Calendula Herbal Profile (Calendula officinalis)
Common Names: Pot Marigold (not to be confused with common marigold)
Plant parts: Flowers, Leaves
Cultivation: Can be grown from seed and hardy for most climates. Prefers full sun. Plant in well drained soil and water moderately.
Harvest: Harvest flowers and petals after dew has dried. Lay out to dry in a well ventilated place, out of direct sunlight.
Stimulant, diaphoretic, vulnerary, antispasmodic, alterative
Gum infections, mouth ulcers, digestive system ulcers and inflammation, perineal tears, hemorrhoids, muscle spasms, menstrual cramps.
Calendula, the Powerfully Medicinal Flower Next Door
You know this darling yellow-orange flower from neighborhood gardens (possibly your own) and flower arrangements. It is familiar and quaint, but it is also part of the larger genus of marigolds, a group boasting medicinal properties that have been relied on by healing traditions for ages. Although it is adorable, and would make a great addition to a tea party bouquet, it offers more than good looks. This potent herb, that is mild enough for a wide variety of applications, has long been used to benefit the skin and remedy internal issues. Calendula is an important member of the herbal pharmacopeia that is worth getting to know.
Calendula describes a variety of marigolds of the family Asteraceae that produce similar golden flowers. The medicinal plant, and the calendula typically found in lotions and tinctures, is called Calendula officinalis, commonly known as pot marigold, which differs from the more common gardener’s marigold. Native to Europe, today it is found in the Mediterranean, Western Asia and in the Americas. Despite its delicate appearance, it is a hardy plant that grows well in diverse environments. It blossoms in the warm months, from spring until the first frost. The flower is known to bloom each month, which presumably gave it its name, ‘calends.’ Its blossoms open and close in correlation with the rising and setting of the sun.
It has a long tradition (likely since the 12th century or earlier) of culinary and medicinal uses. It has been used over the centuries as an ingredient in salads and stews, to enhance the yellow color of cheese and butter, as a common dye, and as a saffron substitute. It has been known as an uplifting herb, and there is even historical reference to calendula being used to “comfort the heart and spirits.” (Source)
Calendula is packed with flavonoids, antioxidants found in plants, which give it its medicinal qualities. The plant’s petals and leaves are most commonly used, in their dried form. They should be harvested in the afternoon or full sunlight after dew has dried. This herb can be taken internally but is most commonly used in topical applications. Calendula is safe enough for children yet potent enough to treat stubborn issues in adults.
Actions and Properties
Stimulant, diaphoretic, vulnerary, antispasmodic, alterative. In the Ayurvedic system it is considered cooling, bitter and pungent. In Chinese medicine, it is thought to be neutral and drying (Source).
Calendula blossoms can be used to make a soothing oil to be applied directly to the skin or to add to a salve, balm, ointment, or lotion. It can be taken internally as a tea, tincture, extract or homeopathic remedy. It can also be used as a wash or compress. Many sources suggest limiting the consumption of calendula tea to a period of 2 weeks followed by a break of several weeks before resuming.
Calendula’s most common use is as a topical application for skin care. It improves circulation to the skin and expedites wound healing. It effectively treats cuts, bruises and burns, including sunburns, as well as diaper rash. It relieves varicose veins and hemorrhoids, and it calms the itch of bug bites. It has been shown to reduce skin inflammation resulting from radiation treatment for cancer. Calendula is commonly found in face creams and body moisturizers as it boosts the skin’s elasticity and hydration.
To benefit the skin, whether to help maintain youthful-looking skin or to treat an ailment, a lotion or oil can be applied generously and often. One of calendula’s unique characteristics is that it is both a fast-acting, powerful medicine, yet its balanced quality makes it safe for frequent and generous use. Many sources discourage direct application to an open wound.
In addition to nourishing the skin, calendula can be taken internally to improve digestion. It reduces inflammation in the digestive system, ameliorates food allergies, and helps stomach ulcers to heal. It can also be used as an eyewash to treat conjunctivitis or in ear drops to treat ear infections. It has anti-spasmodic properties, thus helps prevent muscles spasms and relieves menstrual cramps. It can be added to a mouthwash or toothpaste to benefit oral tissues and soothe sore throats. (Source).
Calendula is likely unsafe in the case of pregnancy as it may cause miscarriage. Those with an allergy to members of the daisy or Aster family (including chrysanthemum and ragweed) should avoid Calendula. Many sources suggest limiting the consumption of calendula tea to a period of 2 weeks followed by a break of several weeks before resuming. It should not be taken in combination with medications for high blood pressure or diabetes nor with sedatives as it may cause drowsiness (Source1, Source2).
Herbal medicine is a powerful tradition that has been practiced over the centuries with expert guidance. Please respect its strengths and practice caution. Consult a qualified health care practitioner before starting an herbal regimen, and always start by consuming or applying a small amount before administering a full dose.