Introducing The Grow A Row Project
In my early twenties I volunteered for a domestic violence hotline. This experience greatly expanded my understanding of domestic violence, sexism, and misogyny. In my first book, The Woman¹s Handbook of Herbal Healing Herbs, I included herbal formulas for supporting a woman who is healing from an abusive experience or who has abuse memories resurfacing. Herbs and flowers work well alongside other healing modalities in supporting a woman’s journey to wholeness. Violence against women is prevalent worldwide. When I first learned about Eve Ensler’s work in the Congo Region (www.vday.org) to assist women who have been raped and violated, I wept and said to myself “How can I be of help?” The answer was to grow a row of calendula.
Calendula is a remarkable herb for healing wounds and traumatized tissue and for filling the body and spirit with vitality and light. Used as an oil or salve, it heals all kinds of wounds, soothes and heals inflamed or infected vaginal tissue, and lessens scarring. Calendula oil is useful as a breast massage oil as it helps to improve lymphatic circulation and soothes sore and cracked nipples. As a tea, it offers much benefit to the liver and lymphatic system and its color is uplifting to one’s spirit.
The Grow a Row project is a grassroots initiative. Anyone who has a small or large organic garden can grow a row of calendula, collect the flowers regularly, and dry them on non-metal screens for 8-10 days in a warm room with a fan (improves air circulation). Be sure the flowers are fully dried before taking off the screen. Store the dried flowers in a glass jar in the cupboard with a label.
How To Prepare Calendula Oil
Once you have a pint or quart jar of dried flowers you can make calendula oil using your dried flowers and organic olive oil. Place the dried flowers in a blender and completely cover with organic olive oil and blend. Place the blended oil and dried flowers in a sterilized glass pint or quart jar with a lid in a sunny window or in a gas oven with a pilot light (80F) for 2 weeks. Warmth is needed to infuse the medicinal qualities of the flowers into the oil. After 2 weeks the oil should be a golden amber color. Strain the flowers through unbleached cheesecloth and bottle into 1 or 2 oz bottles and label.
How To Prepare Calendula Salve
To make 8 ounces of salve. You can make larger or smaller amounts of salve depending on how much oil you have.
Place 1 cup (8 ounces) of calendula oil into a glass or enamel pot.
Add 2 ounces of good quality beeswax into the oil and slowly warm on the stove, stirring occasionally. Beeswax melts at 140 F. Stay close to your pot as the oil and beeswax will smoke if the temperature gets too hot.
Once the oil and beeswax are liquefied together, pour the warm oil into small containers and watch the salve solidify before your eyes as the
mixture cools. Once cool seal the container and be sure to label and date it. Salves and oils that are stored in a cool, dark place will last one to
one and a half years.
Give Away Calendula Oil and Salves to Women and Children
Contact your local or county organization that serves women and children who have experienced domestic violence or who are homeless. Tell a staff person about the Grow a Row project and your wish to donate your homemade calendula oil or salve. This exchange builds community among people and plants.
My hope is that this grassroots initiative will encourage women and men to grow and dry calendula, and will create more dialogue, community support, and understanding of the root causes of violence and oppression within families, schools, the health care system and government agencies. Planting seeds and sharing herbal remedies is a way to bring about positive change.