For centuries throughout Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean, calendula flowers have been added to food, used to treat a variety of topical ailments, and used extensively as decorations in the Hindu world. It is an annual, but one that easily reproduces through self-seeding. The name calendula has been associated with the Latin word for calendar; likely given due to the almost clockwork-like blooming cycle the plant has. The common name, marigold, is connected to the Catholic icon, the Virgin Mary. Originally they were called, Mary’s Gold. Long ago marigolds were used in Catholic religious ceremonies Even today, the marigold is used in Mexico on the feast of the Day of the Dead.
Calendula has a long history of medicinal use throughout the world. It’s considered a vulnerary agent, a plant which promotes healing. It has been used both internally and externally with above-average results compared to other healing herbs. It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial characteristics. When applied to wounds, calendula prevents microbial growth and does not cause skin tissues to retract, thus providing more oxygen to the skin cells to lessen healing time. The flowers are high in Vitamin C and have been used to increase circulation and improve appetite.
As a salve or ointment, calendula has been used to treat diaper rash, acne, burns, scrapes and scratches, minor abrasions, small cuts, insect bites, and some recurring skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema. Washes can be concocted to treat the flaking and itching symptoms of cradle cap and dandruff. Also infused compresses can be used to treat muscle spasms, to reduce fever, and for relief of menstrual cramps. It can also be applied externally for hemorrhoids or inflammation of the rectal area, peeling and chapped lips, conjunctivitis, vaginal yeast infections, ear infections, and even nosebleeds.
When taken internally, usually as tea, calendula has been cited as an effective treatment for mouth sores, gum disease, ulcers, stomach and duodenal ulcers (peptic ulcers found in the small intestine). It can also help to ease discomfort of constipation and abdominal cramping. Women find it helpful for painful periods, tender ovaries, blocked tubes, and in maintaining equilibrium during menopause. It has a mild estrogenic action which many find effective in reducing menstrual pain and even to regulate menstrual bleeding. It’s also believed to help reduce cellulite when consumed regularly. Calendula tends to irritate gallbladder conditions and if you plan on taking it internally and are already taking prescription medications you should consult your physician first. People who are allergic to ragweed, daisies or chrysanthemums may have a reaction when using preparations using this herb; the most common adverse reaction being a skin rash.