If you have beautiful orange and yellow calendula flowers blooming in your garden, now is the time to make medicine! Even a couple of handfuls of fresh blossoms stuffed into an 8 oz. glass jar and covered with 65% grain alcohol will provide enough calendula tincture to experiment with, using it liberally for first aid and observing its well established healing properties. Making a pint will be beneficial if you have chronic conditions to treat. Making a quart, if you have enough blossoms, will provide your family with tincture for several years.
Calendula will tincture out well in 65% grain alcohol; I like to use a 75% solution. When making a tincture, be sure the alcohol covers all of the plant material. Tightly cap your jar and place in a cool, dark cupboard for 2-3 weeks. You may shake it occasionally, or just leave it to steep during this time. Strain the finished medicine through cheesecloth and place in tincture bottles labeled with date, alcohol percentage, ratio of plant material to alcohol, and location of harvest.
If you prefer you can make calendula salve. Measure out 2-3 ozs. of a natural oil (like olive, sesame, or almond) in a non-metal pot. Place oil on LOW for a few minutes. Place one petal of calendula into the oil and see if it sizzles. (If it does, the oil is too hot. For good medicine, you do not want to fry your plant materials.) When a petal tossed into the oil just wilts without sizzling, then toss in plenty of fresh or dried blossoms and heat on low for an hour or two. Remove blossoms, squeezing out all the oil, and discard. Add grated beeswax, 1 tbsp to every 1 oz (30 cc) of warm oil and let the beeswax melt down on low heat. Remove from heat, pour into your container(s) of choice (preferably non-metal), label, and refrigerate. This salve will keep quite nicely unrefrigerated for several weeks, but keeping it refrigerated extends its availability for use throughout the year.
So what is this wonderful medicine best used for? Dilute some tincture in warm water, soak a cloth in this, and apply to sprains. Apply full strength to varicosities and bruises; try it on spider angiomas. Apply to wasp or bee stings. Swab the excoriated or irritated penis or vulva with diluted tincture using just a finger or a cotton ball, or use it to heal stitches in the skin or mucus membranes. Try the tincture on herpes simplex ulcerations. If applied liberally with frequency it will cut healing time in half. If applied to a herpes chancre at the very initial onset, and the diet and stress level improve, it can prevent the further development of the lesion.
Use the salve regularly on sore nipples, chapped hands and lips, dotty-type diaper rash, or to poorly healing scar tissue. The salve is useful applied to burns if you have no aloe vera around. It's hemostatic effect is useful in tooth extraction. Other uses include infusion of calendula internally to induce perspiration, break fevers, reduce dysmennorhea, treat stomach ulcers, and externally to treat conjunctivitis, bleeding hemorrhoids, and burns. If you have calendula around when preparing a sitz bath, toss it in.
Calendula officinalis is bushy and grows to about 2 feet, with a somewhat sticky quality to its greenery and brilliant flowers which open and close with the sunlight. It is a hardy annual and easy to grow, germinating in about 4-6 days. Calendula's odor is faint, and its taste is slightly bitter. It should not be confused with the common garden marigold, which is an African variety effective against insect pests. I would advise growing calendula away from your vegetables, as it reseeds itself liberally and will take over garden areas in subsequent years (although it is easy to pull out). Collecting seed in the fall is easy and packets of seed make nice gifts. As a midwife and herbalist I like to remember calendula's beneficial properties in medical terms: antiseptic, anti inflammatory, spasmolytic, antihemorrhagic, styptic, vulnerary. Very good medicine!