Surprising Calendula Uses for More than Skin

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peoDiscover Calendula uses for more than just skin on this podcast with Julie.Those popular, pretty, yellow and orange (and sometimes white or pink) flowers pack a punch. You might know them better as the skin herb, Calendula. Discover Calendula uses for more than just skin on this podcast with Julie.

First, marigolds and calendula are not the same plant. They look similar and are both in the Asteraceae family, but they are different plants in several respects. It gets confusing because Calendula is often known as pot Marigold or common Marigold, and even some herbals will list Calendula as Marigold! But, this is a misnomer as Calendula and true Marigold are in different plant genuses. Calendula is found in northern Africa and south-central Europe, while Marigolds or Tagetes sp. are native to the tropical and hot parts of the Americas.

Most importantly, Calendula plants are edible while many Marigold species are not. Best to make sure you’ve got the right plant. And, because of their spicy, somewhat unpleasant aroma, Marigolds are the better choice for pest control in your garden. Calendula grows well in pots, but don’t try to transplant them into your garden from those pots. They don’t transplant well. Grows well in almost any soil. Prefers at least partial sun.

Historical Calendula Uses

Calendula officinalis, also known as Mary-Bud, Mary-Gold, Pot Marigold and Poor Man’s Saffron, has been cultivated at least since the 12th century, but was known and used for centuries before that. The Latin name, Calendae, means the first day of the month. The Romans observed that it flowered on the first day of each month, almost like clockwork, and thus the name. But, while ancient Egyptians used calendula for skin treatments, the Greeks and Romans primarily used it in cooking and in rituals. For rituals and weddings, they would string the flowers together into garlands.

Find out about its calendula uses in cooking on the podcast.

Myths and Superstitions

Marigold legends

Some old calendula uses were more superstitious and mythical. For example, there are several stories about how it came to be called Marigold (which is confusing, as I said earlier).

One tradition stems from church legends describing an event that they say happened to the Holy Family during their flight to Egypt. The legend says that robbers came and took Mary’s purse. However, when they opened it, all that they found were the golden flowers, so the calendula was ever after known as ‘Mary’s Gold’. And thus, the calendula uses in early Catholic events in some countries.

Another folk legend describes a beautiful, golden-haired child called Mary-Gold who spent all her time watching the sun until one day she disappeared and was never found. In the place where she used to sit, there grew a little sun-like flower. The child’s friends proclaimed that the little flower was really Mary-Gold and that she had been turned into a flower. And that is the country folk came to call calendula Marigold.

Other superstitious beliefs and stories

During the medieval era, there were many other superstitious beliefs about calendula uses. One held that strewing calendula under your bed offered you protection from robbers and thieves. And, if you had been robbed, calendula would help you find the robbers. Another common belief was that it was considered wise to carry a bit of calendula in your pocket when going to court to ensure a positive outcome. And another story is that women who walked barefoot across calendula petals were supposedly able to communicate with birds.

Learn how people thought calendula was a love charm and other superstitions on the podcast.

Calendula Comes to America

Calendulas came to the New World with the first European settlers. They believed the plant would protect them from native witchcraft in addition to physical ailments. They also brought it for cooking, just as they had used in soups and stews in their homelands.

By the 1800’s doctors had realized that the plant, used as a poultice, could stop bleeding. By the time of the Civil War most doctors carried dried calendula petals in their medical bags to stop bleeding and to promote the healing of wounds. And, during World War I in England, British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll led a campaign to grow and gather calendulas to get an adequate supply of calendulas to British military hospitals in France. Yes, they were using calendula for wound healing.

Modern Calendula Uses

Test tube research shows that it promotes collagen growth and influences the proteins involved in wound healing, resulting in faster healing times and less scarring. This ability to heal wounds affects internal wounds as well, making it effective at addressing stomach ulcers. Calendula also has antioxidants that fight inflammation, aging, and the formation of cancer cells. Other calendula uses include antifungal, antiviral, and antimicrobial actions, especially on the skin, and in the mouth. It is so gentle, calendula uses include diaper rash, mild burns, and inflamed eyes. People have also used Calendula to address varicose veins, bug bites, and delayed menses.

Contains triterpene saponins, triterpene alcohols, flavonoids, carotenoids, polysaccharides, and numerous other constituents and antioxidant groups.

Because it is an emmenagogue, do not take it internally during pregnancy. Safe for children, though. Used mostly as an ointment, salve, oil, or tea. Now sometimes also as an essential oil.

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