Common Names

Calendula, garden marigold, marygold, 'pot marigold',
Botanical Name
Calendula officinalis
ASTERACEAE or COMPOSITAE - Sunflower family

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What is it?

The parts used in herbal medicines are the flower heads including the sticky green calyx and the beautiful yellowish-orange flowers of Calendula officinalis, best harvested in the late afternoon and used both fresh and dried.

Calendula is a hardy, vibrant herb that blooms for many months in the year (hence where it gets its name from the Latin Calends; throughout the months)

The medicinal Calendula is not to be confused with its somewhat similar looking cousins from the Tagetes family but it is not often found blooming in the wild anyway but rather it is easy to grow at home for beauty, medicine and food; the old custom of adding its flowers to salads or the 'pot' gives it one of its common names 'pot-marigold'.




How has it been used?

Some herbalists consider Calendula to be the single most useful herb for healing damaged or broken skin and there is no doubt that is a profoundly helpful healer both inside and out.

“Calendula is a remedy that should follow all surgical operations” (Thomas Bartram)

'Full strength Calendula tincture may be briskly rubbed on the legs or torso to help shrink and heal spider veins and varicose veins' (Richo Cech)

John Heinermann writes; British folk medicine records the saying “Where there is calendula, there is no need of a surgeon.” Calendula is not a miracle herb that can prevent modern surgeries. The saying was coined when the most common surgery was amputation, and the most common cause of amputation was infected wounds.

Calendula has been used to cleanse wound and promote healing since ancient times. The flowers contain constituents that kill bacteria, viruses, and moulds, and others that are powerfully anti-inflammatory. Still more constituents promote cell growth in wounds and ulcers. It has great value in either salve or dilute tincture form for any kind of external skin, muscle or blood vessel problems--wounds, sores, varicose veins, pulled muscles, boils, bruises, sprains, athlete's foot, burns, frostbites, etc.

Calendula's ability to aid healing to our external skin is matched by its ability to help heal the internal 'skin' of our gut lining, something that in the modern world, is just as likely, or even more likely, to be exposed to harm as our external bodies.


Science on Calendula

~ The active components of calendula's anti-inflammatory activity are thought to be the triterpenoids, particularly faradiol monoester. Free ester faradiol is the most active and exhibits the same effects as an equimolar dose of indomethacin (Della, Loggia R., Tubaro, A., Sosa, S., Becker, H., Saar, S., and Isaac, O. The role of triterpenoids in the topical anti-inflammatory activity of Calendula officinalis flowers. Planta Med 1994;60(6):516-520)

~ Calendula gel applied for two weeks to patients with burns or scalds provided very good results - the Calendula was compared against a proteolytic gel and had a similar level of efficacy but was better tolerated (Baranov AP: Dtsch Apoth Ztg 139;61-66, 1999)

~ Calendula officinalis extract can aid in wound healing by promoting epithelial growth and by enhancing immune responses. For leg ulcers, research showed outcome measures that included the total surface of ulcers and the number of participants who experienced complete epithelialization. Compared to the placebo group, participants treated with Calendula showed a significant decrease in the total ulcer surface (14.5% vs. 41.7% decrease, respectively). Also, more participants treated with Calendula experienced complete epithelialization compared to the placebo group. The reviewers concluded that treatment with Calendula significantly accelerated the healing of venous leg ulcers (Duran, V., Matic, M., Jovanovc, M., Mimica, N., Gajinov, Z., Poljacki, M., and Boza, P. Results of the clinical examination of an ointment with marigold (Calendula officinalis) extract in the treatment of venous leg ulcers. Int.J.Tissue React. 2005;27(3):101-106)

~ In Germany the Commission E supports Calendula to treat oral and pharyngeal mucosa internally and topically. Externally, Calendula is recommended for poorly healing wounds and leg ulcers (Blumenthal M et al, editors: Commission E monographs, Austin, 1998)

~ The authors, titles and the 'where-and-when' published of nearly 100 further studies and articles on Calendula are listed in a PDF found here

Safety of Calendula

Calendula is an extremely safe herb which can be used by all ages including the very young and old, likewise it is perfectly safe for pregnant or breast-feeding mothers. As it is a member of the Compositae family there is a small risk (less than 1%) of an allergic reaction from being in contact with the fresh plant but the reports of sensitisation to Calendula are extremely are (Reider N, Komericki P, Hausen BM et al: Contact Dermatitis 45:269-272, 2001)


Personal experiences

Calendula is the subject of one small but entire book on my shelf, it has been revered for many centuries by many cultures. Calendula is truly a remarkably healing herb and I use it widely for people who are not getting better after injury or illness as they should as it is equally fantastic for either internal or external wounds

Calendula is also a friendly, palatable and easy to use herb. If I drink a few of its dried flowers in a tea with a quiet and attentive mind (a process I highly recommend to anyone who is studying herbal medicine or simply wants to learn much more about these great plant allies), I can better feel the 'action' of the herb and how it is such a gentle but at the same time strong healer. Calendula has a kind of 'binding' energy that can see it being much more than only a herb to take when there is a physical injury.

If you who are reading this have some Calendula growing or can get some of its dried herb then I warmly recommend you try drinking a cup yourself some time when you are simply feeling a bit fractured from the troubles that life can bring. I think by the end of the cup and by how much better (e.g. peaceful, centred, optimistic) you will feel within you will gain a life-long appreciation of just how much healing there truly is in this common, and beautiful flower.

Further to this, if you would like to learn more about the ancient art of pulse testing, a simple but powerful way to ask the intuitive intelligence of the body for its responses to a herb by feeling the pulse whilst giving a tiny dose by mouth, read here

I have found that the internal use of Calendula can be superb for digestive disorders where the tissues have become sore or broken, including such serious conditions such as gastric and duodenal ulcers. For direct tissue healing on a damaged gut wall Calendula works best in a tea form and here I will often combine it with one or two other great healing herbs such as Plantain, Yarrow or Shepherd's purse.

As an internal tonic herb Calendula has phenomenal power in cleansing the lymphatic system and when there are the symptoms of lymph congestion such as swollen glands, heavy rings under the eyes, poor healing and fatigue then the three greatest herbs to work in this area are Calendula, Cleavers and Poke root, all best used in small doses (just a few mls a day of the combined tinctures) along with plenty of movement or massage.


Calendula compress

Externally Calendula is a remarkably potent ally in helping in the healing of wounds where the skin is broken and the body needs help to heal itself.

For a strong compress for open skin problems such as ulcers, wounds, weeping eczema etc. take a small handful of Calendula flowers, briefly boil in about half a litre of water then cover and allow them to steep for at least another 10-15 minutes before straining. It is also ok to just leave the Calendula steeping in the water until it has cooled.

Soak a cloth in the Calendula 'tea' and apply over the damaged skin until the compress has dried out somewhat. This can be re-applied as frequently as required. In a bad wound you can keep the Calendula compress refreshed until the crisis has passed.

Note: you must make sure that the wound or sore is as clean as possible before you do this treatment because the Calendula will rapidly activate tissue healing and any debris caught inside could get trapped and create another problem further down the track.


Constitutional note

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Calendula is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do little for another -- why is this?

The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are either hotter or cooler and, at the same time, either dryer or damper. This interesting and useful subject is introduced further here

There is an old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Calendula can particularly offer its benefits when a nourishing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing', more about that here

Excerpt from Felter & Lloyd's Kings Dispensatory from 1898

Dr. William J. Clary, of Monroeville, Ohio, writes as follows, in relation to Calendula:

"As a local remedy after surgical operations, it has no equal in the Materia Medica. Its forte is its influence on lacerated wounds, without regard to the general health of the patient or the weather. If applied constantly, gangrene will not follow, and, I might say, there will be but little, if any, danger of tetanus. When applied to a wound it is seldom that any suppuration follows, the wound healing by replacement or first intention. It has been tested by several practitioners, and by one, is used after every surgical operation with the happiest effect.

You need not fear to use it in wounds, and I would not be without it for a hundred times its cost. It is to be made into a saturated tincture with whiskey diluted with one-third its quantity of water; lint is saturated with this, applied to the parts, and renewed as often as it becomes dry."

The Bride of the Sun

Calendula was called sponsa salis in Ancient Roman times which means the 'bride of the sun'.

It was one of the four sacred herbs that followed, resembled or represented the sun and could be found blooming at the pivotal turning points of the year. In Calendula's case, this was the autumn equinox, 21st March in Southern Earth, 21st September in the North.

For the spring equinox, 21st September in the South, 21st March in the North, the humble Daisy is the sacred flower showing the delicacy and hope of new life.

For Midsummer, June 21 in the North, December 21 in the South, the bold uplifting St John's wort is the patron. For Midwinter, June 21 in the South, December 21 in the North, we honour the mistletoe, not for flowers that have little sun to see on the longest night of the year but for its evergreen leaves that speak the promise of better times to come.

It is said that if the Calendula flowers close up in the morning then for sure it will rain the following day.

Please understand that I cannot advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in person in my clinic but for ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area read here

This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!





© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd