Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a flowering plant native to the temperate climates of southern Europe and northern Africa. Other names for calendula include Pot Marigold, Golden Marigold and Gold Bloom. Its bright yellow-orange flowers, as well as some of its common names, sometimes cause it to be confused with the common garden marigold, which is an entirely different plant and belongs to the Tagetes genus.
Use of calendula as a medicinal herb dates back thousands of years. Its therapeutic properties were known in ancient Egypt and Rome, and it was commonly used in Europe in the Middle Ages. During the Civil War and World War I, calendula was used to prevent infection and soothe inflammation of battle wounds. Today it is widely recognized as a powerful healing plant.
Properties and Therapeutic Uses of Calendula
Topically, calendula is valuable as a treatment for a wide range of skin conditions. It promotes wound healing and skin regeneration, it has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties, and its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activity helps to fight infections. It is an excellent remedy for treating abrasions, cuts, burns, bruises, rashes and insect bites, as well as skin ulcers, eczema and acne. Since calendula is very mild and gentle to the skin, it is frequently an ingredient in salves for diaper rash.
Research has shown that calendula is beneficial for treatment of pain and dermatitis due to radiation therapy in breast cancer patients, and it may protect skin against sun damage. Calendula infused oil helps to relieve earaches due to middle ear infections.
Internally, calendula is beneficial for a variety of different conditions. Its anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties make it useful for the treatment of duodenal and gastric ulcers. As a cholegogue (an agent that promotes the secretion of bile), calendula is used to treat gall bladder problems and relieve symptoms of indigestion.
Other health benefits of calendula include relief of menstrual cramps and irregular menstruation. Calendula tea can be used as a mouthwash or gargle for sore throat.
For internal use, make calendula tea by infusing 1-2 teaspoons of dried petals in a cup of boiling water. It can also be taken as a tincture. Calendula contains high amounts of flavonoids, compounds with antioxidant activity. Adding fresh or dried calendula petals to soup stocks or broths will give them an anti-oxidant boost.
For external use, calendula can be made into ointments or salves. The flowers can be made into a poultice and applied directly to the affected area, or a compress can be made by dipping a cloth into cooled calendula tea and applying it to the skin.
Cautions and Contraindications
Calendula is considered safe, but may cause an allergic reaction in some people who are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family, such as ragweed. It should be avoided if pregnant or nursing.
Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, 2003.
Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2000.