With a rise in the popularity of naturopathy and natural medicines, many people have been turning to natural plant extracts to organically solve their medical needs. When looking to heal a wound such as a cut or scrape, one of the most popular plant extracts is Calendula. Believed to have been used medicinally for over 9 centuries, Calendula is applied to the wound in order to promote wound healing and prevent inflammation1. The medicine is available in a variety of forms, including soaps, oils, lotions, and creams2.

Face cream and calendula flower

What is Calendula?

Calendula (Marigold) is a flowering plant native to Egypt and is now available worldwide. These yellow and orange flowers are part of the daisy family, but have their own unique properties1.  The petals of the flowers can be dried and used as a seasoning, similar to saffron. They can also be used in the garden as a natural pesticide, due to their pungent smell1.  Pigments from the petals of Calendula have been used in cosmetics and the flowers’ oil has been used in perfumes1. The plant has also been used medicinally, in numerous ways. Traditionally, it was taken orally for stomach upsets, ulcers, menstrual cramps, fevers, cancer, and as a way to initiate menstrual cycles2. Today, the topical use of Calendula is more popular3. It is mainly used as an anti-inflammatory, or for poorly healing wounds.  Other uses include treatment for nosebleeds, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, proctitis, and conjunctivitis2.

How does it work & What does the evidence say?

When applied topically to wounds, Calendula helps speed up the healing process by promoting new tissue growth3. The chemicals found in the plant do this by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the site of injury and improving skin hydration and firmness3. Calendula has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and is sometimes used to decrease swelling in some skin conditions, diaper rash, and effects of radiation therapy in breast cancer patients1.  The anti-inflammatory properties witnessed are believed to use a mechanism similar to many over the counter anti-inflammatory and pain medications4.  There are over the counter creams and ointments available containing 2% to 5% of this flower extract for the topical treatment of wounds1.

Most of the evidence is based on animal studies and evidence in humans is lacking.

Are there any safety concerns?

Herbs have long been used for improving health and treating disease. However, certain herbs can interact with other medications, OTC products and natural health care products so ensure that you use Calendula under the supervision of a health care provider5. Generally, Calendula is considered safe to use on your skin, but do not apply it to an open wound without a doctor’s supervision4.  If you are allergic to plants in the daisy or aster family such as chrysanthemums, ragweed, marigolds, or daisies be sure to test a patch of your skin for sensitivity prior to use.  Allergic reactions, most commonly skin rashes, may occur.  Although Calendula is widely used, there has only been one report of anaphylaxis to date2. No contraindications have been identified for the topical use of Calendula and saponins extracts of the plant, and Calendula officinalis are not mutagenic. Still, due to limited evidence, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using Calendula1.  Concurrent use of calendula with a sedative medication may cause excessive sedation and should be avoided4. Dosage of herbal products is important, and instructions on individual product labels should always be followed.

Bottom line

Calendula is available in various formulations and used for the treatment of wounds because of its anti-inflammatory properties.   Overall topical and oral use of Calendula is relatively safe and effective, but make sure to talk to a healthcare professional if you are taking sedative medication4.   Avoid using Calendula if you have allergies to ragweed and/or chrysanthemums, are breastfeeding or lactating4.

 

Authors:

Christian Lavallee, Luke Ullyott, Mariah Anderson, Wendy Xu, Samantha Davidson, BSc. Pharm Candidate(s)

Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

University of Alberta

Edited and Reviewed by the Health Aisle Team 

 

References:

  1. Calendula (Natural Products Database). (n.d.). Lexicomp. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://online.lexi.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/lco/action/doc/retrieve/docid/fc_rnp2/3750076
  2. Calendula Monograph. (2012, February 21). Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/nd/Search.aspx?cs=UAL~CEPDA&s=ND&pt=100&id=235&ds=&name=CALENDULA&searchid=46022978&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
  3. Erhlich, S. D. (2013, March 3). Calendula. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/calendula
  4. Calendula: MedlinePlus Supplements. (2012, February 21). U.S National Library of Medicine. Retrieved April 14, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/235.html
  5. Calendula. (n.d.). Medicines Complete. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://www.medicinescomplete.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/mc/herbals/current/HBL1000729372.htm?q=Calendula%20officinalis&t=search&ss=text&p=1