Calendula blossoms are like small suns. Especially as they open up in water, their petals extend outwards from the center and uncurl into yellow rays. Likewise, in the depths of winter, calendula flowers are a saving grace with their cheerful faces, with their medicine steeped in hot cups of tea.
Recently I experienced a long-lasting cold that I could not seem to shake. I don’t get sick often, but when I do it tends to be significant – a signal from my body to ease up and simply rest. In these instances I try to curb my activities and slow down. I take elderberry and rosehip tea, drink bone broths and chicken soup, take hot showers, breathe in essential oils, sleep a lot. But this time, calendula spoke to me, quietly and persistently…. So I rummaged through my herb cabinet to locate some summer-dried flower heads and steeped them for a long while in a pot of water on my stove. I drank this dark-hued tea, feeling as if it were liquid sunshine, a brew so strong it was almost bitter. My body seemed happy for it, and indeed my mood, after a few melancholic days, lifted.
Calendula is known as a lymphatic herb, one that helps the lymph from getting stuck or stagnant. This is a useful thing during a long winter, when a bit of sunshine and movement are much needed. Calendula mixes nicely with other herbs, but I would recommend trying it on its own first. Or, you can add some of the flower heads to pots of soup or broth as it simmers along – a traditional way to avoid cold and flu during the winter months.
Calendula is a very prolific grower and blossoms almost continuously through the growing year, one of the reasons for its name, which comes from the fact that in many locales it flowers almost every calendar month. Save the dried seeds in the fall to sow the following spring. In the summertime, harvest newly-opened and vibrant flower heads and notice the sticky resin covering the calyx, where much of its medicinal goodness resides. Dry these flowers on a screen or on brown paper bags for a few days until completely dry, then store in a glass jar out of the sunlight to use throughout the autumn and winter months. It’s like bottling up the energy of the summer sun to use during darker days.