Mountain Rose Herbs

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Calendula Flowers

  • Calendula officinalis
  • Origin: Egypt
Calendula Flowers

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Common Name

Standardized: calendula Other: marigold, pot marigold

Botanical Name

Calendula officinalis L.1 Plant Family: Asteraceae


Calendula is a well-known medicinal herb and uplifting ornamental garden plant that has been used therapeutically, ceremonially, and as a dye and food plant for centuries. Most commonly known as for its topical use as a tea or infused oil for wounds and skin trauma, the bright orange or yellow flower contains many important constituents and can be taken internally for a variety of ailments.


Annual herb bearing the characteristic daisy-like flowers of other members of the Asteraceae family, having bright orange or yellow terminal flower heads3 and pale green leaves. Native to Southern Europe, Egypt,2,4 the Mediterranean, and in the region spanning the Canary Islands to Iran,5 calendula is now naturalized in much of the world and is commonly grown in gardens. A variety of other Asteraceace genera have been commonly called "marigold" including Tagetes erecta, T. minuta, T. lucida, Baileya multiradiata, and Dyssodia pappossa, yet they have different properties.6 However, a related wild species, C. arvense, may have similar therapeutic properties. Calendula is said to be in bloom on the "calends" of every month, hence the name. The "calends", or in Latin "kalendae" referred to the first days of each month of the Roman calendar and signified the start of the new moon cycle. And the common name derives from an association with the Virgin Mary as this flower, or the similar looking flower, Tagetes sp., was used in various religious festivals and referred to as "Mary's gold".7

Cultivation And Harvesting

Cultivated for medicinal use in the Mediterranean countries, the Balkans, eastern Europe, Germany, India,4 Poland and Hungary. Smaller amounts are grown in North America, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.8

The best time to harvest flowers is in the summer, in the heat of the day when the resins are high and the dew has evaporated. Carefully dry flowers at low temperature in order to keep their vibrant color.7,9

History And Folklore

In medieval Europe calendula was widely available and was known as “poor man’s saffron” as it was used to color and spice various foods, soup in particular.6 It was used not only to color foods, but also as a dye to color hair and to make butter look more yellow (it is interesting to note that calendula's use as a food coloring in butter lead to it being used as a topical ointment for burns).10 Believed to be first cultivated by St. Hildegard of Bingen, an herbalist and nun practicing herbalism in the 11th century in present day Germany, calendula is a mainstay in a variety of European historical herbal texts. A Niewe Herball, from 1578, by English botanist Henry Lyte states that calendula '… hath pleasant, bright and shining yellow flowers, the which do close at the setting downe of the sunne, and do spread and open againe at the sunne rising' referring to the flower's well known propensity to open in the day and close at night or on overcast days.6

Nicholas Culpepper, a 17th century botanist, herbalist and astrologist, mentioned using calendula juice mixed with vinegar as a rinse for the skin and scalp and that a tea of the flowers comforts the heart.7 Astrologically associated with the sun and the fire element, calendula was believed to imbue magical powers of protection and clairvoyance, and even to assist in legal matters. Flowers strung above doorposts were said to keep evil out and to protect one while sleeping if put under the bed. It was said that picking the flowers under the noonday sun will strengthen and comfort the heart.11

Calendula was used in ancient times in India as well, and according to Ayurvedic healing principles is energetically cooling and has a bitter and pungent taste. It was employed as vulnerary, antispasmodic, alterative and used on minor wounds, as an eyewash, to soothe bee stings, and for digestive disturbances.12

And, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), calendula (called Jin Zhan Ju) is considered energetically neutral and drying and is used to support healthy skin. Calendula is employed to move stagnant blood therefore increasing circulation to the skin.

Traditionally, in Native American cultures, it has been employed to assuage ailments including occasional upset stomach. Traditional use mirrors many of our contemporary applications of this medicinal plant. Modern studies confirm its efficacy.4,15-18 According to herbalist Paul Bergner, calendula is an herb used for minor wounds that helps by bringing circulation to the area in distress. It can be used similarly to Arnica sp.,5,19 yet it is a much more mild plant that can be used on open wounds.

Herbal Actions

Antispasmodic, astringent,5,20 cholagogue, diaphorhetic, vulnerary,3,9 lymphatic, emmenagogue, cholagogue, hepatic14

Uses And Preparations

Dried flower as a tea, tincture, or infused oil.
The fresh plant can be prepared as a tea or tincture.
The fresh flowers are edible.


Triterpene glycosides and aglycones, carotenoids, essential oils,15 resin, sterols, flavanoids,4,10,13 calendic acid13,21,22

Herbal Miscellany

Calendula has been reported to contain high levels of calendic acid in the seed. This acid oxidizes rapidly and therefore has potential to replace several hazardous VOC (volatile organic compounds) that are used industrially as a drying agent in paints, varnishes, and plastics.21,22

The color of ornamental fish that are bred in captivity can be intensified by adding calendula flowers to their diet10


Specific: Persons with allergies to other members of the Asteraceae family (such as feverfew, chamomile, or Echinacea species) should exercise caution with calendula, as allergic cross-reactivity to Asteraceae plants is common.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.


  1. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Accessed at on June 20, 2014.
  2. Lawless J. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Oils in Aromatherapy and Herbalism. Dorset, UK: Element Books, Ltd; 1995.
  3. Lust, J. (2014). The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published Courier Dover Publications.
  4. Khan, M. U., Rohilla, A., Bhatt, D., Afrin, S., Rohilla, S., & Ansari, S. H. (2011). Diverse belongings of Calendula officinalis: an overview. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Drug Research, 3(3), 173-177.
  5. Stary, F. 1992. The Natural Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Plants. Ed. Dorset Press, NY, USA.
  6. Foster, S. Herbal Renaissance. Utah: Peregine Smith Books; 1984.
  7. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. Accessed at on June 20, 2014.
  8. Wichtl M, ed. Brinckmann JA, Lindenmaier MP, trans. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Medpharm GmbH Scientific Publishers; 2004.
  9. Hoffmann, D. (1998). The Herbal Handbook: A User's Guide to Medical Herbalism. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.
  10. Accessed at on June 20, 2014.
  11. Cunningham, S. Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications; 2000.
  12. Accessed at on June 20, 2014.
  13. Duke J. A. Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Accessed at on June 20, 2014.
  14. Green, J. (2011). The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook: A Home Manual. Random House LLC.
  15. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, editors. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
  16. Duran, V., Matic, M., Jovanovć, M., Mimica, N., Gajinov, Z., Poljacki, M., & Boza, P. 2005. Results of the clinical examination of an ointment with marigold (Calendula officinalis) extract in the treatment of venous leg ulcers. International journal of tissue reactions, 27(3), 101-106.
  17. 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 Apr 15;22(8):1447-53. PubMed PMID: 15084618.
  18. DR, Tubaro A, Sosa S, et al. The role of triterpenoids in the topical anti-inflammatory activity of Calendula officinialis flowers. Planta Med. 1994;60:516-520.
  19. Bergner P. Materia Medica Intensive Seminar. Boulder, CO: North American Institute of Medical Herbalism, Inc; 2005.
  20. Mills S, Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 2000.
  21. Wilen RW, Barl B, Slinkard AE. Feasibility of Cultivation Calendula as a Dual Purpose Industrial Oilseed and Medicinal Crop. 2004. ISHS Acta Horticulture 629 :XXVI International Horticultural Congress: The Future for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants.
  22. Gersch RW. 2012. Growth and yield response of calendula (Calendula officinalis) to sowing date in Northern U.S. Industrial Crops and Products 45 (2013) 248–252. 249.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.