Calendula is a member of the daisy family, but it is not just a pretty face. Its uses are varied and date back millennia to ancient civilisations – testimony to the durability and integrity of this humble herb.
Marigold, or Calendula, is one of the most versatile herbs on our good planet, and is popular as a cheerful cottage garden flower, for its use in cosmetic and culinary recipes, as a dye plant, and for its many healing properties. It is from the true marigold (Calendula officinalis) that we get the glorious, golden fixed oil treasured by many natural health practitioners. This gay little plant blooms freely in winter and early summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Both the flowers and the leaves of Calendula have been valued since antiquity for their range of actions. Ancient Egyptians valued this plant as a rejuvenating herb and it has also long been in use in Indian, Arabic and Greek medicine, and was used by Shakers to treat gangrene. During the American Civil War, battlefield doctors treated open wounds with the leaves.
The flowers have been used as food in cultures all over the world for centuries. Fresh or dried petals have been used as a saffron substitute since Roman times, and dried petals were sold from barrels by spice merchants in the Middle Ages for culinary and medicinal use.
Today the petals sometimes appear in fancy salad pre-packs. The fresh or dry petals lend a saffron colour and a light tangy flavour to rice, fish, meat soups and stews, soft cheese, yoghurt, butter, omelets and salads. The culinary uses are endless – try it, you won’t be sorry!
Calendula can be applied in a variety of ways to relieve a range of health complaints. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia lists Calendula as specific for inflamed or enlarged lymph nodes, sebaceous cysts, duodenal ulcers, and inflammatory skin lesions.
Externally Calendula may be applied as a lotion, compress or massage oil. It has a strong antimicrobial effect against bacteria, viruses, fungi and many protozoa, and is a valuable treatment for athlete’s foot, boils, and various skin infections. The fresh flowers may be safely used on inflamed skin, bruises, stings, burns, wounds and strains. It is particularly soothing when applied as a compress, or cool hydrosol, for these conditions. The sap from the stem of the plant has the reputation for removing warts, corns and callouses.
As a gentle remedy for mild digestive complaints, Calendula tea increases perspiration thereby reducing fever, and is said to be good for bringing out the spots in cases of measles. The tea is also helpful for those suffering from poor circulation and varicose veins.
A tincture of Calendula is particularly useful as a natural skin treatment or tonic for teenage spots or acne. Move over tea tree, you’ve got some competition!
Homeopathically, Calendula is prescribed for:
- the common cold
- chronic infections
The bright orange petals contain the highest concentration of active ingredients.
In the Flower Essence Repertory it is stated that: ‘The Calendula flower essence helps those whose innate creative potential to use the spoken word often deteriorates into argument or misunderstanding. It is especially indicated for personal relationship work, and for all healing and teaching work when the art of communication must be intensively developed as a soul force.’¹
Personally, I find the association between the therapeutic indication of using Calendula for wounds inflicted by sharp instruments and the ‘cutting or sharp words’ analogy to be of interest.
A reminder to readers: many plants used in medicinal herbalism also yield essential oils, which should not be ingested, unless prescribed by a qualified aromatologist or another practitioner qualified and licensed to prescribe the internal use of essential oils.
1. Kaminsky P. and Katz R. Flower Essence Repertory. Flower Essence Society, 1994.