Calendula (Calendula officinalis L.) is a flower widely used to treat skin conditions. Also known as marigold, calendula is generally applied topically when used for health purposes.
Rich in nutrients like lutein and beta-carotene, calendula has been found to contain anti-inflammatory compounds.
Uses for Calendula
Common uses for calendula include the treatment of the following:
- skin infections
- insect bites and stings
- menstrual cramps
- varicose veins
Benefits of Calendula
To date, there is limited scientific support for calendula's effectiveness in treatment of any type of condition. However, findings from the available research suggest that calendula may be of some benefit in treatment of these health problems:
1) Radiation-Induced Dermatitis
Calendula may help relieve dermatitis resulting from radiation therapy, according to a 2004 study of 254 breast cancer patients undergoing radiation. Study results showed that occurrence of severe dermatitis was significantly lower among patients who used calendula (compared to those who were treated with trolamine). Patients receiving calendula also experienced significantly reduced radiation-related pain.
2) Sun Damage
Research in animals suggests that calendula may help protect against sun-exposure-induced damaged to the skin. For instance, a 2010 study on mice indicates that calendula may shield the skin from UV-induced oxidative stress (a destructive process linked to several skin diseases, as well as accelerated aging of the skin).
3) Ear Pain
When combined with other botanical extracts, calendula may help soothe pain caused by ear infections. In a 2003 study of 171 children with infection-induced ear pain, researchers found that treatment with ear drops containing calendula, garlic, mullein, St. John's wort, lavender, vitamin E, and olive oil led to a significant improvement in pain over the course of three days. In fact, those who were given ear drops alone had a better response than those who were treated with both ear drops and amoxicillin.
Is Calendula Safe?
Although calendula is generally considered safe, it may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Use of calendula should also be avoided during pregnancy and lactation.
How to Use Calendula
Sold in most natural-foods stores, calendula is commonly available in cream and ointment form.
If you're considering the use of calendula for any kind of health condition, make sure to consult your physician before beginning treatment.
Fonseca YM, Catini CD, Vicentini FT, Nomizo A, Gerlach RF, Fonseca MJ. "Protective effect of Calendula officinalis extract against UVB-induced oxidative stress in skin: evaluation of reduced glutathione levels and matrix metalloproteinase secretion." J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 17;127(3):596-601.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. About herbs: Calendula. Updated September 2009.
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 15;22(8):1447-53.
Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. "Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children." Pediatrics. 2003 111(5 Pt 1):e574-9.