Calendula — or, more specifically, Calendula officinalis or pot marigold — has been used as a medicinal treatment for hundreds of years. Historically, the uses of calendula include easing digestive issues, including ulcers and upset stomach, as well as menstrual cramps. Research suggests that calendula has antibacterial and antiviral properties, and may help to treat minor infections; it may act as an anti-inflammatory. It has also been used as a topical treatment for wounds and bruises.
There is no firm scientific proof for using calendula to treat digestive and menstrual issues. Calendula ear drops are sometimes used for treating children's ear infections; although studies investigating this use are too few to determine if it is effective, no side effects were observed from these uses of calendula drops. The limited evidence regarding the benefits of dermatological uses of calendula comes from various types of studies, primarily on animals. Calendula may help to increase the blood supply to an injured area, and help the body to generate the proteins necessary for tissue healing.
Studies suggest that calendula assists in preventing dermatitis of breast cancer sufferers during radiation treatment. Radiation dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes red and irritated after exposure to radiation; similar to a sunburn, it can make the skin sensitive and painful. A research study involving 250 breast cancer patients showed that patients who used calendula lotion to treat their dermatitis were less likely to experience more severe symptoms.
Calendula, like all herbs, can have side effects and drug interactions, so a few precautions should be kept in mind. Most uses of calendula are generally considered safe and nontoxic, but should not be used on serious wounds without the supervision of a medical professional. This flower can produce an allergic reaction in those sensitive to botanicals in the daisy or aster family, and it also might interact with sedatives and high blood pressure drugs.
The dosage of calendula depends on the type of preparation, as well as the age and health of the users. Children should only be given calendula homeopathic preparations under the supervision of a licensed homeopath. It should also not be used by pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.
In addition to its medical properties, calendula is also grown as a purely ornamental plant. Not all plants commonly called marigolds are calendula, however; others that share this common name include the desert and marsh marigold, which belong to different plant families. Marigolds in this genus include the field, sea, and pot marigold.