Calendula officinalis – Calendula, Marigold, Pot Marigold, “calends” (Latin)
Sunshine as the face of a flower, that’s Calendula. Till the clouds come out. Then she folds her petals, protecting like a collar turned up on a windy day.
Calendula is a sturdy plant, self-supporting and boldly resinous. Folks have used the petals as food for centuries, bringing cheer to their chowders and smiles to their salads. Radiant and bright, Calendula makes for good medicine too, inside and out. Herbalists use both the petals and the whole flower head when preparing their remedies. It has been historically used to promote cheer and diffuse melancholy, lifting one’s spirits and mending sharp tongues with its energetic balm. At The Wild & Weedy Apothecary we use the petals to make Calendula Creme and Marigold Lip Balm, and this year we will be adding the tincture to our repertory using the whole flower. Calendula flower essence is said to be the elixir of those who work with words.
Externally, Calendula is specific for the treatment of wounds and skin irritations. As a wash or compress using an infusion or diluted tincture, calendula is applied to prevent sepsis and to heal many types of suppurating wounds, stimulating white blood cell response to invading microbes.
Calendula promotes granulation – the formation of healthy connective and vascular tissue – and is recognized by Germany’s Commission E for reducing inflammation and to promote the healing of wounds. (“The commission gives scientific expertise for the approval of substances and products previously used in traditional, folk and herbal medicine,” from Wikipedia.) Tieraona Low Dog, M.D. noted in HEALTHY AT HOME, “Human studies have shown that Calendula extracts help prevent radiation dermatitis in women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.” Anti-inflammatory properties are noted in all of the sources I consulted, and I have also observed this through anecdotal observation.
Eczema and acne; sunburn and other minor burns (the petals were also once used to color winter butter, thus the common practice of putting butter on a burn); herpes and cold sores; insect stings and bites, even varicose veins all benefit from using Calendula as a cooling wash or soothing salve.
A mouthwash is used to treat fungal infections such as thrush; calendula “tea” can be used as a vaginal douche for yeast infections; and the balm is applied to sore nipples from nursing. (Diet should also be considered for any yeast-overgrowth condition.) Linda White and Sunny Mavor, in KIDS, HERBS & HEALTH, recommend keeping Calendula cream and tincture handy in “The Pediatric Herbal” for use on diaper rash, cradle cap and the above-mentioned thrush. Indeed, it is used in many commercially-made lotions and creams for babies and children. It is also safe in veterinary practice. In DENTAL HERBALISM, Leslie Alexander and Linda Straub-Bruce also recommend using a few drops of the tincture on your toothbrush for sore gums (being both bacteriostatic as well as anti-inflammatory).
Vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial… Calendula has a lot to recommend it for external use.
What about internal use?
Calendula has shown anti-viral activity in vitro, and anti-tumor activity has also been observed. It supports healthy lymphatic tissue. For lymph congestion, especially in the armpits, chest and groin area, and for swollen glands of the throat, calendula tincture is suggested at a dose of 20-50 drops 4x day. It has been used for “sluggish liver” and to heal digestive issues such as inflamed stomach lining and duodenal ulcers (from the bacteria Helicobacter pylori). The tincture is also used to stimulate bile.
Do not use internally during pregnancy as its mildly estrogenic action relieves menstrual pain from muscle spasm.
Open in the morning and closed at night, Calendula offers a bright light to our dark places, calming and soothing where we need it most.