Botanical: Calendula officinalis
part used: entire flowering head. It is important to use the entire flower and not just the petals, for it is underneath the flower base that contains much of the aromatic and resinous properties of the plant which are responsible for it’s medicinal actions. The petals themselves are relatively mild and sweet, but the entire flower is distinctly much more medicinal. Some practitioners also use the leaves, which are said to contain a degree of iodine.
energetics: warming, drying
actions: anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-spasmodic, astringent, demulcent, emmenogogue, hemostatic, heptatic, inflammatory/immune modulating, lymphatic, vulnerary
used for: numerous skin issues from chicken pox to eczema to skin wounds, conjunctivitis, mastitis, lymph stagnation, delayed menses, radiation protection
plant preparations: food, infusion, poultice, tincture, vinegar, salve
common names: pot marigold, Bull’s Eye, Holligold, Gold Bloom
History and Ethnobotany of Calendula
The name calendula comes from the Latin word kalendae, meaning “the first” because it tends to bloom in accordance with the calendar: either at the first of summer months or during the new moon. The latter eventually led it to be a symbol of the Roman calendar, noting the beginning of each lunar phase. In medieval England, the later name marigold came from “Mary’s Gold,” after the belief that the Virgin Mary wore the blossoms for ornament.
Calendula is also called marigold leading to confusion with members of the genus Tagetes which go by the same common name. Why use scientific names? It stops the confusion by positively identifying a plant.
The common garden flower, marigold is in the same family as calendula (Asteraceae or sunflower family) but they are not medicinally interchangeable.
In the garden, calendula repels insects.
Calendula is related to burdock and chamomile, herbs that are also used for their skin soothing properties. You could say that healing skin is “in the family”. It is also called “pot marigold” although it is no relation to the french marigold seen in so many annual gardens. Calendula’s chemical composition include compounds that reduce inflammation and combat infection from bacterial, fungal, and viral sources. In addition, compounds in calendula actually help the skin knit itself back together after a tear has occurred.
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center reports that recent findings show calendula ointments are more useful than traditional topical applications for the skin irritation and discomfort of radiation treatments. Most of the Calendula creams on the market contain very little (if any) actual calendula and could be called “calendula” in name only. For this reason, it is best to buy calendula or its tincture, salve or lotion from a reputable grower.
Culinary Uses for Calendula
It is an “edible petal”. You can toss them into soups or salads. The tangy taste soups up a bland dish of rice!
Its flowers have been used to give cheese a yellow color.
Cosmetic Uses for Calendula
This herb is an emollient and can help to moisturize dry skin. It also contains carotenoids which nourish the skin.
An interesting benefit of calendula flowers: it is very beneficial in getting rid of an oily complexion naturally. Make an infusion of fresh calendula flowers and apply to the skin at least once a day and allow to remain for 10 minutes before washing it off.
Using Calendula for Wellness
The most popular medicinal use is in treating irritated membrane conditions. During the Civil War, doctors used the leaves to treat open wounds on the battlefield. The flower is among the most soothing of herbs for salves. For soothing children’s skin, herbalist Aviva Romm, author of Natural Healing for Babies and Children, uses it along with chickweed leaf, plantain leaf, comfrey leaf, and chamomile flower. One study of calendula for wounds showed that it noticeably stimulates physiological regeneration and skin healing.
Calendula oil has been used for aiding in the healing and discomfort of ear aches. Place 2 to 3 drops in the ear and place a heated rice bag or hot water bottle over it. (Not for ruptured ear drums and if symptoms get worse, check with your doctor.) 
For ear mites in pets, place a few drops in their ear. Gently massage the area to work it in a bit, if they’ll let you. 
This herb has antiseptic, antibacterial and antiviral properties, making it useful for salves and balms, for cuts, wounds, bruises, blisters, and mild burns. Diaper rash and insect bites will benefit from using this helpful herb.
From abrasions to athlete’s foot, calendula salve dabbed on injured skin will hurt less and heal faster.
Diluted tincture applied topically heals venous leg ulcers 4 times faster than placebo.
For medicinal preparation use the whole dried flower heads. The oils are found mostly in the green bases of the flower heads. Also, be sure that the flowers are bright yellows and oranges which is another indication of quality and freshness. Sometimes you will find the flower sold as petals only, but this will make weak medicine.
tea: 3-6 grams 3x/day in tea
tincture: 1.5-3 mL of a 1:5 tincture 3x/day
- Calendula is regarded as safe. However, persons with allergies to other members of the Asteraceae family (such as feverfew, chamomile, or Echinacea species) should exercise caution, as allergic cross-reactivity to Asteraceae plants is common.
- According to the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine: “Do not use calendula internally during pregnancy since it has traditionally been used to bring on menses. As calendula is in the aster family, it may cause a reaction for people who are highly sensitive to plants like ragweed (Ambrosia spp.) and chamomile (Matricaria recutita); this possibility is rare, but sensitive individuals should proceed with caution when using calendula for the first time. Rare incidences of allergic contact dermatitis have occurred with the topical use of calendula.”
“The Marigold which goes to bed with the sun, And with him rises, weeping.”
– Shakespeare, “The Winter’s Tale”
- Klouchek-Popova E, Popov A, Pavlova N, Krŭsteva S. Influence of the physiological regeneration and epithelialization using fractions isolated from Calendula officinalis. Acta Physiol Pharmacol Bulg. 1982;8(4):63-7. PMID: 7185264.
- Klouchek-Popova E, Popov A, Pavlova N, Krusteva S. Influence of the physiological regeneration and epithelialization using fractions isolated from Calendula officinalis. Acta Physiol Pharmacol Bulg 1982;8(4):63-7 Therapeutic effectiveness of a Calendula officinalis extract in venous leg ulcer healing.
- Calendula Oil & Salve