It’s easily harvested and extracted and looks beautiful whether the flowers are in a pot or steeping in a large glass jar. It can be made into a cream, oil, gel, compress, tincture or tea; used in a bath or facial steam; eaten in salads and stews; whipped into toothpastes or mixed into mouthwashes; and is gentle enough for babies and the elderly! What is this plant? It’s calendula/
Calendula is a plant that has been used for centuries for ornamental purposes, as well as culinary, cosmetic and medicinal reasons. Even if you’re not quite sure what it is, you probably are familiar with marigolds. This plant is in the same species as marigolds and often called by the alternative name pot marigold.
Calendula is one of the top herbs and can be taken orally, but more popularly it’s applied topically. This flower has become popular in many natural health products and skin care lines on the market today, used in almost 200 various lotions, shampoos and other products. It has also been known to help with a variety of health issues, is a powerful antioxidant and is among the strongest of antiviral herbs. In addition, it helps health issues ranging from skin inflammation to cramps to even fighting cancer.
What Is Calendula?
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is an herbaceous plant of the small genus Calendula, in the Asteraceae family. This flowering, annual plant grows naturally around western Europe, southeastern Asia and the Mediterranean.
It’s a common plant in home gardens throughout the world today and easily blooms and thrives wherever it’s planted, and it’s just as easily cultivated to be made into oil, tea and more. The orange-yellow petals of the flowers are used for medicine both externally and internally.
The bright yellow to deep orange flowers give off a slightly honey aroma and are edible, with a bit of spice and bitterness on the palate. The petals are often used in salads or as a dying additive to dishes. These petals contain high levels of antioxidants in the form of carotenoids and flavonoids.
Calendula contains both lutein and beta-carotene, which the body absorbs and converts into vitamin A. It also has fatty acids, with the two dominant fatty acids being calendic and linoleic acids. Additionally, the flower heads are rich in oxygenated oils like monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes.
This herb been used medicinally since at least the 12th century. It was originally called calendula by the Romans, who realized the plant bloomed on the first day of each month (calends). It was a symbol of happiness in Roman gardens and also provided a continuous supply of flowers and tender leaves — so it was used regularly for cooking and medicine.
The flowers are considered sacred in India, where they’re used to adorn statues of deities, as well as used in religious ceremonies in ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations. They’re also still used during processions on the Day of the Dead in Mexico.
The Germans used it in soups and stews, as well as a saffron substitute in hearty large pot dishes, thus the nickname “pot marigold.”
1. Possesses Anti-Inflammatory Capabilities
Calendula has been found to have strong anti-inflammatory properties via powerful flavonoids. These plant-based antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage and pro-inflammatory compounds like C-reactive protein and cytokines.
Anti-inflammatory linoleic acid is also found in high concentrations in calendula. Its powerful anti-inflammatory properties make it a potent remedy for all kinds of inflammatory, issues like diaper rash, dermatitis, ear infections, ulcers, sore throats and more. Ear drops containing calendula are sometimes used to treat ear infections in children as well.
2. Calms Muscle Spasms
Calendula can help prevent and relax muscle spasms. Data from one study conducted by the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at the Aga Khan University Medical College in Pakistan showed that the crude extract of its flowers relaxed spontaneous muscle contractions.
This research additionally provided a scientific base for this herb’s traditional use in abdominal cramps and constipation.
3. Heals Ulcers and Wounds
In studies done for slow-healing wounds and various exposed ulcers, it was found that using calendula-based gels and topical ointments helped speed up recovery rate and healing. In a study of non-healing venous leg ulcers, patients were treated with Calendula officinalis extract or a control. Patients with ulcers treated with calendula experienced a 4-fold increase in percentage healing velocity per week.
In another study, it was found that animals treated within an eight-day window using the treatment had a 90 percent closure of their wounds, as compared to only 51 percent of those who had not used the plant-based topical treatment.
Calendula is also used to improve skin firmness and hydration. Even more impressive, it helps increase blood flow and oxygen to wounds and infected areas, which helps the body grow new tissue and heal more rapidly. When taken as a tea, it can also be helpful for internal duodenal and gastric ulcer symptoms.
4. Contains Antimicrobial and Antiviral Components
The acids held within the oils of this plant have powerful antimicrobial and antiviral effects, especially when fortified with sunflower oil. The oils and acids within the plant have shown to be effective in fighting pathogens, as well as candida symptoms and even antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
One study notes that calendula exhibited antimicrobial activity against the adherence of microorganisms to sutures. Pharmacological studies reveal that calendula exhibits antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Improves Oral Health
Calendula has become a popular additive in toothpastes and mouthwashes over the past years due to its powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It helps reduce gum inflammation as well as fight against gingivitis, cavities, plaque and more. It’s also an astringent, which helps fight mouth bacteria and promote a healthy oral environment.
6. Fights Cancer
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, calendula can help fight against cancer and irritation due to cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Animal studies have shown that it not only fights carcinogenic activity within tumors, but it also activates the lymphocytes, which fight against foreign and infectious invaders.
A 2018 study showed promising results for calendula regarding its potential benefits in cancer management, notably in cancer prevention, treatment and in palliative care. Another 2018 study discussed calendula’s antitumor and antimetastatic effects shown in animal models, and that it needs further study for future cancer treatment strategies.
According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, calendula appears more effective than typically recommended topical agents at reducing and preventing the incidence of dermatitis caused by radiation used for breast cancer treatment.
How to Use
Calendula grows easily anywhere it’s planted, even in pots. In warmer climates, it blooms every month. Pick the flowers at the height of their bloom, in the heat of midday when all the dew has evaporated. The plant cultivates more flowers as soon as the flowers are picked, so harvest every three days or so without worrying about saving the flowering plant.
Pick the flowers only if you’re going to use the plant for medicinal purposes. You should spread the flowers out on a tea towel or paper to allow to fully dry, without washing them. Allow them to fully dry before storing them out of direct sunlight.
Calendula is used to color and flavor butters and broths, and has a woody, earthy, bitter and slightly sweet taste. You can use its fresh flowers as a tea infusion. For cooking, cosmetic and medicinal uses, you should typically used dried calendula. Once it’s dried, it can be used in recipes just like any other dried herb. It’s often used as a replacement for the more expensive saffron. You’ll also find it in many herbal tea blends.
This herb can be purchased as a dietary supplement, tincture, liquid extract, tea, infusion, ointment or cream. Topical products, including shampoos and lotions, usually use calendula extract, which can be made by extracting the oils from the dried flowers in steam distillation. These products should always be protected from light and moisture, and should not be used after three years of storage.
There’s no way to find or make 100 percent pure calendula extract. Calendula oil is extracted by making an oil from the flowers. Once it’s properly dried and placed in a high-grade carrier oil like extra-virgin olive oil or sunflower oil, it usually takes about a month for the calendula to thoroughly infuse into the carrier oil, producing a beautiful, richly colored final product.
DIY Calendula Oil
While there’s no such thing as 100 percent calendula oil, you can make a calendula-infused oil. Here’s an easy recipe that only takes a few minutes to put together, but then needs to sit for around four weeks to be effective.
- 8 ounces dried calendula flowers
- 16 ounces organic olive oil
- 1 glass pint jar
- Place the dried calendula flowers in a clean, dry glass jar.
- Pour enough olive oil into the jar to cover the flowers. Shake the jar and let it sit for an hour or so.
- When you check back, the oil should cover the calendula flowers by at least half an inch, or if the flowers are floating, there should be a half inch at the bottom with no flowers. Add more oil if needed.
- Stir well, cap the jar tightly and place it on your warmest, sunniest windowsill.
- Shake the jar once a day.
- After 3 to 6 weeks, strain the calendula flowers out of the oil using cheesecloth. (You’ll know your creation is ready when the oil starts to turn yellow and smells nutty. Four weeks is usually a safe bet.)
- Pour the infused calendula oil into smaller glass bottles (or leave in its current container) and store in a cool dark place.
Now you have a homemade calendula herbal oil to use whenever you like.
Because of its promotion of menstruation, it’s advised for pregnant women to avoid calendula teas as well as breast-feeding women and even those seeking to get pregnant, as it can potentially cause miscarriage due to the highly potent pro-menstruation effects.
Calendula can possibly interact negatively with sedatives due to its muscle-relaxing abilities, as well as diabetes and blood pressure medications.
Calendula holds a very powerful healing effect internally and externally. The bright, wonderful colors of the calendula flower come from the potent flavonoids that can protect and heal our bodies. It’s a great natural remedy that has very few side effects.
The powerful antioxidants within the little yellow flower hold the key to helping reduce and subside many inflammatory health issues. This wonderful, gentle herb can be mixed into many homeopathic and natural products, ranging from teas to creams.