Is calendula your cup of tea?

Wait a minute? Calendula? Pot marigold? Is this the flower my mom used to put in salad dressing to make it look all bright and summer like? Yes, yes it is. As a matter of fact, calendula is such a common flower, that you are probably used to passing by it without looking twice in its direction. It even reminds me of dandelions – the most ubiquitous and misunderstood yellow flowers out there.

Calendula is used in cosmetics a lot. Quite often it will be hiding in a bottle of cream or shampoo incognito, its presence undisclosed anywhere but in the list of ingredients. But then just as often calendula will be there in all its orange glory, staring you down from it prominent place on the package. What’s going on here?

Let’s start from what we already know. Calendula is eatable. Its taste is compared to that of saffron, but when saffron costs thousands of dollars for a kilogram, calendula demands something closer to hundreds. You can make tea out of calendula flowers and it is pretty good. And in the old days… You know, the healthier old days..? Well, in the old days calendula was used to colour cheeses. Mmmm, cheese…

Yes, you can also put calendula flowers behind your ear. It won’t make your hearing better…
But I digress. So we can eat it, then what? Is that a reason enough to smother it on our faces? Perhaps. Calendula is traditionally used to speed up recovery of flesh wounds. “Whoa, Babiola,” – say you, – “Just because your momma used it on your scrapes, does not mean it actually does anything.”

You will say that and I will agree with you. The research on calendula is limited in the sense that most research that shows calendula’s efficacy in aiding skin with recovery from burns, cuts, abrasions and rashes is usually performed on animals. Like me. Therefore, it is not clear whether any of the results are relevant to human health.

What is certain though is that calendula is rich in flavonoids. You should be prepared to read about flavonoids a lot if naturopathy is your thing. Flavonoids are antioxidants present in plants. We all know that antioxidants improve recovery and prevent damage to organism cells by neutralizing free radicals.

“Oooh, it has flavonoids, what plant doesn’t?” – you may say and you will be right again. But let us not forget, that when it comes to natural substances, their combined effects may not be as clear as those of a single molecule based pharmaceutical grade medicine. Calendula has been used as a natural cure since as early as the 12th century. What it lacks in scientifically proven efficacy, it makes up in empirical results.

Regardless of how calendula achieves it, here is what it was used for at one time or another throughout the human history: stomach ulcers, menstrual cramps, skin wounds, burns (including sunburn), ear infections, dermatitis, rashes (including diaper variety) and conjunctivitis. Say it all at once and you’ll run out of breath. Calendula also appears to improve skin hydration, resulting in firmer and healthier skin condition. Once again, there is no scientific proof for this, only empirical evidence. Good enough for me.

As you can see, calendula exhibits properties of a very effective immune stimulant. I am going to end this ode by saying that calendula is considered generally safe, especially in topical applications. No surprises there – in the end, you can eat this bright easy to find flower. As usual, there is a warning for pregnant and breastfeeding women – you ladies should consult your doctors before gorging yourselves on calendula petals…