10 Edible, Herbal and Medicinal Flowers

From calendulas to sunflowers, find out how these edible and medicinal flowers can aid in your everyday life.

| February/March 2006

Echinacea Flower

Grow beautiful echinacea — often called purple coneflower — and tap its immune-boosting power in homemade tinctures.


We value beauty for its own sake, yet many colorful flowers have much to offer beyond their good looks. Some can be used medicinally, others are good to eat, and many provide food and habitat for beneficial insects. Some flowers are threatened by habitat destruction just like birds and other wild things, so growing flowers is simply a good idea. Give multipurpose flowers a bit of space in your garden and prepare to be amazed at what medicinal flowers can do for your health, your palate and your spirits.

Medicinal Flowers: Amazing Annuals

Annuals are flowers that grow from seed to bloom and produce seed in the course of one growing season. Annuals often bloom for a longer period of time than winter-hardy perennials and will do well in new soil that has been dug and amended with organic matter. You can sow the seeds of these plants directly in the garden.

If you’re a new gardener unsure of which little green things are weeds and which plants are flowers, you also can sow some seeds indoors in a small container and use the seedlings as visual guides. These annuals, as well as the perennials discussed later, bloom best if they receive at least six hours of sun each day. See “Woodland Wonders” later in this article, if your planting plans are limited by shade.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Whether you prefer your calendulas orange, yellow or somewhere in between, all are easy to grow in cool weather and bloom for weeks or months if you remove seed heads before they mature. Many cooks snip a few calendula petals into eggs or rice as "poor man’s saffron," and chickens fed calendula flowers lay eggs with darker yellow yolks. Calendulas make great cut flowers, but their greatest use may be as topical oils or creams for burned or injured skin. In a recent study of 254 breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, calendula ointment proved superior to the most widely used prescription product for preventing radiation burns. These latest findings are among a growing number of studies that validate calendula’s ability to help heal injured skin.

Want to make your own calendula first-aid oil? Molly Bunton of Molly’s Herbals in Mooresburg, Tenn., suggests drying the blossoms first, then combining them with olive or almond oil in a blender (2 ounces dried blossoms per 1 cup oil). Put the lumpy mixture in clean jars and keep them on a hot, sunny windowsill for two to three weeks, shaking them daily. Pour the infused mixture into a cloth bag and squeeze out the oil. Let the oil settle for a few days before straining it through good-quality paper towels. Bunton suggests keeping it from going rancid by squeezing the contents of one natural vitamin E capsule into every 4 ounces of the oil.

8/7/2017 1:32:05 PM

I always feel like a novice since there is so much more to learn about herbs. I love it but I've also used calendulas with rosemary and bee balm in creams for healing burns and such.

5/15/2014 4:10:14 PM

There really useful plants such as calendula. I've read before; http://www.keyifvakti.com/kalendula-yagi-ne-ise-yarar-faydalari/ oil extracted from these plants are becoming very useful. has the characteristics of each of them individually, if you want to be fat if you want to drink the tea as a dem. Really useful information, thank you.

4/4/2014 7:25:38 AM

Today, after reading this blog I learn new things about flowers. Till today I know flowers are used for decoration or for gifting, but now I knowing flowers medical uses. Mackhorist http://www.moysesflowers.co.uk/luxury-bouquet/

dawn pfahl
2/2/2010 7:00:40 PM

What a great list of flower choices! I'm adding lavender to my list of container herbs this year. :) Martha: I too am limited in space. Since you do have some light, have you thought about hanging baskets or shelves under the skylight? Glass shelves would allow light to penetrate so you could use more planters on them, or you could install fluorescent bulbs along the underside of each shelf as grow lights. Herbs can be grown in the kitchen the same way with a cupboard-mounted light. Wall-mounted planters can be used indoors (just test for leaks first so you don't ruin the walls when you water the plants!), and again you can mount lights above them if you're not getting enough from windows. Instead of lamenting the lack of space; think: "How can I get a plant to grow there?" The internet and the library are your friends - search "urban gardening". ;)

2/1/2010 10:30:29 PM

Good day! A friend of mine and myself enjoy tremendously most of your issues -since we live in a city and we do not have garden space much less more room to apply many of your wonderful ideas more suitable for farming or more suburban homes- anyway could you do some articles for those of us who like to live green -as much as possible within our possibilities- and rrreally love to do container gardening, but do not have even a small terrace to do it? I have a small space within my 2nd floor apt that receives some light (it has a dome in the ceiling allowing the light to come through and a lot of humidity since it is right outside the bathroom. Thank you. And congratulations, keep up the good work. sincerely Martha M

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