As we have reached the peak of summer, it is a perfect time to talk about the beautiful healing flower – calendula.  With its rich orange color it is often used as an ornamental in gardens.  But don’t get too distracted by its golden beauty to forget that it is also one of the most beloved plants for skin health.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and native to Western Europe, Mediterranean, and parts of Asia.  There are nearly 20 known species of calendula that are now grown worldwide. In Europe it is also commonly known as pot marigold, but should not be confused with Tagetes spp., which is also commonly known as marigold.

Calendula is most well known for its external uses.  Traditionally, it has been used to support and speed healing of minor wounds and burns and to give relief to bug bites, rashes, and other irritating skin conditions. It is soothing and often used for hot and inflamed skin symptoms.  Additionally, it is used to support overall skin health and help skin stay young and radiant. It continues to be an ingredient in many modern skin care products, including baby oil, moisturizers, and sunscreen and is an excellent addition to summer skin care.

Calendula is also supportive when taken internally.  It has been used to ease menstrual cramps, soothe digestive complaints, and can even help relieve symptoms of the common cold and flu. Modern research is investigating calendula’s anti-tumor effects, immunomodulating properties, and ability to increase cell proliferation and speed the healing of wounds (Jiménez-Medina, et al., 2006; Fronza, et al., 2009).

The orange petals are edible and can be added to salads and other food dishes for a dash of color.  Traditionally, they were also used to create a yellow dye.

One of the simplest ways to get the skin benefits of calendula is to infuse your favorite oils with the flowers.  Here’s a simple recipe for an infused oil that can be used as a facial and body oil or applied externally to help sooth and heal various skin ailments.

Calendula Infused Oil

Ingredients

  • 1-2 cups of favorite oil
  • 1-2 cups of dried calendula flowers or petals
  • 1 pint glass jar with lid
  • 20 drops vitamin E oil

Directions

  1. Place the dried calendula flowers into your glass jar (for a more concentrated oil you can add more flowers).
  2. Cover with your favorite oil, making sure all plant material is submerged in the oil, and is about a ¼ inch above plant material (exact amount will differ depending on the amount of flowers you use).  For a facial/ body oil consider lighter oils, such as jojoba, apricot, and almond oils.  If you plan to use it more to soothe common skin ailments and burns, olive oil will work fine.
  3. Cover with a lid and allow to sit in a dark place for 4-6 weeks.  If you use a lighter colored oil, it will turn a beautiful orange color.
  4. When the oil is ready, strain through an old clean t-shirt or muslin and bottle.  Add the vitamin E and store in a cool place.  Most infused oils will last for 1 year.

Note:  Some people can have an allergic reaction to calendula, especially if allergic to other members of the sunflower family, such as ragweed and chamomile.  Calendula should not be taken internally when pregnant.

References

Fronza M., Heinzmannb B., Hamburger M., Laufer S., Merfort I. (2009) Determination of the wound healing effect of Calendula extracts using the scratch assay with 3T3 fibroblasts. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 126, 463-467.

Jiménez-Medina, E., Garcia-Lora, A., Paco, L., Algarra, I., Collado, A., Garrido, F. (2006) A new extract of the plant Calendula officinalis produces a dual in vitro effect: cytotoxic anti-tumor activity and lymphocyte activation. BMC Cancer, 6:119, accessed at www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2407/6/119

Author Erin Smith has been working with plants for 25 years and is medical herbalist and ethnobotanist. She is the creator of Plant-Passionate Living™, an interactive program designed to help people find greater health and vitality through a deeper relationship with plants. Erin is the Founder and Director of the Center for Integrative Botanical Studies

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.