Herb Library

Back to Herb Menu     Back to Index

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

a.k.a. Garden Marigold, Holigold, Mary bud, Marigold, Marygold, Pot Marigold
(Calendula officinalis)
image image

• If ALLERGIC TO RAGWEED, there is the possibility of
allergy to Calendula since they share the same family!
• Frequent skin contact might increase sensitivity.
• NOT TO BE CONFUSED with French/African marigold of the
Tagetes species which is the marigold commonly sold in
nursery offerings and which is used to deter insects,
but has no medicinal value! Calendula has flat, long ray
flowers of bright orange to yellow surrounding a dark, central disk
(much like Black Eyed Susan), while those of the Tagetes
species usually (some exceptions) have pom-pom type heads of crenate
petals (rays) and in a large variety of colors and combinations.

DRUG INTERACTIONS: Possible enhancing effect on hexobarbital.

CONTAINS: Saponins, carotenoids, lycopine, essential oil, a bitter principle, sterols, flavonoids, mucilage, resin, triterpene glycosides, aglycones, vitamin A, vitamin C.

Called 'herb of the sun' by the ancients, Calendula is an annual plant from 1 to 3 feet in height and native to the Mediterranean regions and North Africa. Blooms continuously throughout the summer in northern locations and for most of the year in mild locations, its petals opening in the morning, then closing at night. It is much grown in European kitchen gardens. The stem is angularly branched, hollow with a pithy core. Leaves are long, pale green, soft, spatulate or oblanceolate, and sessile with widely spaced tiny serrations, and finely hairy. Long ray flowers of bright orange to yellow surround a central disk; as the petals fall off the central receptacle, a circle of unusual, pale, curved seeds is exposed.

Has been used to adulterate saffron.

In Christian times the flower was associated with the Virgin Mary (Mary Gold).
Astrologically ruled by the sun.

PROPAGATION: By fresh SEED (viable 1 year) in spring (autumn in mild climates). Hardy annual (tends to self-sow but not reliably in the north).
NEEDS: Full sun and average, friable, garden soil. Regular picking of the flower heads increases flower production. Tends to die out in hot summer months. Susceptible to powedery mildew, rust, caterpillars, cucumber mosaic virus, leaf spot, stem rot, leaf blight, smut, slugs, snails, aphids, whiteflies, leaf hoppers, thrips, blister beetles, and nematodes. Tap root is long and spindly and should not be moved once established.
PART USED: Flowers and/or the petals are mainly used, fresh or dried, but leaves are sometimes used as well.
HARVEST: Pinch flower heads from stems. Gently dry whole flower heads or petals alone by laying on paper, out of direct light, without too much heat (or airflow only), and not overlapping. Calendula petals have a habit of sticking to screens. If the color is leeched out of the dried petals, then they have been dried improperly.
SOLVENT: Water, alcohol, fats (carotenoids)
There are many double forms, but for medicinal and culinary use, the single form is preferred.
Calendula officinalis 'Prolifera'
Calendula officinalis 'Chrysantha'


Astringent, antiseptic, alterative, antibactertial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aperient, healing and soothing, gynecological action, emmenogogue, cholagogue, diaphoretic, vulnerary (works quickly to granulate the exposed flesh), estrogenic; stimulates uterus, liver and gall bladder; stimulates growth of new skins cells, closes wounds; stimulates immune system; retards tumor growth; soothes the central nervous system. Has been used over the centuries in combination as a supporting healing agent to treat just about every malady known to man.
Infusion of the petals has been used as lotion for skin cleansing and softening; to treat boils and pustules; as a mouthwash for gum problems, mucous membrane and throat problems, thrush infections, gingivitis; as a wash or soak for conjunctivitis, blisters, athlete's foot, herpes, cysts, minor injuries, eczema; as a lotion or douche for vaginal itching or soreness, vaginal warts; as a compress from the infusion to treat varicose veins, phlebitis, bedsores and facial thread veins.
A combination infusion of Calendula, St.Johnswort and Yarrow has been used for cystitis.
An infusion of the fresh flowers has been used in combination with lemon balm to treat shingles.
The fresh juice of the plant or flowers can be substituted for an infusion.
Has been taken internally for poor circulation, varicose veins, bronchitis, cancer, diarrhea, chronic inflammations, biliary insufficiency, jaundice, gall bladder problems, liver problems, gastric and duodenal ulcers, colitis, diverticulitis, hepatitis, pelvic inflammation, stomach cramps, nausea, headaches, toothache, flu, fevers (an infusion of the fresh flowers to induce perspiration), herpes virus, lymphatic infections, anemia, as a blood cleanser, and for skin problems.
Viral infections of the liver have been treated with Calendula, although with caution to avoid overstimulation of the liver, gall bladder, and pancreas.
For external use, an oil has been made from the flowers for skin problems, sunburn, bleeding hemorrhoids, varicose veins, facial thread veins, measles, shingles, while a drop or two on a cotton ball has been used for earache; used in ointment form to heal acne and fade old scars and for external sores, dry eczema, cuts, bruises, burns, rashes, diaper rash, chapped skin, sore nipples, to repair minor skin damage and for broken capillaries; as a vaginal douche for yeast infections. Usually combined with Chamomile and Comfrey for a soothing ointment in cases of skin problems, burns, cuts, insect bites, stings and bruises.
According to herbalist Dorothy Hall (Your Herbal Profile), to treat varicose veins the ointment must be applied ABOVE and BELOW the site of the veins each day.
Has been used to staunch bleeding in minor wounds such as cuts and abrasions. Seeds induce clotting of blood. Was extensively used in battlefield hospitals during the Civil War of the United States, the ointment being used as a wound dressing. The oil, salve, or poultice has been used for bleeding, to soothe pain and irritation and promote healing of wounds. Wounds have been treated using the fresh flowers in the form of salve, juice, or ointment. Either salve or diluted tincture has also been used for bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, sores, and boils.
For bunions the salve or tincture (diluted) has been applied 2 or 3 times a day.
The infusion has been used to regulate menses, stimulating its onset if late, but also reducing flow if excessive. Has been also used for menstrual cramping, menopausal symptoms, cancer of breast and uterus (as both tea and poultice) and to treat abnormal cervical cells (in the form of a bolus).
An old remedy for toothache is to combine the juice of the petals with vinegar and rub on the teeth and gums.
An infusion from the leaves is used for tired swollen feet; also to soak a cloth to use as a compress or poultice for swellings and gout. The leaves were once eaten as a cure for scrofula.
Flowers have been used in infusion form as a wash for conjuntivitis and red, inflamed eyes in general.
The tincture has been used for amenorrhea, cramps, toothaches, fever, flu, stomachaches, tuberculosis, and syphilis.
Said to strengthen and comfort the heart and aid in digestion.
In the bath 5 to 10 drops of the oil has been added for anxiety or depression.
The fresh flowers have been rubbed into beestings for pain.
Flowers have been steeped in vinegar for sprains.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
GRAINS = 15 to 60
INFUSION = Combine 1 to 2 tsp fresh or dried flowers with 1/2 C. water just off the boil (or 1 oz [30 g] dried flowers to 1 pint [1/2 liter] water); steep 5 to 10 minutes; strain; 1 cup taken 3 times daily. Used as a compress will soothe tired eyes. As a WASH for WOUNDS, the amount of flowers is doubled to make a strong brew.
TINCTURE = Soak a handful of flowers in 1 pint of whiskey (or 100 proof vodka) for 5 to 6 weeks; dose is 5 to 20 drops (or 1 to 2 ml) taken in water.
LIQUID EXTRACT = 10 to 30 drops in liquid daily.
JUICE = 1 tsp, freshly pressed. The juice can be preserved with 25% of its weight in alcohol or 50% of its weight in vegetable glycerine.
POWDER = The dried flowers are ground fine, then mixed with arrowroot powder or cornstarch.
OIL = Put 1 C. sweet almond oil (or olive oil) and 1 oz. calendula petals in a jar; place in a sunny spot for 4 weeks then heat oil till petals are crisp; strain and bottle.
CREAM = In top of double boiler, melt 1 Tbsp each of lanolin, honey, almond (or olive) oil, and beeswax; prepare infusion of the petals by pouring 2/3 cup boiling water over 2 Tbsp of petals, then allow to cool slightly before straining. Add 2 Tbsp of the infusion to the ingredients in the double boiler, whisking till thick and creamy and cold; put up in screwtop pots.
QUICK CREAM METHOD = In the top of a double boiler place 4 oz of a good scent free moisturizing cream; melt cream slightly, then whip in 1 Tbsp of Calendula infusion. This can be done with other skin herbs as well.
SALVE/ OINTMENT = See Calendula Ointment and Three C Skin Ointment
Also: Boil 1 oz. dried flowers or leaves (or 1 tsp fresh plant juice) with 1 oz of Lard; OR; slowly heat 4 oz. white petroleum jelly in top of double boiler till melted; add 1 oz. crushed herb and simmer 20 minutes; strain into little pots; cover when cold. GUIDELINE IS: 2 to 5 grams calendula per 100 grams of ointment base.
DOUCHE = 1 cup of warm, boiled water, juice of 1 lemon and 1 to 2 tsp of Calendula extract; combine; every few days, or occasionally, used as a preventative cleanser.

NOTE: See How To for a more complete explanation of the different ways of preparing herbal products.

Homeopathic tincture is used as an antiseptic, and for injuries involving broken skin; also mumps, post-op bleeding, sunburn, and insect bites.

Used to treat farm animals for vomiting, internal ulcers, flowers, problems of arteries an veins, heart problems, skin ailments, eczema, warts. DOSE is 3 handfuls of flowers mixed in bran twice daily.
A strong infusion is used for skin problems.
The leaves are used for warts.
The flowers are soaked in vinegar as a topical treatment for bee and wasp stings.
LOTION = Boil chopped flowers and leaves in milk.
CREAM = Fine cut leaves and/or flowers into melted cold cream (in top of double boiler)/ or, can be mixed into dairy cream or butter.

ALSO SEE: Calendula - Cooking with Herbs
Flower petals are used fresh or dried, although they have little to no taste when fresh, but become savory when cooked. In Europe they have long been used in soups and broths.
Dried and powdered petals can be used as a substitute for saffron and to color butter, custards, and liqueurs.
Fresh flower petals are sprinkled on salads.
Dried petals are used in soups, baked goods and tea.
CALENDULA PRESERVE = Place whole leaves and petals in a crock or wide mouth jar; cover well with granulated sugar; either place in sun or heat over low falme until a syrup forms.
MARIGOLD BUNS = Combine 1 lb flour, 3 oz lard, 3 oz butter; stir in 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 lb sugar, a pinch of salt. Place 1 tbsp dried Calendula petals in cheese cloth or muslin bag and soak in 1 cup of very hot milk. While soaking, beat 1 egg. Allow milk to cool, then beat in egg. Stirr egg/milk mixture into dry ingredients and beat for several minutes (works best if beaten a long time). Place in muffin tins and bake at 375ºF till done.

Flowers used for hair rinse to bring out highlights and in the herbal bath for stimulation to aid circulation and sooth skin; also in compress form for skin spots.
Combined with chamomile and comfrey for an all-purpose soothing mix for all skin types.
Good in bath or facial mixtures. Used in the bath is considered stimulating.
STEAM FACIAL = Add 4 Tbsp of Calendula petals to 1 quart boiling water in sink or basin; place towel over head as tent; USE CAUTION around scalding water, do NOT place face near the water, but allow the steam to drift over the face for 10 minutes or longer; wipe dry with a clean, damp cloth.
COMPLEXION LOTION = 1 cup fresh flowers simmered in 2 cup of milk.

Dried flowers used in potpourri and floral arrangements.
Fresh flowers floated in a bowlof water for a centerpiece.

Flowers produce a bright yellow.
Flowers produce creamy yellow with alum mordant.

Plant to repel asparagus beetles, tomato worms and many others.

Used as a colorant for fabrics, foods, and cosmetics.
Used in commerce as florists' cut flowers.
Extracts are used commercially in soft drinks, ice cream, candy, and baked goods.
Powdered flowers have been used as snuff.
The floral extract is used in perfumery.
An ancient love ritual involved combining dried Calendula petals, dried Marjoram, Thyme, and Wormwood; the herbs were ground into a powder, then simmered in honey andwhite wine; a young woman, having difficulty choosing between two suitors, would rub the mixture over her body, lie down for the night, then say 'St Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me, In dreams let me my true love see." (I guess love has never been easy in any age. Just glad I wasn't the one laundering the linens.)
A Medieval custom involved the person delegated to pick the flowers. This individual had to be fasting, have made a good confession and recited 3 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Marys before proceeding.


©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH