Calendula Officinalis, commonly known as the marigold, is a hardy little plant belonging to the daisy family which is native to Europe, Asia and the US but now grown the world over. In warm climates it flowers once a month by the calendar, hence its name. The leaves and edible flowers of the marigold are an old favourite for culinary use in soups and stews and in folk medicine, employed since ancient times for its pain relieving and wound healing gifts. It was considered a magical and spiritual flower.
Calendula Oil is made by macerating or infusing a base oil with the flowers. There are different methods of maceration but one involves steeping the flowers in hot sunflower, almond or apricot kernel oil so that the cell membranes rupture and release their nutrients, which are then absorbed into the oil. After a time, the flowers are removed, leaving a lovely deep orange-yellow oil. Despite appearing to be a common or garden herb, the humble marigold yields a rich and complex oil which contains vitamins A and E, calendulin, waxes, tannins, phosphorous, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and antioxidants like mucilage, carotenoids, quercetin and saponin as well as numerous other compounds. The major anti-inflammatory saponins in Calendula Oil are the triterpenoid esters which appear to be partly responsible for Calendula’s remarkable healing abilities. However, as Calendula is one of the richest sources of carotenoids, including lycopene and lutein and some others that are unique to the herb, it is probably the synergistic effect of a number of compounds that make Calendula Oil so special.
Calendula Oil is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial whilst being softening and soothing. It is especially known for being vulnerary (wound healing) because it stimulates granulation tissue, the filler tissue produced by the body. The high triterpenoid content takes care of inflammation which naturally reduces pain and irritation. Calendula Oil kills Staphylococcus aureus, a common microbe that infects wounds and burns and prevents them from healing. Calendula Oil moisturises and protects skin from bacterial invasion, helping to speed the healing process further by increasing collagen production and cell turnover and regeneration. In ageing skin, this means less thinning and dryness and more suppleness.
Calendula Oil can be applied topically to an incredibly wide range of skin problems where healing, calming and soothing are needed. It is particularly good for thread veins, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, bruises and stubborn wounds that are slow to heal, as well as ulcers and bed sores. It has been found effective for restoring breast skin that has been damaged in radiation treatment and is also useful for scarred, irritated, itchy or broken skin, acne and sunburn. Calendula Oil makes a wonderful massage oil, especially when there are skin issues, because of its lubricating and gentle healing properties. It can be used anywhere skin is inflamed, like allergic reactions, hives, nappy rash, eczema, cracked nipples, insect bites, dermatitis and burns. The antifungal effects of Calendula Oil make it a wise choice for treating athlete’s foot and ringworm.