Latin: Calendula officinalis
Common names: pot marigold, Mary’s Gold, death flower, butterwort, cowbloom, water dragon, Scotch marigold, summer’s bride
Energetics: slightly warming, neutral (drying or moistening depending on the situation)
Properties: antiseptic, anti inflammatory, astringent, lymphatic
Taste: bitter, salty, slightly pungent
Degree: 2nd, 3rd
Tissue state: depression
Key uses: Internally: a lymphatic stimulator (drains internal lymph), soothing to digestive mucosa and other mucous membranes, soothing to the genitourinary tract. Topically: as an antiseptic and anti inflammatory vulnerary.
History and folklore: European peasants used it as a potherb to hardy their immune systems against winter sickness (hence the name, “pot marigold”). The petals are a colorful addition to summer salads, and were used to color butter, cheeses, and also as a fabric dye. A 14th century medical manuscript credits these “golde” flowers with the ability to draw out evil humors. In traditional Greek medicine, it was used as a diaphoretic, moving heat to the periphery and venting it through the pores. The name “Mary’s Gold” comes from the early use of the flower in Catholic liturgy. The Hindus also reserved calendula flowers for the decoration of the altars of their deities. Ancient Aztecs and Mayans had ritual uses for the flower, and it can still be found today on altars honoring deceased loved ones on Dia de los Muertos. During wartimes, it was used on battlefields in open wounds to staunch bleeding and promote wound healing. Calendula is native to the Mediterranean (where it can be collected “throughout the calends of the year”), but is now cultivated worldwide.
Clinical uses: Calendula is one of the most popular vulnerary herbs known for its affinity for healing many types of skin inflammation, especially where there is trapped heat. This makes it a useful herb for all types of skin inflammation due to trauma, infection, burns, sores, rashes “where the sun don’t shine” (intertrigo, diaper rash, bed sores, leg ulcers), dermatitis, surgical wounds, lacerations, dry & cracked skin, stings, bites, sunburn, and radiation burns from cancer treatments. Think of calendula as a peacemaker for angry skin! Internally, it has been used to clear lymphedema, swollen glands, heal oral lesions, or gastric ulcers, and as a gentle stimulant for menstrual flow. Julia Graves says calendula tea is used as an emmenagogue because it stimulates “upana vayu”, the downward wind that is the life force in the pelvis.
In this 2009 in vivo study, a homeopathic dilution of extract of C. officinalis was shown to promote cell proliferation in the cutaneous wounds of rats, significantly reducing healing times by up to 4 days.
Calendula has been shown to be effective in preventing radiation burns in breast cancer patients (radiodermatitis). This 2004 study reports calendula to be significantly more effective than trolamine (the standard preventative in many institutions) in preventing radiation burns.
A 1997 in vitro study demonstrated that an organic extract of C. officinalis was shown to significantly inhibit HIV virus.
31 patients with leg ulcers of varying severity participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study and saw improved healing times using a topical lotion containing calendula and hypericum, as well as a homeopathic preparation of calendula and hypericum taken orally.
Because of its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, calendula in toothpaste has proven to be soothing to the oral mucosa. Used over the course of 28 days, it was effective in reducing signs of gingivitis and plaque, as compared to a group using a placebo toothpaste.
Chemical constituents: flavonoids (isoquercitrin, rutin), polysaccharides (immune stimulants), bitters (triterpene glycosides), resins, volatile oils, and minerals (including iodine), carotenoids, coumarines, lactones (calendins), saponins.
Dosages: Topically, calendula is extracted in oils for uses in salves and lotions. For use on wounds, an herbal succus can also be made of the flowers or a dilution of the tincture (2 droppersful in one cup water). Recommended internal dosages of the tincture vary, but calendula is regarded as generally safe at the therapeutic dosing of 30-60 drops, 3-5 times daily for adults.
Warnings and contraindications: Generally regarded as safe for external use. Signs of overdose internally are uncommon, but include upset stomach and nausea.
Calendula infused oil
- Harvest the flower heads every day as they bloom and place on a drying screen
- Once flowers are dry, place them in a mason jar
- Cover with organic olive, grape seed, or apricot seed oil
- Let macerate 4-6 weeks, shaking and turning the jar each day
- OR place lidded jar in crock pot of water on LOW for a few hours-overnight
- Strain and return the marc to the earth
- Use the infused oil as is or add beeswax to make a simple salve