Any plant with a long history of use has some beautiful tales to tell. Calendula officinalis, often called Marigold, adorns Day of the Dead processions in Mexico and is considered sacred in India. Historically, it has been used as a tool to ward off evil and disease. The flower was first brought to the United States by colonists who believed the plant would protect them from the witchcraft in the new world. Often revered for its beauty, the plant is also a useful ally to have in your herbal toolkit.

Calendula blooms with the rising of the sun, and turns to follow its path along the sky. It is a wonderful companion plant for the garden that repels pests and attracts helpful insects and birds. The flower’s curly seeds resemble worms, and have the crafty ability to reseed themselves. Calendula comes in many forms and can be used as a tea, oil, cream, gel, tincture, mouthwash, or in a bath.

Calendula was named “Herb of the Year” by the International Herb Association in 2008. In some ways it is a jack of all trades, providing numerous applications for internal and topical use. The potent antioxidants and flavonoids in the yellow flower are responsible for its anti inflammatory properties. Compounds in calendula have been found to fight antibiotic resistant microbes like E. coli, Staph infection, Candida albicans, and Trichomonas. It has also been investigated for its antiviral properties for the potential applications for herpes and HIV.

Calendula helps to stimulate the lymphatic system, which is responsible for expelling waste and toxins from the body. It can be used to maintain a healthy immune system and ward off potential infections. Calendula also supports the body’s “toll-like receptors” (TLR), which are present in immune cells. Investigation as found that the polysaccharides in calendula can trigger the expression and of TLR, which can strengthening the immune system’s ability to fend off the presence of invaders like viruses, fungi, and bacteria.

Calendula has the unique ability to fight infection without drying out the skin. The flower has been used in the treatment of wounds in Europe since 13th century, and numerous studies have examined its ability to heal the dermal layer. Calendula extracts have been found to regulate inflammatory cells on the skin, boost collagen production, and prevent scar tissue formation. It can also help the skin form melanin and prevent skin irritation from spreading.

Calendula may have a synergetic relationship with cannabis. Both plants possess anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and skin soothing properties. A 2016 patent was published for a topical product combining calendula and CBD (Cannabidiol), CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid), CBV (Cannabivarin), and CBG (Cannabigerol). The patent was indicated for healing skin issues caused by dermatitis, acne, UV damage, radiotherapy, or rashes. It also could have applications for hydrating the skin, shrinking pores, and overall soothing of the skin.

Dried calendula flower (photo by Leslie Carrow)

Calendula is powerful plant for soothing the expanse of the digestive tract. It’s bitter properties can help to stimulate digestion and heal intestinal issues from irritation or infection. For issues with ulcers or IBS, calendula can help to repair damaged tissues.

Calendula may be of special interest for the female bodied. The plant can bring on delayed menstruation and soothe painful periods. A few studies have examined calendula as an effective treatment for yeast and bacterial vaginosis (BV) as compared to over the counter products clotrimazole and metronidazole.

Scientific investigation has examined the role of calendula extracts for cancer and palliative care. The plant has been studied for its antitumoral properties and as a potential treatment for the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Another study looked at the applications of calendula and yarrow for treating pancreatic cancer.  

Conditions the plant can be used for: bacterial infections, rashes, burns, abrasions, swellings, eczema, acne, wounds, scrapes, chicken pox, herpes sores, candida, cancer, bacterial vaginosis, delayed menstruation, sore throat, gum infection, fungal infections, sore throats, bleeding gums, periodontal disease, thrush, cuts, bruises, rashes, bee stings, allergic reactions.

Cautions: Calendula is generally considered safe and nontoxic. Pregnant women should be cautious as the plant can stimulate menstruation.


Calendula can be taken as an infusion, tincture, or mouthwash, or applied topically 2-4 times per day.

By Sarah Russo