Calendula: a champion for your skin

Last week, I picked up my monthly herb share and have spent the days since in a frenzy of medicine making; chopping, straining, washing jars, labeling, + so forth. The other day, I harvested the first eggplant from our summer garden. I find myself on the way to complete one task, only to get distracted and begin another. It’s a moment of abundance and it’s keeping me busy.

At the peak of summer, it’s the time to harvest so many things. One of those things is Calendula flowers. Medicinal resins will be most strongly concentrated in the flower heads if picked at the height of day (think water is evaporating in the heat, allowing those resins to be more potent) cite. While I didn’t grow any this season, I got a great big bag of flowers and a tin of calendula salve from my CSH share. Calendula salve has found its way to me right when I need it—I’ve been lazily batting away at eczema on my lips, elbows, & hands with coconut oil. It’s nice to have another ally to turn to.

I didn’t feel enthused about applying cortisone or any steroid to my lips. The salve works nicely, though needs super frequent application making your lips look like they’re shining with sweat. But, the pleasant flavor and knowing it’s made with olive oil & beeswax, I feel comfortable with the amount I probably end up ingesting. Speaking of which, calendula is great as a tea or tincture. It’s often used to boost the immune system by stimulating lymphatic drainage cite. So, you can double up on your calendula intake, as internal use is common for treating eczema, as well. Calendula isn’t the only part of an herbal protocol to heal eczema. Other things factor in, such as diet, vitamins, micro-nutrients, allergens, stress, genetics, and a a lack of understanding of the nature of eczema. But, that’s another post & I have yet to dive deeply into creating a protocol for my eczema.

In addition to eczema, calendula is the go to herb for many skin conditions; be it dryness, cuts & scraps, bug bites, and more. From what I’ve read, calendula helps skin cell regeneration via a high content of natural iodine, carotene, and manganese cite. I’d love to learn more about this aspect of the plant, but haven’t put the research time in yet. I did put some salve on a mysterious bug bite I got on my bike commute home. While I don’t know how long it would have taken to heal up on its own, the salve really helped reduce the inflammation that my skin is so prone to when irritated.

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“Calendula is one of my favored personal wintertime teas, as I find it so uplifting, especially when I am feeling the long-dark-night-blahs. Interestingly, a strong cup of calendula tea has a flavor reminiscent of unsweetened cacao. Most modern herbalists don’t typically use it as one of their primary anti-depressant herb, but it is mentioned for that specific use in multiple historical texts. Calendula may be called upon for grief and sadness along with other cheering flowers: rose, mimosa and lavender. In addition, consider other helpful herbal companions, such as lemonbalm and lemon verbena.”

– Chestnut School of Herbs

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In M. Grieve’s A Modern Herbal, I found it unique that the flowers were often dried and stored as one of many ingredient for making winter broths. I might try this, in addition to what I decided to do with a portion of my flowers—infusing them in Thayer’s witch hazel (pictured above). I’ll use this for many of the same uses as the salve; to reduce inflammation in bug bites, as well as, a facial toner.

Calendula officinalus | calendula, pot marigold (Asteraceae)

Herbal Actions: Anti-bacterial, Anti-fungal, Anti-inflammatory, Antiseptic, Astringent, Bitter, Cholagogue, Lymphagogue, Vulnerary

Two Weeks with Yarrow

Yarrow is a special plant. Universally loved by herbalists, and why not – it’s good for just about everything! Until recently, I hadn’t figured out how to use yarrow for myself. Without thought, I tend to brush off day-to-day discomforts. When everyday is a barrage of the media’s/politician’s dumb ass opinions on my body and rights as a woman and a person of color – you can spend a lot of time not listening. It’s hard not to feel like we are walking backwards a majority of the time for the sake of going slowly in the wrong direction. I recently read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. I loved how she brought light and validity to the very obvious flaws in our cultural way of thinking in media, policy, & life. But, I couldn’t help but feel angry and frustrated that we are still fighting the same fight – for self care, intuition, compassion, & community. This being the everyday, it is EASY to ignore and hard to listen to those same struggles within me. To give time and notice to my need for self care, trust my intuition, compassion for myself/everyone, and engage with my community.

In taking that moment to listen, my body was telling me I needed yarrow. Well, it was shouting it really. If you’re female bodied, likely you have experienced a UTI. They can occur for a multitude of reasons, namely paying no mind when your body told you to pee after you inhaled a large portion of nachos and wanted only to fall asleep. My general protocol for UTIs is cranberry juice/pills, drinking green tea, and kinnickinnick tincture. While I am a fan of kinnickinnick, I don’t love the flavor. And so, I set to looking for what else I had in my medicinary that I could use.

“The tea or tincture has one distinct & appropriate use—for […] urethritis that occur after food or alcohol binging, which result in alkaline urine. (p. 244)”

“Being both anti-inflammatory and astringent/hemostatic, it lends itself to low-level […] urethritis [..]; take two cups a day for a couple of weeks.(p. 275)”

– Michael Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West

With a quick reference of MPPW, The Herbal Handbook, and the untouched 8oz of tincture I had from a Mt. Hood harvest in 2013 , I decided on yarrow. Two droppers in a cup of hot water & I was convinced. The hot water brings out the scent of yarrow, which is amazing and just like the fresh flowers. I could probably start every morning with a cup of yarrow tincture tea.

Herbal Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-spasmodic, Astringent, Bitter (mild), Carminative, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Magic, Styptic