By: Mary Ellen Ellis
Native to the Mediterranean, calendula is a plant that has been used medicinally for centuries. It’s a pretty plant to grow in the garden, but there are also a lot of calendula uses that you could try. Make your garden work for you with these tips for what to do with calendula.
Also known as pot marigold, calendula is a pretty, bright flower that adds cheer to garden beds. But did you know that this is also a medicinal plant? You should always talk to your doctor before trying any kind of herbal or supplement, but if calendula is safe for you, there are some medicinal purposes it may serve:
Using calendula flowers medicinally usually involves preparing topical applications. Most remedies use dried flowers, so harvest your calendula flowers and give them time to dry. Some of the things you can do with those dried flowers to promote skin health include:
You can also use the dried flowers of calendula to make a simple tea that reduces inflammation and promotes healing from infections and sore throat. Just steep about a quarter cup of dried petals in a cup of boiling water and strain to enjoy.
While calendula has many potential benefits, it’s important to never use a new herbal plant or product without first checking with your doctor to be sure it is safe. Calendula is safe for most people, but it should not be used by pregnant women or anyone allergic to plants in the aster or daisy family. There may be some interactions between this herb and specific medications.
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Craig is a self-sufficiency gardener who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. He has six vegetable gardens, a 7-meter glass house, and 35-tree orchard that provide food for his family. All spray-free. He is a prepper who likes strange plants and experiment with heritage plants to save seeds.
I’m obsessed with growing plants that I can use to brew healthy and delicious teas. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) fits the bill and more. If you haven’t discovered the magic of growing this pretty herb, it’s time you got acquainted.
Not only can you make a tasty tea with it, calendula, sometimes referred to as pot marigold, is useful in the kitchen. In the past, it was used for coloring in butter and cheese. These days, I use it fresh in summer salads and dried in winter stews as a substitute for saffron.
It’s also a powerhouse of healing properties, which is why you’ll often find calendula in things like diaper cream and beauty products. It’s thought to stimulate your immune system, to be good for your skin, and to help with muscle twitches, and lots more. It also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and is used in some insect repellants.
From fungal issues on the feet to an itchy scalp, calendula is beneficial from your top to bottom. In addition to all of that, calendula looks beautiful in the garden, especially when the yellow and orange hues of the petals glow in the sun. There’s really no reason not to give this wonderful and useful flower a try.
Calendula has been used to treat a variety of ailments affecting the skin as well as infections and fungus. Research suggests that calendula may be effective in treating diaper rash, wounds, vaginal yeast infections, and other skin conditions. Calendula has also been used as a pain reducer and inflammation reducer. It also has been used as an aid in treating cancer—specifically for treatment-related side effects (like radiation).
Some research suggests calendula may be useful as a sunscreen. Others use calendula simply as a moisturizer.
While there is some research suggesting the positive effects of calendula, the long-term use of calendula has not been studied and more research is indicated. Before beginning any treatment or supplement make sure to clear it with your healthcare professional.
Active ingredients of the calendula flower are naturally occurring chemicals, such as triterpene saponins (oleanolic acid glycosides), triterpene alcohols (α-, β-amyrins, faradiol), and flavonoids (quercetin and isorhamnetin).
The photoprotective effect of topical gel formulations is thought to be associated with an improvement in collagen synthesis in the sub-epidermal connective tissue. It is thought that the chemicals in calendula enhance new tissue growth in wound healing and decrease inflammation.
Animals studies have shown a relationship with calendula use and improvement of wounds. What about humans? A recent study published in The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care examined the effectiveness of calendula ointment on cesarean scars in 72 women.
Researchers found that as compared to standard hospital treatment, those women treated with calendula ointment had a quicker healing time. They reported their incisions to be less red and swollen.
In a 2016 study published in The Journal of Wound Care, researchers used Calendula officinalis extract on people with venous leg ulcers. Their findings indicated that those treated with calendula had a 7.4 percent "healing velocity per week" as opposed to only 1.7 percent in the control group. In addition, researchers reported, "No adverse events were observed during the Calendula officinalis extract treatment."
Early research shows that using a calendula spray in addition to standard care and hygiene might prevent infection and decrease odor in people with long-term foot ulcers from diabetes.
Calendula is heavily marketed in the treatment of eczema and dermatitis however, the research on calendula for treating eczema and dermatitis is limited. Because the plant has anti-inflammatory properties, applying it to skin conditions may reduce inflammation. However, there is no real clinical evidence to support its use for eczema.
In fact, the use of calendula may actually be irritating for young children with severe eczema, especially if they have an allergy to ragweed, daisies, marigold, or any other plant variety within that family.
Calendula's use for children may be contraindicated, so always ask your physician before beginning.
Using calendula creams on diaper rash may be advantageous when compared to certain treatments, such as aloe vera gel. However, research indicates that calendula is inferior to bentonite solution. Researchers found that when treating infants with Bentonite, 88 percent of lesions in the Bentonite group started improving in the first six hours while this rate was 54 percent in the calendula group.
Researchers compared the use of calendula ointment to metronidazole (a common drug used to treat bacterial vaginosis) in 80 women who had been diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis. They found that after one week of intervention, both groups of women were cured of their bacterial vaginosis and none suffered any side effects.
They concluded that for those women who would like to avoid taking drugs to treat bacterial vaginosis, calendula ointment may be a viable option. As for its effectiveness in treating yeast infections, one study published in Women and Health found that calendula cream was effective in treating vaginal yeast infections, but had a delayed effect as compared to standard medication (Clotrimazole).
Though there have been claims that calendula can be used for the treatment of menstruation, further evidence of this is lacking to support this use.
The efficacy of calendula as a sunscreen was tested in vitro (meaning in a petri dish or test tube). The idea behind this study is that the properties of calendula as a cell rejuvenator may also hold true as a sunscreen. More research needs to be done in this area. Therefore, it's prudent to use an approved sunscreen for UV protection.
There is mixed research as to whether or not applying calendula on the skin can reduce radiation dermatitis (skin irritation) post radiation therapy. It may not be better than petroleum jelly (vaseline), but more research needs to be conducted.
As with most herbs, you’ll need to know a few things in order to successfully dry and store calendula for longer term use.
Harvest calendula in the morning, after the dew has evaporated.
The flowers open each morning with the sun, and will close in the late afternoon or early evening, also with the sun. You definitely want to pick them before they close up. Harvest as much as you like, because the more you do, the more flowers you’ll get!
I just pluck the flower head off the stem, and it comes off quite easily. Alternatively, you could use scissors or pruners.
Harvesting calendula is a perfect job for a young helper, if you have one. I’ve had my grand daughter as well as neighborhood girls love to take a basket out and pick to their heart’s content. When they get to help in preparing lotions or other preparations with the flowers, they are learning young herbalist skills!
Drying calendula is very easy, although you do need to make sure the flower heads are completely dry. You can lay them out on a towel in a n a warm, dry place with air flow. They will dry within a few to several days, depending on your humidity.
If you are in a very humid area, you’ll want to use a dehydrator set on the “herb” setting. This will dry the flowers very quickly and reduce the chance of mold forming on the moist heads.
I like to keep the whole head and use it all because most of the resin is found in the center of the flower.
The thing about using them for edible purposes that’s important to know is that the center is very bitter. If you don’t want extra bitters (very good for your digestion) in your foods, consider plucking off the petals only. They have a rather sweet flavor.
The petals are easiest to pluck off the head once the flower is completely dried…Just a tip.
Store the petals or the whole heads (or both) in air-tight glass jars in a cool, dark room or cupboard. The darkness of the room or cupboard is vital to a longer shelf life for the dried herb because unfortunately, sunlight oxidizes the flowers, causing the color to bleach out quickly.
This herb is a self-sowing annual that grows in USDA zones 3-9. I collect dried seed heads each season so I always have a supply of seeds!
Resina calendula is a variety of Calendula officinalis which is known to have the most potent amounts of medicinal resin and is grown specifically for medicinal purposes.
If your goal is something other than medicinal (attracting pollinators, repelling pests, etc.), then any variety of Calendula officinalis will be fine.
I like the Pacific Beauty Calendula Seed Mix by Seeds Needs, as well as the organic Resina Calendula (Pot Marigold) Seeds from Botanical Interests.
Sow seeds any time by scattering them on top of the soil and watering them well.
Calendula is such a joy, and I love sprinkling it around the garden each season. How do you grow and use Calendula officinalis?