Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Common name: Marigold
Photo © Steven Foster
History and Traditional Use
Historically calendula flower was known as "poor man's saffron" and was used as a color and flavoring agent in foods.2 Folk medicine healers in Europe prepared infusions, extracts, and ointments with the petals to induce menses, produce sweat during fevers, and to cure jaundice. Currently and historically calendula has been used externally to speed the healing of burns, bruises, and wounds.2 Traditionally the flower was also used as an antiseptic, to staunch bleeding, and internally for stomach ailments and gastric and duodenal ulcers.3
Modern Medicinal Use
The German Commission E has approved calendula flower for both internal and topical use in treating inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.2 It is also approved externally for the healing of wounds; herbal infusions, tinctures, and ointments are used for skin and mucous membrane inflammations, such as pharyngitis, leg ulcers, bruises, boils, and rashes.2 Antiviral and immunostimulating effects of calendula have also been reported. It has antispasmodic, anti-hemorrhagic, emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual flow), wound healing, styptic (stops bleeding through astringent action) and antiseptic properties.4 An herbal ear drop product including calendula, mullein, St. John's wort, and garlic in an olive oil base, has been shown to be as effective as a standard anesthetic ear drop in reducing ear pain caused by middle ear infection in children.5 Calendula has been shown to be effective for the prevention of acute dermatitis, especially during radiation therapy for breast cancer.6
Modern Consumer Use
Calendula flower is included in many skin care products such as face, body, and hand creams, night creams, ointments, and shampoos.3 Its carotenoid pigments are used as coloring agents in cosmetics, while the volatile oil is used as an ingredient in perfumes.7 The flowers are also used in teas; and the petals are sometimes added to salads2 or consumed as a seasoning.8
1 Bown D. The Herb Society of America's New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2001.
2 Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, editors. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
3 Leung AY., Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley-Interscience; 1996.
4 Barnes J, Anderson LA, and Phillipson DJ. Herbal Medicines: a Guide for Healthcare Professionals. 2nd ed. Chicago: Pharmaceutical Press; 2002.
5 Brown DJ. Herbal ear drops effectively treat ear pain associated with acute otitis media. HerbalGram 2002;No. 54:23-24.
6 Pommier P, Gomez F, Sunyach MP, D'Hombres A, Carrie C, and Montbarbon X. Phase III randomized trial of Calendula officinalis compared with trolamine for the prevention of acute dermatitis during irradiation for breast cancer. J Clin Oncol 2004; 22(8):1447-53.
7 Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. 4nd ed. New York: Haworth Herbal Press; 2000.
8 DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA. The Review of Natural Products: The Most Complete Source of Natural Product Information. 3nd ed. St Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons; 2002.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.