Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Calendula: A Multi-Faceted Herb

Wow, this one was difficult. I started out researching calendula like I would have for a paper in college. I searched for sources, checked references, searched for more sources. I found myself procrastinating by doing other productive activities INSTEAD of writing. At the rate I was going, I would have posted a 10 page research summary on the pharmacology of calendula including chemical structures, explanations of chemical constituents in the plant, summaries of clinical trials, and analysis on the research so far available. 

My husband had to remind me I was writing as a blog post, not an academic paper on calendula. That doesn't sound like a great blog post to me. It would have been way too long, had information in it that wouldn't have mattered to a majority of the readers, and it would have been downright dull. I had to decide what was important for me to include in the posts about specific herbs. In these posts I will include relevant information as the herb is understood in the herbal community and summarize important research about the herb, either supporting or disproving traditional herbal uses.

Calendula Officinalis via Pixabay
Calendula Officinalis is a member of the Asteraceae family and is also known as Marigold, or pot marigold. This is not to be confused with the marigolds found in greenhouses or planted in flower gardens (Calendula Tagetes). The parts of the plant that are most often used medicinally are the petals and flower heads.

Calendula Tagetes, marigolds often found in flower supply stores via Pixabay

Herbal Actions

This is a list of all the things herbal medicine has claimed calendula can do. I'd like to explore them all, but I will specifically focus on its vulnerary properties.
Vulnerary - Promote wound healing
Anti-inflammatory - Reduce inflammation
Antispasmodic - Relieve and prevent muscle spasms
Lymphatic - Aid the flow of lymph through the lymphatic system
Astringent - Contract body tissues to protect skin
Emmenagogue - Stimulate menstrual flow
Cholagogue - Stimulate the production of bile
Anti-fungal - Aid the body in resisting or destroying fungus
Anti-microbial - Aid the body in resisting or destroying microbes

Calendula is often used in salves and creams to promote the healing of minor cuts, abrasions, and burns due to it's vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, astringent, and anti-microbial actions. It has traditionally been used in teas and tinctures (alcohol extractions) for inflammation and ulcers in the digestive system.

Vulnerary Effects of Calendula Officinalis

Calendula and it's medicinal properties have been studied extensively. It has the potential to be a cheaper more effective healing alternative to external wounds, burns, and abrasions. Unfortunately some of these studies were not very thorough in their reporting of their conditions of treatment and controls. Calendula contains many chemical constituents that contribute to its vulnerary and anti-inflammatory properties, including triterpenes, saponins, flavonoids, volatile oils, and polysaccharides. 

One particularly interesting trial studied the effect of calendula extracts on the prevention of dermatitis on patients receiving radiation treatment after surgery for breast cancer. They studied 254 patients, 126 patients received calendula and 128 received trolamine (Aspercreme). Patients applied their cream on the irradiated skin twice a day or more until the completion of the therapy. In this study it was found that the occurrence of dermatitis in patients using calendula was 22% lower than those using trolamine. 43% of patients using the calendula preparation experienced the formation of dermatitis compared to 63% of patients using trolamine.

Another study looked at the effects of calendula on a scratch assay. This assay measures the expansion of a cell population on a surface. The cells were grown in a dish and a small wound was made in the culture. The effects of calendula on cell proliferation were compared to a control, a positive control, German Chamomile, and St. John's Wart oil. After a 12 hour incubation, it was found that a hexane extract of calendula was the most effective in cell proliferation and increasing the population of fibroblasts at the wound site. Fibroblasts are essential to wound healing because they synthesize the extracellular matrix and collagen. These molecules provide structure and support to our cells. Further study of isolated triterpenes determined that triterpenes present in calendula play an important role in the proliferation and migration of fibroblasts, but there are likely other compounds present in calendula that contribute to this cellular activity. These triterpene compounds are also considered anti-inflammatory and this combined effect is essential for wound healing.

There are so many interesting studies out there about calendula and it's potential uses. These are two that I found to be particularly useful in my own life. What do you think about calendula? Are there any studies or uses you would be interested in hearing more about?

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease. This article is meant to be for educational use only. 


Fronza, M. et al. "Determination Of The Wound Healing Effect Of Calendula Extracts Using The Scratch Assay With 3T3 Fibroblasts". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 126.3 (2009): 463-467. Web.

Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism. 1st ed. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press, 2003. Print.

Leach, Matthew. "Calendula Officinalis And Wound Healing: A Systematic Review | WOUNDS". N.p., 2017. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

Muley, BP, SS Khadabadi, and NB Banarase. "Phytochemical Constituents And Pharmacological Activities Of Calendula Officinalis Linn (Asteraceae): A Review". Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 8.5 (2009): n. pag. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.

Pommier, P. et al. "Phase III Randomized Trial Of Calendula Officinalis Compared With Trolamine For The Prevention Of Acute Dermatitis During Irradiation For Breast Cancer". ASCO Journals. N.p., 2017. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

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