Since the dawn of civilization, the ligulate florets of the Calendula officinalis L. plant, which are commonly and falsely believed to be the floral petals, have been employed in herbal medicine. The calendula was a commonly used herbal plant in the medical system of many ancient civilizations. Calendula is a member of the plant family Asteraceae. This plant is commonly cultivated in gardens as an ornamental herb, being at times known as the pot marigold or the garden marigold in some places. The calendula herb must not be mistaken for plants belonging to the genus Tagetes - which are the true marigolds and very commonly cultivated as garden ornamentals. A variety of ailments were traditionally treated using the calendula, which has one of the longest history as a herbal medical plant, calendula has often been consumed to treat many different kinds of illnesses, these problems include muscular spasms, persistent fevers, suppression of the menstrual cycle in women, and even in treating cancer of different tissues. The primary use of the plant, however, has always been in the role of a local topical application to boost healing rate on a wound and to prevent the infection of severe wounds on the body. The calendula is prescribed by most modern herbalists in the form of an herbal tincture, as an herbal infusion, or in ointment form - the remedies are used in healing a variety of skin conditions that range from chapped skin to open wounds on the body.
Extensive clinical analysis and many chemical studies on the calendula flowers have been done till date, a lot of these studies have been carried out in Europe, however, not much of the unique or active principles that account for the physiological effects have been identified and no outstanding mystery compounds were found in these studies. On chemical analysis, the calendula flowers were found to contain a volatile oil, many bitter chemical principles, different types of carotenoids, a lot of mucilage, plant resin, all kinds of polysaccharides, plant acids and a variety of alcoholic compounds, different compounds such as the saponins and other glycosides, as well as different kinds of sterols. In many of these general groups of compounds, most of the individual constituents have been identified and chemically analyzed in laboratories. Till the middle of the 1980's, the chemical active principles that were seen to be responsible for calendula's reputed anti-inflammatory and wound healing actions remained a mystery, these purported beneficial effects were observed when the calendula was applied locally to the skin or mucous membranes. While the anti-inflammatory effects have been attributed to the presence of the compounds such as the saponins and polysaccharides, these two compounds were completely absent in the lipophilic extracts of the calendula. The anti-inflammatory activity displayed by the herb has recently been shown to be heavily influenced by the faradiol monoester present in the purified triterpenoid fraction of calendula flowers - in a CO 2 extract. The freeze dried extract of calendula flowers were recently studied and the study indicated that the water soluble pigments called flavonoids - or some other components - tended to increase the rate of neo-vascularization in the body and caused deposition of hyaluronan - this compound is a major component of the extra cellular matrix, it is often associated with the formation, the alignment, and the migration of capillaries inside the human body. The long traditional use of the herb in healing wounds is supported to some degree by the results of this research and thus some scientific evidence can confirm the herbal medication's traditional reputation.
Calendula's carotenoid pigments have some use as coloring agents in many cosmetic products, and the volatile oil found in the flowers is a very useful ingredient in perfumeries, however, not a single one of the many other chemicals identified in the flowers has any medicinal properties that can be said to be better than other remedies. There are no instances of toxicity from the use of the calendula and the herb is believed to be non-toxic. When the calendula is used in the form of a herbal ointment, it is usually colored and one can easily identified where it has been applied on the body, the color delineates the wound or other skin condition affecting the body clearly. When seen in this light, the ointment of calendula may be considered just as useful as Mercurochrome and equally effective.
Calendula is of the extreme value when used either as a herbal salve or in the form of a dilute tincture when treating any type of external skin, muscle or blood vessel disorders - these can include sundry wounds, all kinds of sores, problems like varicose veins, cramped or pulled muscles, problems like boils, slight to heavy bruises, muscle sprains, problems like athlete's foot, light burns and frostbites, as well as many other topical complaints.
The results from two important medical studies that were published in the Soviet science journal Vatreshni Bolesti in June of 1981, confirms that the herbal calendula remedy can heal duodenal ulcers, the report also states that calendula remedies are useful in the treatment of inflammation affecting both the stomach and the duodenum, as well as being effective in dealing with intestinal colitis. Duodenal ulcers were treated using an equal mixture of the comfrey root and the calendula, this mixture resulted in healing relief for nineteen patients affected by duodenal ulcers and also alleviated the condition of nineteen other patients afflicted by gastroduodenitis. Each of the patients were give an herbal mixture tea prepared using both the herbs, the tea was made using a tbsp. of each herb and this was boiled in one quart of water, the herbal water was allowed to simmer for five minutes, following by forty minutes of steeping. Two cups of this tea was given to every patient daily and very significant success was seen in the treatment.
The report in the journal also cited results obtained from the second study, where twenty four patients down with chronic non-specific colitis were given a remedy made from a combination of herbs that was made up of equal parts of the root of the dandelion, the St. Johns wort herb, the lemon balm herb, calendula and fennel seeds. This herbal mixture was prepared as a strong herbal tea. The tea was made by using a tsp. of each herb boiled in one and a half qts. of water, the herbal water was allowed to steep for an hour. Each of the patients was then given a cup of this herbal tea, thrice a day. The brief English abstract of the published medical report states; "As a result of the treatment, the spontaneous and palpable pains along the large intestine disappeared in 95.83% of the patients by the 15th day of their admission to the clinic." The statement above is concrete evidence that shows the real clinical validity of the benefits to be found in this rather wonderful herb, especially of its success in treating different inflammatory conditions.
The antiseptic and astringent effects of the calendula come in handy in the treatment of many conditions affecting the human body. The herb helps in stimulating the functioning of the immune system and also actively aids the body fight off all kinds of infections including the flu and the herpes viruses among others. Calendula reduces lymphatic congestion and swollen lymph glands. The bactericidal and fungicidal properties of the calendula come in handy in treating infections; the herb is one of the best herbal remedies for the treatment of fungal infections like the thrush. Pelvic and bowel infections have also been treated using the calendula, these includes disorders such as enteritis, persistent dysentery, intestinal worms and amoebic infections. The calendula has also been used in the treatment of viral hepatitis. When used as a hot herbal infusion, the calendula herb can stimulate the circulation and bring on increased perspiration, this effect of the herb aids the body in dealing with accumulated toxins and the eruptions in diseases such as measles and chickenpox - the sweating detoxifies the body. The remedies made from the calendula herb are very effective in dealing with disorders affecting the female reproductive system, the herbal remedy aids in regulating the menstruation and helps bring relief from menstrual cramps that affect some women. The calendula also possesses estrogenic effects that aid women during the time of menopause and the same property of the herb also reduces breast congestion in women. The potent astringent property of the calendula aids the body by reducing excessive bleeding and uterine congestion in women. The calendula herb has a long standing reputation as being beneficial for the treatment of tumors and cysts in the body - though this has not been scientifically proven nor has it been documented. The calendula herb also actively promotes uterine contractions and aids in the delivery of the placenta during the birth of a child. The calendula also makes for a wonderful healing remedy with regard to disorders affecting the digestive tract, in case of disorders such as gastritis and peptic ulcers, as well as in the treatment of inflammation and irritations along the lining of the stomach and the bowels. The herbal remedies made from the calendula also stops diarrhea and halts bleeding in the body. The calendula also helps the body to rapidly eliminate toxins as its boosts the functioning of the liver. As an herbal remedy, the calendula has a great reputation as a first aid herbal remedy for treating all kinds of cuts and bruises, as well as abrasions on the skin. It is also considered to be an ideal herbal antiseptic healer for treating all kinds of sores and ulcers affecting a person.
The calendula is a potent antiseptic herb. Several of the active chemical constituents found in the herb are fungicidal or mycotic toxins - especially the resins, in addition these compounds are also bactericidal and anti-viral agents. The astringent quality of the herb also has a beneficial affect on the functioning of the capillaries, this property of the herb accounts for the effectiveness of the herb in the treatment of cuts, physical wounds, varicose veins, and various other inflammatory disorders that affect the human body.
Other medical uses
The calendula is used in the preparation of many culinary dishes. The addition of fresh and tender calendula leaves to salads and raw vegetable mixtures is an excellent idea. The chopped or whole petals of freshly plucked calendula flowers can also be added to tossed salads to improve the taste.
Calendula is also used in floral displays, the pretty calendula flowers can be included in fresh floral bouquets and arrangements during the summer. The fragrant smelling calendula floral heads and the dried aromatic petals can be included in potpourris and incenses.
Habitat and cultivation
The calendula is an indigenous plant species of the southern European region. These days, it is cultivated in many temperate regions of the world for use in many processes and is naturalized in temperate North America and Asia.
Once they germinate, calendula seedlings must not be subjected to transplantation, as this procedure mostly results in the wilting and death of the large succulent leaves. When the seedlings emerge, they can be thinned out so that forty to fifty cm-16 to 20 inches of space exist between each of the plants. This spacing will result in optimum utilization of space by the growing plants. When the calendula plants are growing, the side branches must be pruned away from time to time to encourage taller growth and to induce larger blooms in the plants. To keep the plants in full bloom throughout the summer, the dead flower heads must be removed from each plant from time to time. These measures will ensure that the plants grow at an optimal rate and produce the best flowers. Calendula plants will self sow if they are left undisturbed at a site where they are growing. The calendula is normally free of plant pests and resistant to diseases.
Herbal calendula tea can be prepared by steeping one to two teaspoons of the flowers in two hundred ml of boiling water; the pot must be covered for ten to fifteen minutes to allow the herb to infuse into the water. Once this is done, the decoction can be strained, cooled and then drunk as and when needed. Generally, a minimum of three cups of the herbal calendula tea must be consumed everyday to get the beneficial effects. Calendula herbal tincture must be used thrice a day in a similar manner to the tea, a single dose of the tincture can be one to two ml. Calendula herbal tincture can be consumed mixed in water or in ordinary tea. Skin complaints of all kinds can be treated using the prepared ointments of the calendula; these remedies are often effective in treating disorders affecting the skin. Skin complaints can also be treated using wet dressings made by dipping cloth into the cooled herbal calendula tea. Due to the necessity of maintaining an absolutely sterile condition, using the infusion of calendula as a home remedy for treating eye conditions is not recommended.
Side effects and cautions
As culinary herb, the calendula is considered to be one of the safest herbs around. At the same time, a person can react badly to the calendula, for example, a person who has an allergic reaction to pollen of any plant species belonging to the daisy family of plants, like the ragweed, may experience an allergic reaction to the calendula as well, though the chances of this occurring are rare.
How it works in the body
A major property possessed by the calendula is an antiseptic action. Due to this strong antiseptic effect, the calendula is particularly valuable for external complaints and is used as an herbal healer of wounds to heal problems like cuts and scrapes, and minor wounds on the body. When consumed, the calendula acts from the inside and has a beneficial effect leading to the alleviation of many external skin disorders including chronic eczema, acne, and psoriasis. The fungicidal action of the calendula is also well known, and the herb helps in dealing with external problems like athlete's foot and is a good remedy for fungal induced disorders inside the body including problems like Candida - thrush, it is also helpful in dealing with diaper rash that affects infants. Calendula remedies are also useful in treating problems affecting the cardiovascular system internally and externally, it makes an excellent remedy for dealing with problems like the varicose veins. The calendula herb is also excellent for treating problem affecting the digestive system, especially in treating all kinds of ulcerative conditions and various digestion related disorders. The herb is also an excellent liver tonic, promoting the functioning of the liver. The beneficial effects of the calendula also extend to the functioning of the human reproductive system in women; the herb brings relief from menstrual symptoms and alleviates pain related to menstrual disorders. The potent bactericidal and antiviral properties of the herb come in handy when dealing with all types of infections in the human body.
Collection and harvesting
Only the tender and young leaves must be picked and only freshly plucked leaves must be used to prepare remedies.