Here I sit on this lovely fall afternoon, sipping tea made from the petals of my very own calendula plants. Calendula officinalis, also known as pot marigold, is a member of the Asteraceae/Compositae family which includes daisies and ragweed. Calendula is native to the Mediterranean region, but grows worldwide…and very easily might I add! The vibrant orange and yellow flowers have been used medicinally for centuries, boasting a number of beneficial properties which make it extremely versatile.
Calendula is most commonly used in salves and creams to treat diaper rash and other forms of dermatitis, exzema, and mild burns. (Limited human studies have shown increased rate of healing in second and third degree burns, versus traditional treatment or plain Vaseline.) It is used in eye drops and eye washes to treat conjunctivitis and blepharitis, as well as ear drops for treating otitis media in children. Calendula is also found in preparations to treat varicose veins, hemorrhoids, proctitis, and other personal discomforts. Many women report using it in postpartum sitz baths, to soothe and speed healing of the perineum.
Much of calendula’s effectiveness in treating these maladies stems from it’s anti-inflammatory functions. These effects are believed to be due to high levels of triterpenoids, monools, and diol esters found in the flowers. Preliminary studies indicate that these constituents may protect cells from free radical damage and inflammatory compounds. Research suggests that triterpenoids inhibit tumor growth, which may be one of the reasons calendula is considered anti-cancer.
Calendula is known to be a highly effective antimicrobial. The essential oils have demonstrated antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties on par with widely used pharmaceutical preparations. It is particularly useful for oral hygiene, where research has shown that gargling with a calendula infusion inhibits plaque growth and reduces gingivitis, while soothing inflamed mucous membranes. Its antifungal properties are highly effective against several species of candida. Research has actually demonstrated clinical effectiveness comparable to, and sometimes better than, nystatin for several types of fungal infections!
There is also research to support the use of calendula to speed wound healing. In addition to the anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial actions, it appears that calendula increases blood flow to the area and stimulates growth of new tissue. One study noted that venous ulcers treated with calendula showed a 41.7% reduction after three weeks versus only a 14.5% reduction in the group treated only with saline dressings.
I find that pretty impressive…I would LOVE to see more research conducted in this area.
And the list goes on!
Said to be an anti-spasmotic, calendula soothes sore muscles and mild sprains when applied topically. Taken as a tea, it is used to treat indigestion, colitis, and duodenal ulcers. It is said to induce menstruation, and is also useful for relieving the cramps that come along with it. Calendula appears to exert an overall sedative effect, and may help decrease blood pressure. As if all of the above were not enough to ask of one single plant, research also suggests that calendula exerts a protective effect on the liver and kidneys, partly due to its antioxidant activity.
Calendula considered safe for use by most people and animals. Those with allergies to other plants in the Asteracae/Compositae family should probably avoid using calendula. Also, women who are pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, should avoid use. Some say calendula interferes with conception, but I have not been able to find any research to support this.
So, in light of all of this information….do I have enough calendula??? I had researched this magical flower prior to growing it, but I learned quite a bit more putting this post together. I have so many projects in mind, I’ll be a crafting lunatic lol…I already made two oil infusions, one with sweet almond oil, the other with fractionated coconut oil. (I learned too late that I should have done at least one with sunflower oil due to its synergistic effects with calendula…next time!) I’ll be straining them today, and hopefully, I’ll be posting some creations soon!
Aren’t you wondering how my tea is? Well, it is a little bitter…I find that it has a flavor that reminds me of the hayfields and countryside growing up. It tastes kind of like I was expecting a dried flower to taste like…this was not improved by the addition of honey. It’s not unpleasant, it’s just not something I’d choose to drink on a regular basis. Incidentally, my boyfriend likes it and says it “tastes like tea,” so others may find it enjoyable. I would have no issues consuming this if I were in need of its benefits however…