rose Herbs.
Calendula All-Purpose Healing Balm with Honey
As a farm mama to many, and a wee bit on the accident-prone side myself, having an excellent all-purpose healing salve on hand is an absolute must. I have been making this particular recipe for a few years now, and it is some pretty stellar stuff. Calendula and St. John’s Wort or Yarrow infused oils, antimicrobial, healing honey, and a few optional essential oils keep all our boo-boos happy and facilitate super fast healing. It is well worth the effort to make yourselves, plus some friends and family jars of this stuff to keep around for all minor injuries.
Calendula All-Purpose Healing Salve with Honey
Calendula a renowned healing herb. Create an exceptional all-purpose healing salve with calendula & honey for all your cuts, scrapes and assorted boo-boos.
- 1 cup base oil of your choice (I like 50% olive oil with 50% coconut oil
- 1/3 cup calendula dried
- 1/3 cup St, John's wort or yarrow dried
- 3-4 tablespoons beeswax pastiles (or grated beeswax)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 48 drops essential oils (I use lavender, helichrysm, clove, and frankicense in equal parts) optional
Combine base oil and dried herbs in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place in a small crockpot with water to the fill height of the jar. Infuse on the lowest setting heat for 24-48 hours. Alternatively, the oils can infuse without heat for six weeks, or rapid infuse in a double boiler over for 30 minutes,
After oil is adequately infused, strain through muslin or cheese cloth. Return oil to a double boiler, add beeswax, and warm until completely melted.
Remove oil/beeswax mixture from heat. Allow oil to cool until it just starts to thicken slightly. Add honey and essential oils, then whisk vigorously (I use a stick blender for this job) to basically emulsify the honey into the oil. This may be tricky at first. If the oil is too hot the honey will separate, too cold and it will be difficult to pour in the next step.
Pour into individual 2-ounce containers (approximate 4) or other similarly sized jars. Allow to cool completely before putting a lid on the jar.