Calendula flowers are one of my favorite herbal remedies to grow because they are very effective for health and on top of that, an attractive addition to a garden. Calendula has a rich yellow and orange color (depending on variety) that is beautiful and healing.
Spring is the best time to start growing calendula (more on that below), but I recommend keeping some on hand year round for use in tinctures, creams, and more.
First things first:
WHAT IS CALENDULA?
Calendula (Calendula officinalis), also known as pot marigold, is an annual flower that blooms regularly through the growing season. Native to the Mediterranean, calendula got its name because it seems to bloom with the calendar.
Its other name, pot marigold, is thought to come from “Mary’s Gold,” a name given to the flower in honor of the Virgin Mary.
ARE CALENDULA AND MARIGOLD THE SAME THINGS?
Calendula is a kind of marigold. There are two genera of marigold — taget and calendula. Taget marigolds, also known as French marigolds, are the marigolds many people plant in their flower gardens or kids plant in school. Of the two kinds of marigolds, calendula is the one used internally (and externally) for its health benefits.
BENEFITS OF CALENDULA
Calendula flowers have many benefits that may surprise you. Traditional herbalists have known the benefits of calendula flower for centuries and science is beginning to back those claims.
1. Protects Against Inflammation and Cancer
Calendula contains flavonoids and linoleic acid which both help fight inflammation. A 2009 study shows that calendula inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Calendula has also been found to fight cancer. A study published in BMC Cancer found that the anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating properties of calendula make it an interesting remedy to explorer for cancer treatment. In the study, calendula inhibited cancer cell proliferation and increased lymphocyte production (white blood cells of the lymph system).
2. Eases Muscle Spasms
Calendula is used traditionally in creams and lotions to ease muscle spasms. One Pakistani study found that calendula relaxed spontaneous muscle contractions.
Because of its ability to relax muscles, calendula is beneficial for menstrual cramping, diarrhea, and spasming or sprained muscles.
3. Aids in Menstruation
Amenorrhea (an abnormal absence of a monthly period) is one ailment that calendula can help with. Calendula has been used traditionally to help induce menstruation. It can also help ease PMS symptoms like cramping.
(Note: Because calendula can induce menstruation, pregnant women should avoid consuming it.)
4. Promotes Skin and Wound Healing
One way in which calendula can help with wound healing is by stimulating tissue and collagen production.
Calendula is used to heal:
- insect bites
Animals treated with topical calendula in one study published in the journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology had a 90 percent wound closing compared to 51 percent in the control group. The study concluded that there was “potent wound healing” observed.
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, calendula may reduce pain and swelling too. A 2004 study found that it can relieve the pain of dermatitis in breast cancer patients undergoing radiation.
5. Acts as an Antiseptic and Antifungal
One of the most interesting benefits of calendula is that it is antiseptic and antifungal. Because of this, calendula oil, tea, and ointment can be used to treat minor skin and eye infections as well as general skin conditions. A 2013 review found that calendula has antiseptic, antiviral, and antifungal, and can be used successfully to treat skin conditions.
Topical calendula can be used to treat conjunctivitis, diaper rash, and skin wounds among other uses.
Calendula can also help reduce gingivitis and plaque because of its antiseptic property, according to a 2013 study.
6. For Beauty & Color!
Calendula is an amazing natural remedy but it can (and has for centuries) been used in other ways.
Calendula can be used as a food or fabric dye, to brighten summer salads (yes the petals are edible!), and for spiritual and religious uses. They are also beautiful so they make a wonderful table decor. Since it blooms throughout the summer you’ll never be without flowers!
HOW TO USE CALENDULA
I always keep calendula around the house. I make calendula-infused oil to make many of the following products. You can also use calendula essential oil if you don’t have fresh or dried calendula flowers to infuse.
I frequently use calendula in:
- homemade lotion
- homemade lotion bars
- healing salve
- baby care recipes like diaper cream and baby powder
- homemade shampoo and conditioner
- calendula tea (used topically, internally, or as a mouthwash)
- sprinkled on a salad (calendula is high in beta-carotene and flavonoids!)
- in soap (to soothe irritated skin)
- to get rid of stretch marks
- as a natural food dye
- added to skin care products like face wash
- eaten straight from the garden!
- in natural herbal hair color recipes
There are infinite ways to use calendula and because it’s so mild you can safely experiment with adding calendula to your favorite personal care products.
IS CALENDULA SAFE?
Calendula is generally considered safe. However, those with allergies to the Asteraceae (daisy) family could have side effects that include rashes and other allergic reactions.
Additionally because calendula can induce menstruation, most medical professionals would advise pregnant, breastfeeding, and trying-to-conceive women to avoid the herb. As always check with your doctor to see if calendula is right for you.
WHERE TO GET CALENDULA
The best and least expensive option is to grow it yourself during the summer, but if that isn’t an option, it can be ordered online here.
Calendula is so easy to grow even those who think they have a black thumb can do it. Calendula has very funny looking seeds that look a little bit like dried up worms ( making them a fun seed to plant with kids). One seed grows a huge plant (about 2 feet tall) and produces many flowers.
To grow: Plant calendula seeds in the spring outside in full sun after the risk of frost. You can also start them inside 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Calendula can also be grown indoors with enough sunlight or a grow lamp.
To harvest: Cut flowers just after they’ve bloomed. Cutting the flowers stimulates the plant to produce more. Because calendula blooms every month, you can get a good supply of calendula from just one or two plants. The seeds are really easy to save too!