Calendula oil is distilled from the petals of the pot marigold (Calendula Officinalis), a species of flower native to southern Europe, but which grows well further north in even the poorest of soils. It grows to a height of 60cm (2 ft), has light green leaves, and daisy-like flowers which vary in colour from bright orange to yellow, and can bloom from May until the first frosts. The Latin name is derived from the fact that it blooms on the calends, or the first, of most months. The name marigold is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon merso-meargealla, or marsh marigold. The flower was also later associated with the Virgin Mary and then with Queen Mary in the seventeenth century.There is a considerable amount of folklore pertaining to calendula: if cut when the sun is at its highest calendula flowers are said to act as a heart tonic and fortifier. Old French sources claim that by merely looking at the flowers for a few minutes each day, this will strengthen weak eyes. Garlands of calendula were once attached to door handles to keep evil, particularly contagion, out of the house.The therapeutic values of the flowers in treating skin problems have long been known. Marigold poultices were used to heal and obliterate the scars of smallpox, for instance. Marigold skin remedies are very highly regarded in today’s homeopathy and herbal or holistic medicine.CALENDULA/MARIGOLD ESSENTIAL OILThis is distilled from the flower tops, and it is quite sticky, and viscous. It smells very strange – musky, woody, rotten even, rather like the flowers themselves. This smell does not appeal to many people, even when it is used in a remedy.The principal constituents: Flavinoids, saponosene, triterpenic alcohol and a bitter principle.USESThe properties attributed to calendula oil are tonic, sudorific, emmevnagogic and antispasmodic, but it is mainly used dermatologically.It is useful for very sensitive skin, and to help heal the scars of those who have had very bad acne.It is very calming, even in the smallest proportions, mixed with other oils.Use if for burns, mixing a little into a calming lotion. Very little oil is needed in any preparation.Dried marigold infusions make good toners, and calms itchy eyes of the hay fever.A tisane could help PMT.Some oil in a parsley compress is good for broken capillaries.A drop of calendula oil in a bath is good for psoriasis.In cookeryMarigold petals have been used as the poor man’s saffron to color cheeses, butters and dishes since the Middle Ages.The Elizabethans would use both petals and leaves in salads (although the latter are very strong).The petals flavour soups and stews, and they can be crystallized.Other usesMarigold has long been used as a dye, and the dried petals can be included in pot-pourris.