As the autumn days get shorter a new crop of calendula grows slowly into it’s fourth year of reseeding. Plants have their own seasons in our Southern California climate and these young shoots will be ready to bloom in winter.
If the blossoms are picked continuously, each plant will bloom into late autumn rewarding us with color, fresh scent and healing properties. From our 4’x6’ plot of amended soil we have been able to collect enough blossoms to use in our Autumn Gold products. The flowers are either air dried and infused in safflower oil for our cleanser/body oil or tinctured fresh for our moisturizers.
The process begins with picking fully opened blossoms which are allowed to rest (so that insects can crawl out) before they are washed and spun dry. The blossoms intended for standardized tincture are left to wilt over a day. This reduces the moisture content of the plant material so that the alcohol is not diluted during the extraction process. It also reduces the likelihood of mold.
The blossoms intended for oil infusion are air dried completely, until the flowers are like straw. This takes several days up to a week. Both infusions and tinctures take five or six weeks to mature.
Calendula is one of four plants grown in our garden for use in our products. We also grow rosemary, lavender and rose. Each plant is picked not only for its season of bloom, but also for its properties. Calendula is used for its ability to soothe inflammation. Its golden color comes from carotenoids present in the flowers, leaves and stems. But it is the saponins whose surfactant action enhance the penetration of plant nutrients. Calendula is healing and soothing at the same time.
I had a chance to test the efficacy of calendula when my baby had a terrible diaper rash (possibly the result of teething) that burned red and then blistered. I tried fresh aloe which had worked for a friends baby, but made matters worse with mine. When aloe dries, it tightens the skin and can make the “burn” worse. What I needed was something emollient and healing which would act as a temporary moisture barrier. I reached for an old sample packet of Extra-Strength Desitin and left it on overnight. In the morning the rash was still inflamed with open sores. It finally occurred to me to use my calendula infusion. So I whipped up a light balm with candelilla wax. I chose candelilla over beeswax because I did not want to introduce another potential allergen to an already sensitive area. It worked like a charm. Within a couple of hours the redness was reduced and the weeping sores were scabbing. In two days, the rash was history.
I attribute the potency of my calendula infusion to its freshness and to the fact that I’m an organic gardener who uses biodynamic methods. Based on a “stellar” calendar I alternate preparations for roots or leaves that act like homeopathic remedies for my garden. I also innoculate my compost with an herbal tea which helps enrich the enzymatic activity of the microorganisms. I recognize the difference biodynamics have made, but I also love the connection it has given me to my garden. The preparations are made either an hour before sunrise or sunset and involve stirring a substance into water so that a vortex is created. Once the perfect cone has been achieved the stirring goes in the opposite direction creating chaos in between. This is done continuously and is not unlike the homeopathic method of succusion. The water is then sprayed onto the plants or the ground using a broom head or bushy branch.
Finally, calendula, like the other plants we grow for extraction, is edible. The flower petals can be used in salads and impart color, nutrition and flavor. The flowers make a nice herbal tea and I’ve even baked with the petals. In fact, calendula petals were used as decoration on my wedding cake 11 years ago! This plant has so many uses, from repelling pests in the garden to healing a baby’s bum; truly, calendula lives up to its common name marigold or Mary (Merry) Gold which defines our Autumn Gold products.
This post is part of the Fight Back Friday on the Food Renegade blog: