Ask the doctor: Herbs, Herbal Medicine, Calendula.
Ask the doctor is an addition to my sight that I cannot ignore because its a huge part of me. If you have read my About page and more about me then you will know I am passionate about healthy living. My back ground is in the health industry and before coming to real estate I worked for many years in the pursuit of good health for my patients using common herbs. Herbal medicine is the oldest form of medicine on our planet and is still practised today all over the world, infact the World Health Organisation approves the use of herbal medicine. Herbal medicine is Safe, low cost and kind to our environment.
Sometimes there are things we just need to share and the first of a long list of herbs I wish to share with you is Calendula. Over the years Calendula has been a great friend in the garden and my medicine cabinet.
The following information is from my book FOOD MEDICINE . Which is available to purchase as an e-book download for NZ$10.00.
Herbs, Herbal medicine, Calendula
MARIGOLD -Calendula officinalis
This herb is known as the “weather forecaster” - if the petals are still closed at 7 am then it will rain.
Strictly the herbal marigold is the single variety with 2-3 flat rows of petals surrounding a brownish circular centre. The branching stem and oval leaves are pale green, slightly hairy and sticky to touch, with a strong odour. The tap root is white and fleshy. The seeds of Calendula cover all possibilities, the outer seeds being crescent shaped burrs, good for latching on to passing animals or humans, then a circle of crescent moon shaped seeds and circular ones in the centre.
Calendula is an annual – easy to grow from seed with a 4-14 day germination period but once established will readily self-seed. I planted two calendula plants a couple of years ago – now I have hundreds.
Happy to grow all year round Calndula is frost resistant. Calendula enjoys a sunny situation and good garden soil. This is a plant that enjoys harvesting – nipping the flower heads away encourages the plant to bush and flower even more profusely.
NB: not to be confused with French marigold.
CALENDULA IS AN EXCELLENT COMPANION PLANT
Marigolds with everything!
Marigolds are stronger in power than calendula, so will kill twitch grass (a pest in NZ) couch grass, nematode and eel worm. It is another good companion for potatoes and general pest deterrence.
The roots of marigold give off a substance which drives away the eel worm. They are therefore good to plant near potato tomato and roses.
Dogs won’t cock their leg against pots which contain calendula.
A clump or border is useful in any vegetable garden giving protection to all your yummy growing food.
While your calendula plant is not as strong as marigold, having both in the garden as you can see, is essential to the health and wellbeing of your growing vegetables. However Calendula is also a food and a medicine. I should say food medicine.
Before we go any further, are we quite clear about the difference between calendula (herbal marigold) and common French marigold? If so carry on reading. If not just take some time to quickly revise this section so far.
CALENDULA IN YOUR DAILY DIET
Who would have thought using this herb in your daily diet would be of benefit to your health?
Parts used: orange petals (leaves can be used but not very effective).
Internally calendula is beneficial for stomach and duodenal ulcers – has an antiseptic effect on the liver and gallbladder; calendula is known as a ‘liver tonic’.
Calendula has been used in herbal medicines for viral infections of the liver and other liver disorders and for ailments of veins, arteries and capillary haemorrhage. Calendula is also effective in delaying menstruation and normalising the menstrual cycle. It is a must in body lotions especially if you have varicose veins. Externally calendula is an excellent herb for skin problems: inflammation, infection, bruising, cuts, ulcers, slow healing wounds, minor burns, oily skin, scalds, warts and eczema.
Also used as a lotion, poultice or compress – we will learn about these later.
However calendula can simply just be part of your daily diet in an herbal tea, or in salads, baking and hot dishes.
DRYING CALENDULA PETALS
To dry calendula petals it is best to collect them after it has rained, once the petals have dried in the sun. Always collect herbs once all moisture from dew and rain has gone.
Collect the full flower head by nipping it with your fingers just under the base. Place them evenly without touching on a tray. Place in a dry airy cupboard. While the sun is still shining I might place them in the sun for the day then remove them to my hot water cupboard. They will take 2-3 days to completely dry out. If you have a dehydrator place on trays as above then put dehydrator on low for 2 hours and medium for 2 hours. When plants are completely dry put in a brown paper bag and store in a dark, dry place.
Calendula is unique when drying- you will find this herb loses its colour fast in just 3-4 weeks, so take this into consideration when drying the plant for your purposes.
The petals may be added with other tasty herbs for teas, good on their own but benefit from other flavours.
The following recipes give some versatile examples.
1 chopped onion
1 tbsp of oil
1 pint vegetable stock
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
2-3 tbsp calendula petals
a little butter
Finely chop onion and sauté in oil. Add rice and sauté again. Add stock, salt and rosemary. Simmer until rice is cooked. Drain and fluff rice. Add calendula and serve with grated cheese and a dot of butter. Use hot or cold in a salad with added herbs finely chopped fresh from the garden, for example parsley, lemon balm and spring onions.
SCRAMBLED EGGS with CALENDULA
petals from 2 calendula flowers
Scramble eggs in the normal manner. I am one of those annoying cooks that measure by dollops – a dollop of this and a dollop of that.
So scrambled eggs for two would be as follows:
Crack 4 eggs into a pot and add a dollop of milk ( I would say ¼ a cup), salt and ground pepper to taste. Mix and fluff the mixture creating plenty of air and place pot on a low heat.
Blend in chives and parsley, again using dollop proportions.
Gently force a wooden spoon along the bottom of your pot gently moving the solid egg around to allow the runny mixture to cook. Take off the heat and add calendula petals and cover with grated cheese. Place pot under grill to melt and brown cheese and finally cook surface of egg mixture. This also helps lift the mixture from the bottom of the pot and it will rise. No runny scrambled eggs in this house.
Turn out on to toasted bread and serve garnished with a calendula flower. YUM!!!!
I will also add Cajun spices or hot piripiri seasoning, (both Masterfood products from any supermarket) to zest this up a bit. Of course this will depend on who is eating it.
120 grams butter
1 beaten egg
2 tsp baking powder
56 grams of raw sugar
2 cups flour
2 heads of calendula petals dried and ground
Cream butter and sugar, add egg and beat until fluffy. Add flour, baking powder and petals and knead into a long roll on baking paper.
Fold baking paper around mixture and roll into even long tube. Freeze for 20 minutes to cool. This mixture can be taken from the freezer any time you wish to quickly make a batch.
Remove from freezer and slice from the roll. Place on baking paper and cook at 200° for 15 minutes.
If desired, when cooked these can be dipped in melted chocolate as icing.
Trust me; good quality chocolate has proven health benefits.
Blend together one egg, ½ cup of softened butter, ½ cup of sugar, 1 cup calendula petals and the zest and juice of one orange.
Add a dollop of boiling water if required to get a smooth consistency and heat gently until thick.
Pour over fresh fruit salad of choice and serve. This mix can be poured over hot spongy pudding as well.
ORANGE VODKA JELLY
Get inventive with calendula in your desserts as well.
Place the petals in orange jelly made with equal or not so equal parts of water and alcohol to your taste – for example a good nip of vodka placed in before the jelly sets; goes great with pineapple of course.
Measure equal parts of whipped cream and sour cream with 1tblsp of sugar and blend until firm. Fold in passion fruit pulp and calendula petals to pour over your jelly.
Infusions are the easiest way to use herbs and are made like an ordinary tea. Infusions are simple to make and can be very effective.
Making an infusion is an excellent way for you to participate in your own treatment. This is a concept we may have lost touch with because we tend to depend solely on our health care professional to manage our health.
Calendula as mentioned is a liver tonic. As well as other properties in this plant calendula should be considered where there is infection and inflammation in the digestive tract, being particularly beneficial in stomach and duodenal ulcers. Calendula aids gallbladder function as it has an antiseptic effect on the liver and gallbladder. Use for gastric ulceration, jaundice, hepatitis, indigestion, liver congestion, anorexia, constipation and mastitis.
An infusion may be taken hot or cold depending on the reasons for your use. Hot infusions are best taken where there are colds, flu and respiratory congestion. Cold infusions help cool heated situations. (To cool and refresh).
Standard infusions are made by pouring boiled water over the herb in a glass or china pot and leaving to infuse for 10 minutes. Drain out the herb and store the tea in a covered jug in a cool place. In the case of calendula being a light weight herb, 2 grams of dried herb would be required for a medicinal preparation. Please note that fresh herbs contain large amounts of water therefore I would suggest doubling the recommended dose.
Take a soft cotton or linen cloth and soak in a hot or cold herbal infusion.
For calendula a compress can be made for varicose veins, chilblains, athlete’s foot, conjunctivitis, cold sores, sunburn, periodontal disease (mouthwash), broken capillaries.
A poultice is similar to a compress but is made from the herbs rather than from an extract of herbs. Simmer 2gm of chopped herb, just covered in water, for 10 minutes, cool and put aside.
Scoop up and wrap the herb in gauze and place this on affected area. Remember to place a little oil over the area first as this will stop the herb from sticking. Replace the poultice with fresh moist extract as it dries.
“MY LITTLE POT OF GOLD”
Every home should have calendula ointment in the medicine cabinet for day to day first aid. Use for babies’ skin conditions and nappy rash, all wounds and inflamed lesions, boils, chilblains, fungal infection, bruises, eczema, acne, and the best lip balm ever.
N.B. Freshly dried calendula should be a very deep orange – anything paler will not be as strong; remember it only takes about 3 weeks to start to deteriorate.
To make an oil lotion or ointment, place freshly dried herb in a sterilised jar and cover with oil. I generally use olive oil; however other good quality oils can be used.
Seal and label jar with the name of the herb, the date you made it and count six weeks for the date that it will be ready to process.
Place in a sunny spot – this herb seems to soak up sun rays and just loves a sunny position. Generally I put it someplace where I will see it every day and remember to shake the bottle. It is important not to allow any of the plant material to get dry.
After six weeks your herb is ready to use as an oil lotion, or simply to make into ointment.
Drain oil into a pot squeezing excess through a sieve. Plant material may be added to your compost heap. Add beeswax (which may be bought from a chemist or from a local honey maker) to oil and place on very low heat to melt the beeswax. Pour into a sterilised jar and cool. Very simple.
I use about 2 parts oil to 1 part beeswax.
If your ointment is too hard, reheat and add a little more oil. If not hard enough, reheat and add a little more beeswax. In this medium your ointment will last for years. A great gift for friends and no product will ever be as good as your own handmade with love. I also add a little of my favourite essential oil for aromatherapy.
I use calendula cream for daily moisturising. You can experiment and come up with your very own combination for your skin or to suit your tastes.
Ingredients: Aqueous cream, calendula oil, herbal infusion (chamomile or comfrey root will be great here) and your choice of essential oils for fragrance.
Herbal infusion: bring water to boil, pour over herb and infuse for 10 minutes, as a general rule. However if you are using roots, leave to infuse longer – chamomile is ready in 5 minutes. You could also consider an infusion of oats or seaweed – about 1 tablespoon per cup, which gives a very smooth nutrient filled cream.
Aqueous cream can be purchased from any chemist – I have also seen it on supermarket shelves.
Blend together 3 parts aqueous cream, 1 part calendula oil, 2 parts herbal infusion and a few drops of essential oil. I find aqueous cream is a great base. It is very easy to blend and it is astounding how much liquid you can actually blend in; so you can make a heavier face cream or a lighter weight body lotion just by adding more infusion.
I find a pump bottle ideal for this cream, which will keep for several months.
More and more people these days use aqueous cream instead of soap due to eczema or other sensitive skin conditions. With the added nutrients in the above recipe you will benefit even more. I find the practice of using aqueous cream straight from the container a health hazard when you wash your hands after going to the toilet. I would rather use a pump bottle than dipping my hands into the pot over and over again.
Shopping around these days for organic and natural skin care can be a worry, as a product need only contain one organic component to be called organic. Price is no indication of the quality of the product you buy either. Packaging does not make the product better and the brand name does not make the product better. These may help to sell the product and influence the consumer into buying it. However making your own is not only cost effective but you are getting the exact product you want.
Be wary when buying hand and body creams especially the ones that are white in appearance, even though the label says it has calendula in it. Bleach can also be a component. When I queried a white cream that also boasted the medicinal properties of manuka honey and calendula, I was told it is a consumer preference to have a pure white cream. The consumer would rather not see colour as this is not as aesthetically pleasing and does not indicate purity unless it is pure white.
However I do have to wonder if that product still has any of the advertised medicinal benefits of manuka honey and calendula left.
For more information on Herbs, Herbal medicine and Calendula watch this sight!!! Book is available on request.