Calendula flowers are also known as marigolds. They’re a very common, pretty annual flower (meaning they flower all year round, barring a hard freeze), and they’re easy to cultivate in pots. Relatives in the asteraceae family include chamomile and echinacea.
Calendula blossoms are full of medicinal constituents, including flavonoids (of which quercetin is one) as well as carotenoids and essential oils. There are several ways to enjoy calendula’s medicinal benefits, including as a tea, as a mouthwash, as an extract, or as a substitute in recipes that call for the more expensive saffron.
But calendula definitely stands out for its topical uses.
Calendula for Healthy Skin
Calendula is a common ingredient in salves for wound healing or dermatitis, and for good reason.
This study shows that animals treated with topical calendula experienced wound healing almost twice as fast as the controls.
Likewise, this study showed that the use of topical calendula post-episiotomy (surgical incision in the perineum and vaginal wall in childbirth) significantly decreased pain.
This systematic review also finds from numerous studies that calendula topically decreased inflammation and increased granulation tissue necessary for wound healing.
While there aren’t a lot of studies on chamomile for dermatitis, clinically I’ve found it to be very effective. This study also confirms that it is effective when used for dermatitis secondary to radiation treatment, and this study shows that it is effective for diaper rash.
What about anti-aging properties? This study found that a cream with calendula promoted skin hydration and firmness.
Calendula as an Anti-Inflammatory
Decreasing the inflammatory phase of wound healing is part of calendula’s mechanism mentioned above. This study (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19374166/) makes that explicit, demonstrating decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines in a mouse model.
This may be because of calendula’s high content of the anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid. Incidentally, linoleic acid is great for the skin, helping to protect against acne, evening out hyperpigmentation from sun exposure, and helping to keep the skin barrier intact. It stands to reason that therefore, calendula carries the same benefits.
Calendula for Dental Health
Rinsing with a mouthwash containing calendula extract has also been shown to help protect against plaque and gingivitis.
(One of my favorite approaches for dental health is oil pulling; consider adding calendula essential oil to coconut or sesame oil as part of this process!)
Calendula as a Muscle Relaxant
Calendula has also been shown to act as a calcium channel blocker with effects similar to the blood pressure medication verapamil. This animal study suggests that an extract in water and alcohol (a tincture) can be used to decrease muscle spasms.
However, given clinical use of verapamil and this mechanism of action, this also implies that calendula could be useful for hypertension, as well as potentially for EMF sensitivity.
Cautions with Calendula
Calendula is generally recognized as safe. That said, of course if you’re allergic to anything in the asteraceae family (ragweed, daisies, chamomile, or echinacea), use caution.
There is some speculation that calendula can bring on menses, so it’s best not to use it in pregnancy.