Calendula officinalis is a daisy shaped marigold grown to beautify gardens every spring. Recent studies have shown that this simple flower may have more to contribute to the repair of damaged skin and wounds than simply being a way to add color to our yards.
Historically, marigold or calendula flowers have been boiled and mashed and used in salves to be spread on infections or packed into wounds to help them heal.
Calendula has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities which are thought to contribute to skin and wound repair. In the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2004, 254 women were treated with either topical calendula cream or a topical cream used in France called trolamine after radiation treatments for breast cancer. The occurrence of acute dermatitis was significantly lower in the calendula group, only 41% versus 63% in the trolamine group.
In a small study of 34 patients with venous leg ulcers, 21 patients were treated with an ointment that contained marigold extract and 13 patients (the control group) had traditional treatment of saline dressings twice a day for three weeks. In the group treated with the marigold extract, seven patients had complete healing of their ulcers and the others had a decrease in size of over 40%. The saline dressing control group only had a decrease of 15% in their ulcer sizes. The researchers wrote that the results suggest a positive effect of marigold extract ointment on venous ulcer healing.
Calendula creams, tinctures and infusions have been used in recent years by many people looking for natural alternatives to steroid or other medication based treatments. The use of calendula has become so popular that even the National Library of Medicine has a Calendula information page at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-calendula.html
Calendula infusions have been used to calm bee stings, eye inflammations, diaper rash, eczema and acne. It has been used as a gargling solution for mouth sores, a douche for vaginal yeast and a topical treatment for hemorrhoids.