Calendula: The Research and Practice of an Amazing Plant

Perhaps one of the most revered formulations for skin care in natural medicine has been Calendula flower oil. Gentle and effective for children, the elderly, and everyone in-between, many generations have been mothered with the soft touch of this wonderful oil. At the same time, its use was rather limited; but now, Calendula essential oil has become available on a wide scale, allowing folks to make use of the recently elucidated VERY broad range of healing properties.

The Brilliant Calendula Flower

Calendula flowers, a particular kind of Marigold, is a genus of 20 species of herbaceous plants in the Daisy family. Calendula infused oil — made by soaking the flowers in olive oil — is highly regarded as a base of soothing skin formulas, with cooling and hydrating effects. It has been a popular ingredient in formulas for eczema and baby’s needs — or anywhere skin irritation is being addressed. The infused oil had limitations in that the base oil needed to be the infused oil itself, limiting other carrier or base oils included in the formula. Even very small quantities (1-3%, or 8-24 drops per ounce) of the essential oil added to your recipes can have dramatic results

New Methods Offer Easy-To-Use Essential Oil

The Calendula essential oil concentrate is often labeled as Calendula CO2, meaning all the lipid-soluble components of the plant have been extracted using pressurized, liquified carbon dioxide. At the end of the process, the carbon dioxide is released and only the essential oil remains. A search through the data provided by the US Nation Library of Medicine uncovers hundreds of references to Calendula officinalis extract. The database is hosted at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov — simply search for the therm “calendula” for pages of facinating results to browse through.

A Summary of the Research

The research focuses on several of Calendula’s healing properties. Scientists have investigated the following effects of Calendula: an increased rate of wound healing, treatment of radiation burns from chemotherapy, powerful antioxidant activity, inflammation reduction, liver protection, plus anti-parasitic, antibacterial, antiviral, antispasmodic and even anti-tumorial effects. Most of the conclusions of these studies straightforwardly hail the healing effects of Calendula; in Volume 20, 2009 Journal of Basic Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, Indian scientists note “The data indicate potent wound healing activity of Calendula officinalis extract”. Other researchers concluded in the 2009 Indian Journal of Experimental Biology: “Results suggest a protective role of the flower extract of C. officinalis against…hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity) and cisplatin induced nephrotoxicity (kidney toxicity)…has been found to contain several carotenoids of which lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene predominate…action of the flower extract may be due to its antioxidant activity”. One can read a great many of these studies coming to the same conclusions — that Calendula extract (ie. the CO2 essential oil) has nearly miraculous healing powers. So then, how to use it? Let’s have a look at some classic methods.

Home Care Formulas Using the Essential Oil

The easiest uses of Calendula essential oil will be in externally-applied topical formulas. Simply include a few drops per ounce of your recipe. For example, an excellent wound-healing AND anti-inflammatory blend could be made with 3 milliliters of Helichrysum italicum essential oil (a profound wound-healing and pain relieving essential oil) and 1 milliliter Calendula essential oil in a base of equal parts Tamanu, Coconut and Rosehip seed oils. This would be useful for treatment of wounds after accidents or surgery (while it should not be applied directly to open wounds — around the open area would be fine). A stronger formula would be useful for deep tissue injuries, like sports injuries, muscle strains, sprains and the like. Use up to 25% Helichrysum and 5% Calendula in a simple base of pure Jojoba oil, massaging into painful areas up to 3 times daily. This type of formula utilizes the strong anti-inflammatory action of Helichrysum along with the wound healing and antioxidant effects of Calendula to speed healing and relieve pain of connective-tissue damage. Calendula is safe for use with both children and the elderly, though the overall concentrations of these formulas should be reduced accordingly depending on the age group (there are many online references for essential oil concentrations with different age groups). Beyond wound healing, simply antioxidant activity in skin preparations will limit free-radical damage that is often associated with skin aging, making Calendula a great ingredient in every beauty-care recipe.

Liver and Kidney Protection Through Reflexology

Topical therapeutic application may be best performed using the practice of reflexology. Calendula and other essential oils used for support of the liver and kidney can be massaged into the reflex points of the feet corresponding to these organs. These points are directly behind the ball of the foot (away from the toes, toward the arch) — the liver point is in-line between the big toe and the second toe, the kidneys in-line with the split between the 4th and pinky toe. These areas can be massaged, with the practitioner and massage recipient communicating to find the exact points most in need of attention. An excellent detoxifying blend can be made with Calendula (10%), Helichrysum (3-5%), Blue Tansy (5%) and Carrot Seed (5%) in virgin Coconut oil. This same blend can be diluted in half again and applied on the body in the regions of the organs themselves.

Safe, Safe, Safe

Calendula essential oil has been listed by the FDA as being safe for ingestion in commonly-used amounts. What does this mean? When essential oils are ingested, they are typically consumed by the drop, and usually in the range of only 1-3 drops per day. Ingesting the oil may be a way to utilize the liver and kidney anti-toxicity protective effects described in the research. While typically essential oil ingestion is frowned upon in the United States, the real challenge is proper education about dosages. Calendula CO2 extract specifically should be quite tame, although perhaps the most tasty thing one has ever put in their body! Ingestion of 3 drops daily, put in an empty cellulose capsule if you like, may impart a range of benefits, from antioxidant activity, to chemo-protective, to antibacterial and antiparasitic potential actions.

Calendula: Now One of the Most Highly Regarded Natural Medicines

Calendula is a profoundly-healing plant, with both great historical AND scientific backing supporting its use. The most obvious and easy use of the essential oil is for treatment of skin irritation and wound healing of all varieties. Calendula synergizes with Helichrysum essential oil to speed wound healing, reduce inflammation, and provide support for injuries to the musculoskeletal system (painful joints, muscles, tendons and the like). Calendula extract has also been noted by researchers as protective for the liver and kidneys, and has other protective effects for nearly every aspect of our physiology. The extract can be safely ingested in small amounts, offering a range of supportive activity. You’ll readily find Calendula CO2 essential oil on websites offering therapeutic grade essential oils — look for one that’s described as a thick liquid rather than a paste, as it will be easier to work with for all needs. If these effects of Calendula seem like something you or your family members could use, its long history of medicinal use, along with scientific validation, make it a worthwhile product to investigate further.

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