In the last post we talked about Chamomile and its nurturing, sweet, slightly bitter and warming energetics along with the healing properties it provides for whole-plant skincare.
This week, I wanted to share about one of my absolute favorite plants to talk about, write about, and work with whether I'm in the garden or in our formulation studio.
Did you know Calendula gets its name because it has been seen to flower throughout the “calends of every month,” as in year round?
Aside from Lavender, Calendula is one of the most common remedies used in herbal medicine. But while we tend to think of Calendula as a first aid topical medicine for cuts, burns, and scrapes, which is an element of its brilliance, that's just the beginning of Calendula's magic.
In European folk medicine, Calendula was harvested and dried in the summer to be added to soups and stews in the winter. It was most often used to ward off fever and other illness, which makes sense once we know a bit more about how it affects the immune system.
Calendula clears toxic, damp heat internally, reducing lymph congestion, infection, inflammation, and painful swelling in the lymph nodes. In particular, because of its action as a lymphagogue, it addresses unresolved lymphatic stagnation in a gentle way, which we could view from a purely physical standpoint as well as explore its association with unresolved emotional experiences that tend to get stuck in our "inner waters" i.e. the lymphatic system. This effect on the lymphatic system is one of the reasons it's so beneficial for the immune system! It not only helps to clear the infection, but it aids in making sure it moves through the body and gotten rid of.
This same damp heat that Calendula addresses as a lymphagogue is also addressed by its action as an Alterative, which generally refers to an herb that will open up the channels of elimination including the bowels, skin, liver, lungs, and kidneys. Calendula is primarily a bitter tonic and lymphatic alterative, focusing on the bowels, liver, skin, and lymphatic system. As an alterative, Calendula helps clean out your system when you're run down because your "toxic load" has gotten too high.
Too much of your energy (or vital force, as one of my mentors Sajah Popham would say) is going toward trying to clear out your body and those channels of elimination aren't working as well as they could.
In essence, Calendula is one of the best allies when your channels of elimination have become overburdened resulting in symptoms ranging from chronic digestive issues, eczema, acne, bloating, stiff and achy joints, and even headaches. (More on this in a future post.)
Aromatically soothing, sweet, and mildly floral, the hydrosol of Calendula is antimicrobial, antibacterial, and has incredible skin-healing properties. It clarifies, rejuvenates, and soothes irritated skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema, making it a wonderful facial toner as it hydrates and repairs skin.
I love using Calendula Hydrosol for treating wounds and cuts, relieving painful and/or cystic acne, treat eczema and psoriasis. I've heard it can even be helpful in the treatment of shingles!
While Calendula isn't considered a demulcent in the same way our Seaweeds, Marshmallow Root, or even Violet Leaf are, it does contain mucilage as a constituent, which accounts for some of its wondrous ability to cool, hydrate, and repair tissue. This mucilage, as well as its resin, can be beautifully extracted in oil to use for skin repair.
Calendula is also ideal for cleansing even the most sensitive skin by encouraging cellular turnover, tissue regeneration, moving stagnant lymph, and improving anti-inflammatory pathways. That's why you'll find it in our Vesper Cleansing Oil!
The other reason Calendula is such a brilliant skin remedy is because of its Vulnerary/Astringent actions. A vulnerary plant is one that promotes the healing of a wound and Calendula’s astringency essentially draws the tissues together to heal it more effectively and help prevent scar tissue from forming. As Matthew Wood says, Calendula heals “from the inside out” - rather than working with the outermost layers of skin, it works with the blood and lymphatics to heal tissue.
On a side note, this vulnerary action is what makes Calendula such an amazing gut healer!
This bright, sunny flower is fairly easy to grow outside as long as you get some sun. And homegrown Calendula oil is, without a doubt, the best medicine. If you do make your own, be sure to dry the flowers completely before macerating them in oil. It will help prevent your oil infusion from going bad, but it also makes a more potent extraction because the medicinal resins are more available.
Find Calendula in some of our favorite skincare products: