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The flower petals of the calendula plant (Calendula officinalis), or pot marigold, have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century. Calendula is native to Mediterranean countries but is now grown as an ornamental plant throughout the world. It is not the same as the annual marigold plant that’s often grown in gardens, however.
Calendula has high amounts of flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged by unstable molecules called free radicals. Calendula appears to fight inflammation, viruses, and bacteria.
Traditionally, calendula has been used to treat stomach upset and ulcers, as well relieve menstrual cramps, but there is no scientific evidence that calendula works for these problems. Today, calendula is often used topically, meaning it’s applied to the skin.
Calendula has been shown to help wounds heal faster, possibly by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the affected area, which helps the body grow new tissue. The dried petals of the calendula plant are used in tinctures, ointments, and washes to treat burns, bruises, and cuts, as well as the minor infections they cause. Calendula also has been shown to help prevent dermatitis or skin inflammation in breast cancer patients during radiation therapy.
Calendula is an annual plant that thrives in almost any soil but can typically be found in Europe, Western Asia, and the United States. It belongs to the same family as daisies, chrysanthemums, and ragweed. Its branching stems grow to a height of 30 - 60 cm, and it blooms from early spring until frost. The orange-yellow petals of the flowers are used for medicine.
The dried petals of the calendula plant are used for medicinal purposes.
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Today, calendula is not usually taken by mouth. The exception is when it is used in extremely small amounts in homeopathic preparations. Calendula is usually applied topically, to the skin.
Burns, cuts, and bruises
Calendula tinctures, ointments, and washes are often applied to the skin to help burns, bruises, and cuts heal faster, and to fight the minor infections they cause. Calendula cream is also used to treat hemorrhoids. Animal studies show that calendula does seem to help wounds heal faster, maybe by increasing blood flow to the wounded area and by helping the body make new tissue. There are no scientific studies looking at whether calendula works in humans, but using it on your skin is considered safe.
Professional homeopaths often recommend using ointments with calendula to heal first-degree burns and sunburns.
Early evidence suggests that calendula may help prevent dermatitis -- skin inflammation -- in breast cancer patients who are undergoing radiation therapy, when compared with another lotion. However, the study wasn’t double-blind, meaning the women knew whether they were using calendula or the other lotion.
Ear infection (otitis media)
Ear drops containing calendula are sometimes used to treat ear infections in children. A few scientific studies have found no side effects. But the studies aren’t high enough quality to see whether calendula really works or not for ear infections.
Fresh or dried calendula petals are available in tinctures, liquid extracts, infusions, ointments, and creams.
Calendula products should always be protected from light and moisture, and should not be used after 3 years of storage.
How to Take It
Use only topical and homeopathic preparations for children.
Calendula can be applied to the skin using a 2 - 5% ointment.
For homeopathic dosages, consult a licensed homeopath.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.
Calendula is generally considered safe to use on your skin. Don’t apply it to an open wound without a doctor's supervision. People who are allergic to plants in the daisy or aster family, including chrysanthemums and ragweed, may also have an allergic reaction to calendula (usually a skin rash).
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use calendula. In theory, calendula could interfere with conception, so couples trying to get pregnant should not use calendula.
There are no known scientific reports of interactions between calendula and conventional or herbal medications. In theory, taking calendula orally may interact with the following medications, so talk to your doctor before combining these drugs with calendula:
Barajas-Farias LM et al. A dual and opposite effect of Calendula officinalis flower extract: chemoprotector and promoter in rat hepatocarcinogenesis model. PLanta Med. 2006;72(3):217-21.
Basch E, Bent S, Foppa I, et al. Marigold (Calendula officinalis):An evidence-based systematic review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Herb Pharmacother. 2006;6(3-4):135-59.
Duran V, Matic M, Jovanovc M, et al. 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):101-6.
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Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America. Dietary supplement use in cancer care: Help or harm. Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America. 2008;22(4).
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Kassab S, Cummings M, Berkovitz S, van Haselen R, Fisher P. Homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Apr 15;(2):CD004845. Review.
Pommier P, Gomez F, Sunyach MP, D'Hombres A, Carrie C, 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 Apr 15;22(8):1447-53.
Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Pediatrics. 2003 May;111(5 Pt 1):e574-9.
Sarrell EM, Mandelberg A, Cohen HA. Efficacy of naturopathic extracts in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001;155(7):796-799.
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Review Date: 12/12/2010
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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