Calendula is from the plant family asteraceae. Many of calendula’s historic uses are skin-related. Calendula is a native of the Mediterranean area. Today it grows in most temperate regions of the world.
The ancient Romans gave it the name calendula because the flowers bloomed on the first day of every month of the “calends,” their calendar. The plant with the bright yellow and orange flowers was later given another name in honor of the mother of Jesus: Mary’s gold. Later this was shortened to marigold.
One of its first uses was to treat scorpion bites. In the Middle Ages, it was widely used for warts, skin blemishes, and bedsores. It has long been a remedy to relieve pain and swelling of a bee or wasp sting. People used to just pick a calendula flower and rub it on the affected area.
Years ago I was doing a demonstration of our products in Alfalfa’s, a popular health food store in Boulder. A woman came hopping over to my table and said she had been stung by a bee just outside the store. She asked if I had anything to reduce swelling and help the pain. I gave her a sample of our herbal moisturizer, which contains a high content of calendula; she applied it immediately and went to do her shopping.
Less than five minutes later she came back and said, “What is in this stuff? It took away the pain and reduced the swelling already!” She was ecstatic; I should have had her write a testimonial then and there! I know it was a combination of all the healing herbs in our herbal moisturizer, but I’m sure the calendula was the foremost herb at work.
In 1987, a monograph on herbal medicinal substances presented by the West German Federal Health Authority confirmed that calendula flower petals have an inhibiting effect on inflammatory processes, and that an infusion of calendula has a healing effect on cracks, bruises, and burns.
Constituents of calendula
On a zero-moisture basis, the seed contains 30 to 37% proteins and 40 to 45% oils. The flowers contain the amorphous calendulin, analogous to bassorin, traces of an essential oil, and mucilage, along with other plant chemicals. The pigment consists of beta-carotene, lycopene, saponins, and phytosterols. The fresh plant material contains the analgesic salicylic acid, and the roots contain inulin.
Importance of carotenoids
Probably the most beneficial of the chemical constituents are the carotenoids, which are unsaturated pigments, mostly yellow, orange, or red. They occur widely in many plants. Carotenoids are recognized as substances of great importance for all bodily functions, particularly to help the skin regenerate itself. This would contribute to calendula’s anti-inflammatory and wound-healing functions. Carotenoids are relatively stable compounds that are soluble in oil. This factor helps to determine what medium is selected for extraction when formulations are prepared.
Calendula can be used in the form of infusion, tincture, oil, and ointment. All are beneficial. Depending on the type of extraction used, however, different chemical constituents will go into the solution.
My experience is that both water and oil extractions are valuable for skin regenerative properties. The oil extraction is better for wound healing, moisturizers, and in products created for varicose veins. The water extracts are better for dermal inflammations and in products for astringency and blemishes.
In an oil-in-water emulsion, a formulator can, depending on his/her objective, do the extraction either in oil, water, or a tincture.
Many baby products contain calendula due to its complete non-toxicity. It is perfect for astringent and acne products because of its ability to heal slow-healing wounds such as those from cyst acne, and because it is an anti-inflammatory and a bactericide. Since calendula can stimulate the supply of blood to the skin, it makes the skin not only more supple but also more resistant to mechanical and chemical irritants. This makes it great in a hand cream for people who have their hands in water and detergents a lot.
It is antiseptic and anti-bacterial. The sap from the stems has often been used for removing warts, corns, and calluses. It is probably most often found in creams and lotions for the face because of its regenerative properties that can possibly help reduce wrinkling. For the same reason, it’s beneficial in after-sun products.
Calendula’s benefits make it useful in almost all skin care products.
A magical reputation
In folklore, calendula was believed to have magical properties. A woman who could not choose between two suitors was advised to take dried calendula flowers, marjoram, and thyme, grind them to a powder, then simmer them in honey and white wine. Then she was instructed to rub the mixture over her body, lie down, and repeat three times: “St. Luke, St. Luke, St. Luke, St. Luke; be kind to me, and in dreams let me my true lover see.” In her dreams she would see the man she was to marry. If he were going to be a loving husband, he would be kind to her in the dream, but if he were going to be disloyal, he would be unkind.
Calendula is an asset to any garden. It is an annual and blooms in Colorado from May to October.
Add some beauty to your yard by growing these hardy, brightly colored, showy, beneficial plants.
For more information and beauty tips you can purchase Beauty, Health and Happiness–A way of life an online version for only $2.99!