Calendula (Calendula officinalis L.)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Allo-ocimene, Asteraceae (family), bride of the sun, bull flower, butterwort, Calendula arvensis L., Calendula micrantha, Calendula officinalis, calendula flower, calendula herb, calendulae flos, calendulae herba, Caltha officinalis, calypso orange florensis, cis-tagetone, claveton (Spanish), Compositae (family), cowbloom, death-flower, dihydro tagetone, drunkard gold, Fiesta Gitana Gelb, fior d'ogni (Italian), flaminquillo (Spanish), fleurs de tous les mois (French), gauche-fer (French), gold bloom, goldblume (German), golden flower of Mary, goulans, gouls, holligold, holygold, husband's dial, kingscup, Laser Activated Calendula Extract (LACE), limonene, lutein, maravilla, marybud, marigold, marigold dye, marigold flowers, may orange florensis, marygold, mejorana (Spanish), methyl chavicol, patuletin, patulitrin, piperitenone, piperitone, poet's marigold, pot marigold, publican and sinner, Ringelblume (German), ruddles, Scotch marigold, shining herb, solsequia, souci (French), souci des champs (French), souci des jardins (French), summer's bride, sun's bride, T. florida Sweet, Tagetes lucida (Asteraceae), Tagetes maxima, Tagetes patula (Asteraceae), T. schiedeana, water dragon, yolk of egg.
Note: Calendula or marigold should not be confused with the common garden or French marigold (Tagetes), African marigold (T. erecta), or Inca marigold (T. minuta).
Calendula, also known as marigold, has been widely used on the skin to treat minor wounds, skin infections, burns, bee stings, sunburn, warts, and cancer. Most scientific evidence regarding its effectiveness as a wound-healing agent is based on animal and laboratory study, while human research is virtually lacking.
One study in breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy suggests that calendula ointment may be helpful in preventing skin dermatitis (irritation, redness, and pain).
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Radiation skin protection
A study in women receiving radiation therapy to the breast for breast cancer reports that calendula ointment applied to the skin at least twice daily during treatment reduces severe dermatitis (skin irritation, redness, pain). However, this study cannot be considered conclusive due to limitations of its design. Based on this evidence, this approach may be considered in patients who experience radiation dermatitis that cannot be controlled with other therapies.
Calendula has been studied for reducing pain caused by ear infections. Some human studies suggest that calendula may possess mild anesthetic (pain-relieving) properties equal to those of similar non-herbal eardrop preparations. Further studies are needed before a recommendation can be made in this area.
Limited animal research suggests that calendula extracts may reduce inflammation when applied to the skin. Human studies are lacking in this area.
Venous leg ulcers
Calendula has been suggested as a possible treatment for venous leg ulcers. Further study is warranted.
Wound and burn healing
Calendula is commonly used on the skin to treat minor skin wounds. Reliable human research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Abscesses, acne, anemia, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, anxiety, appetite stimulant, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), athlete's foot, bacterial infections, benign prostatic hypertrophy, bladder irritation, blood purification, blood vessel clots, bowel irritation, bruises, cancer, cholera, circulation problems, conjunctivitis, constipation, contact dermatitis, cosmetic, cough, cramps, detoxification (purging agent), diabetes, diaper rash, diaphoresis (sweating), diarrhea, dizziness, diuretic, dystrophic nervous disturbances, eczema, edema, epididymitis, eye inflammation, fatigue, fever, frostbite, fungal infections, gastrointestinal inflammation, gastrointestinal tract disorders, gingivitis, gout, gum disease prevention, headache, heart disease, hemorrhoids, herpes keratitis, herpes simplex virus infections, high cholesterol, HIV, immune system stimulant, immunomodulation, indigestion, influenza, insomnia, jaundice, kidney or bladder stones, liver cancer, liver dysfunction, liver-gallbladder function stimulator, menstrual period abnormalities, metabolic disorders, migraine, mouth and throat infections, mosquito repellant, muscle spasms, muscle wasting, nausea, nervous disorders (iatrogenic disability), nervous system disorders, nosebleed, oral hygiene (oral cavity irrigation), pain, parasite infection, prostatitis, ringing in the ears, skin cancer, sore throat, spleen disorders, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, ulcerative colitis, ulcers (peptic ulcer disease), urinary retention, uterus problems, varicose veins, venous disorders (phlebitis, thrombophlebitis), vitamin deficiencies (lutein or beta-carotene), warts, yeast infections.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (over 18 years old)
For ear infections, the combination herbal product Otikon Otic® (which includes calendula) has been used in a dose of 5 drops placed in the affected ear three times daily. 5 drops of NHED® solution (which contains garlic [Allium sativum], Verbascum thapsus, Calendula flores, St. John's wort [Hypericum perfoliatum], lavender [Lavandula angustifolia], and vitamin E in olive oil) has been instilled into an affected ear three times daily.
According to two European expert panels, the German Commission E and the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP), a 2% to 5% ointment has been used. Preparations have been applied three to four times daily as needed.
A 1:1 tincture in 40% alcohol or a 1:5 tincture in 90% alcohol, diluted at least 1:3 with freshly boiled water, has been applied to the skin as a compress three to four times daily.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is currently not enough scientific evidence to recommend the use of calendula in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
People with allergies to plants in the Aster/Compositae family, such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies, are more likely to have an allergic reaction to calendula. There is one case of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock) after gargling with a calendula preparation.
Side Effects and Warnings
Aside from allergic reactions, few severe reactions have been found in published reports. In one small animal study, calendula was associated with a fatal reduction in blood glucose, accompanied by decreased serum lipids and protein. Skin (atopic dermatitis) and eye irritation have been reported.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
It is not clear if calendula is safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. In animal studies, calendula has had effects on the uterus, and calendula has traditionally been thought to have harmful effects on sperm and to cause abortions. However, it is not clear if these effects occur with use of calendula on the skin.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
In early animal studies, high doses of calendula were reported to cause drowsiness. It is not clear if the use of calendula on the skin of humans has this effect. In theory, the use of calendula in combination with sedative drugs may lead to increased drowsiness. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.
In early animal studies, high doses of calendula preparations were reported to lower blood pressure. It is not clear if the use of calendula on the skin of humans has this effect. In theory, the use of calendula in combination with drugs that lower blood pressure may lead to increased effects.
Calendula may also increase the effects of antispasmodics, which are drugs that help stop muscle spasms.
Use cautiously if taking drugs that can damage the liver or kidneys because calendula may increase the risk of organ damage.
Other possible interactions include increases in the activity of hypoglycemic (diabetic) medications or insulin, antifungal medications, or agents that decrease lipids and triglycerides (cholesterol-lowering drugs.)
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
In early animal studies, high doses of calendula were reported to cause drowsiness. It is not clear if the use of calendula on the skin of humans has this effect. Use of calendula in combination with herbs or supplements that have possible sedative effects may lead to increased drowsiness. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.
In early animal studies, high doses of calendula preparations were reported to lower blood pressure. It is not clear if the use of calendula on the skin of humans has this effect. In theory, the use of calendula in combination with herbs that may lower blood pressure may lead to increased effects.
Other possible interactions include increases in the activity of hypoglycemic (diabetic) medications or insulin, antifungals, or agents that decrease lipids and triglycerides (cholesterol-lowering agents).
Calendula may also increase the effects of herbs or supplements that help stop muscle spasms (called antispasmodics).
Use cautiously if taking herbs or supplements that can damage the liver or kidneys because calendula may increase the risk of organ damage.
Since the stem and leaves of calendula contain lutein and beta-carotene, a possible supplement interaction exists with products that contain these ingredients.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Anonymous. Final report on the safety assessment of Calendula officinalis extract and Calendula officinalis. Int J Toxicol 2001;20 Suppl 2:13-20. View Abstract
Basch E, Bent S, Foppa I, et al. Marigold (Calendula officinalis L.): an evidence-based systematic review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Herb Pharmacother 2006;6(3-4):135-59. View Abstract
Cordova CA, Siqueira IR, Netto CA, et al. Protective properties of butanolic extract of the Calendula officinalis L. (marigold) against lipid peroxidation of rat liver microsomes and action as free radical scavenger. Redox Rep 2002;7(2):95-102. View Abstract
De Tommasi N, Conti C, Stein ML, et al. Structure and in vitro antiviral activity of triterpenoid saponins from Calendula arvensis. Planta Med 1991;57(3):250-253. View Abstract
Duran V, Matic M, Jovanovc M, et al. Results of the clinical examination of an ointment with marigold (Calendula officinalis) extract in the treatment of venous leg ulcers. Int J Tissue React 2005;27(3):101-6. View Abstract
Fuchs SM, Schliemann-Willers S, Fischer TW, et al. Protective effects of different marigold (Calendula officinalis L.) and rosemary cream preparations against sodium-lauryl-sulfate-induced irritant contact dermatitis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2005;18(4):195-200. View Abstract
Hamburger M, Adler S, Baumann D, et al. Preparative purification of the major anti-inflammatory triterpenoid esters from Marigold (Calendula officinalis). Fitoterapia 2003;74(4):328-338. View Abstract
Kalvatchev Z, Walder R, Garzaro D. Anti-HIV activity of extracts from Calendula officinalis flowers. Biomed Pharmacother 1997;51(4):176-180. View Abstract
Lavagna SM, Secci D, Chimenti P, et al. Efficacy of Hypericum and Calendula oils in the epithelial reconstruction of surgical wounds in childbirth with caesarean section. Farmaco 2001;56(5-7):451-453. View Abstract
Lievre M, Marichy J, Baux S, et al. Controlled study of three ointments for the local management of 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Clin Trials Meta-analysis 1992;28:9-12.
McQuestion M. Evidence-based skin care management in radiation therapy. Semin Oncol Nurs 2006 Aug;22(3):163-73. View Abstract
Pommier P, Gomez F, Sunyach MP, et al. Phase III randomized trial of Calendula officinalis compared with trolamine for the prevention of acute dermatitis during irradiation for breast cancer. J Clin Oncol 2004;22(8):1447-1453. View Abstract
Sarrell EM, Mandelberg A, Cohen HA. Efficacy of naturopathic extracts in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2001;155(7):796-799.
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017