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. However, it is not the same as the annual marigold plant that is often grown in gardens.
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 as relieve menstrual cramps, but there is no scientific evidence that calendula works for these problems. Today, calendula is often used topically, meaning it is 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. It is also used to improve skin hydration and firmness. 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 people with breast cancer 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 to 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.
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 helps 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 people with breast cancer who are undergoing radiation therapy, however, other studies show no effect. Calendula is also a safe and effective remedy for diaper rash.
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. More research is needed to determine whether calendula helps treat 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.
Use only topical and homeopathic preparations for children.
For homeopathic dosages, consult a licensed homeopath.
Speak to your doctor regarding dosing instructions.
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. DO NOT 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, and possibly cause miscarriage, 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:
- Medications to treat high blood pressure
- Medications to treat diabetes
Akhtar N, Zaman SU, Khan BA, Amir MN, Ebrahimzadeh MA. Calendula extract: effects on mechanical parameters of human skin. Acta Pol Pharm. 2011;68(5):693-701.
Alnuqaydan AM, Lenehan CE, Hughes RR, Sanderson BJ. Extracts from Calendula officinalis offer in vitro protection agains H2O2 induced oxidative stress cell killing of human skin cells. Phytother Res. 2015;29(1):120-4.
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.
Fronza M, Heinzmann B, Hamburger M, Laufer S, Merfort I. Determination of the wound healing effect of Calendula extracts using the scratch assay with 3T3 fibroblasts. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Dec 10;126(3):463-7.
Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America. Dietary supplement use in cancer care: Help or harm. Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America. 2008;22(4).
Jimenez-Medina E, Garcia-Lora A, Paco L, Algarra I, Collado A, Garrido F. A new extract of the plant Calendula officinalis produces a dual in vitro effect: cytotoxic anti-tumor activity and lymphocyte activation. BMC Cancer. 2006;6:119.
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.
McQuestion M. Evidence-based skin care management in radiation therapy: clinical update. Semin Oncol Nurs. 2011;27(2):e1-17.
Panahi Y, Sharif MR, Sharif A, et al. A randomized comparative trial on the therapeutic efficacy of topical aloe vera and Calendula officinalis on diaper dermatitis in children. Scientific World Journal. 2012;2012:810234.
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.
Saini P, Al-Shibani N, Sun J, et al. Effects of Calendula officinalis on human gingival fibroblasts. Homeopathy. 2012;101(2):92-8.
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.
Sharp L, Finnila K, Hohansson H, Abrahamsson M, Hatschek T, Bergenmar M. No differences between Calendula cream and aqueous cream in the prevention of acute radiation skin reactions--results from a randomised blinded trial. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2013; 17(4):429-35.
Ullman D. The Consumer's Guide to Homeopathy. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam; 1995:254-255;334.