Calendula, well known as one of the ornamental marigolds, blooms month after month from early spring to first frost. Because "calend" means month in Latin, the plant's lengthy flowering season is believed to have given calendula its name. The herb has been used to heal wounds and treat inflamed skin since ancient times. An active ingredient that might be responsible for calendula's traditional medicinal properties has not been discovered. One theory suggests that volatile oils in the plant act synergistically with other constituents called xanthophylls . 1
What Is Calendula Used for Today? Experiments on rats and other animals suggest that calendula cream exerts wound-healing and anti-inflammatory effects, 2,3,4 but double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have not yet been reported. The best study on calendula so far was a controlled trial comparing calendula to the standard treatment trolamine for the prevention of skin irriation caused by radiation therapy . 6 Interestingly, the researchers used trolamine for comparison not because it has been proven effective but more as a kind of acceptable placebo (trolamine is not thought to do very much, even though it's widely used). The study found calendula more effective than trolamine. However, because this was not a double-blind study, the results mean little; mere expectation of benefit is likely to cause patients and experimenters to perceive benefit.
Creams made with calendula flower are a nearly ubiquitous item in the German medicine chest, used for everything from children's scrapes to eczema
, and poorly healing wounds. These same German products are widely available in the United States as well. Calendula cream is also used to soothe hemorrhoids
and varicose veins
, and the tea reportedly reduces the discomfort of canker sores
. However, as yet there is no scientific evidence for any of these uses.