Calendula - Medical & Other Uses
Medical & Other Uses
Research shows that calendula quells inflammation, soothes mucous membranes, and has antiviral properties, so it's sure to come in handy for life's minor cuts and scrapes. It will also add a little color to your life: freshly squeezed flowers add vibrant orange and golden hues to rice or other grain. Even soups and sandwiches become new and exciting with a few petals of this bright flower added to them.
calendula may sound like something new, but it's not-it's been used since antiquity to heal many an ailment, from burns and skin abrasions to toothaches and flu. Ancient Romans treated scorpion bites with it. Like many plants, it was once used against tuberculosis and syphilis, and cancer research in the mid-20th century suggests that calendula may have some beneficial effects on the immune system. Today, the plant is most commonly used for skin conditions, wounds, and chronic irritations of mucous tissue, such as those occurring with sore gums and throats.
Historically, calendula was used foremost as a cooking ingredient, and was commonly called pot marigold. Not the same marigold that we grow in our gardens today-most marigolds are members of the genus Tagetes, and are native to Central and South America-pot marigold (calendula officinalis) grew wild all over Europe by the time of the Middle Ages, having migrated there from ancient Rome and Greece. It was added to so many foods-via the cooking "pot"-that it became a kitchen staple and was planted specifically for food use.
By the seventeenth century, pot marigold was added to spice or color stews, spinach, oatmeal, pudding, and wine. When dried and sprinkled onto foods, its similarity in hue to saffron made it a frequent substitute for the expensive and preferred spice. Interestingly, its flavor was not as highly regarded as its extensive use would indicate, so it never made it into the spice jars or onto the dinner plates of discriminating 20th century cooks.
pot marigold was also considered a magical herb, and was used in the Middle Ages as a charm to conjure fairies and to decide upon a husband. This mystical status probably stemmed from the word marigold itself, which had both religious and regal implications, as indicated by the seventeenth century rhyme by poet John Gay:
What flower is that which bears the Virgin's name, The richest metal joined to the same
Today's uses for pot marigold certainly are less varied. The yellow-orange petals soothe and speed the healing of broken, bruised, or burnt skin. Calendula creams soothe wind-burnt, chapped skin and diaper rash. Liquid extracts have shown in laboratory tests an ability to induce granulation, an integral part of the healing process during wound healing. How calendula does this has yet to be determined, but it may be caused by the combined effects of the volatile oil and chemicals called xanthophylls that calendula contains. Studies also suggest that calendula is anti-inflammatory and antiviral, and helps to relieve edema, which is swelling caused by fluid retention.
Calendula can be safely used to treat minor burns, bruises, sprains, insect bites, slow-healing wounds, skin ulcers, eczema, gum disease, and mouth irritations. Use creams, salves, or fresh juice-or "succus"-on the skin. For gum disease, swab calendula succus or extract onto gums-its affinity for the wet lining of the mouth is one reason it's been added to some toothpastes. You can also swab succus or extract onto canker sores, as well as sore throats: put calendula extract in a cup and gargle.
Extracts are better suited to stomach-aches and ulcers than is the succus-the alcohol that's used in the preparation of extracts serves as a kind of quality assurance that the active volatile oil and xanthophylls are present in the calendula product. The success of a proprietary European calendula extract on colitis and duodenal and gastric ulcers indicates that these active components may survive their initial pass through the stomach intact to benefit the mucosa of the digestive tract.
Balm for the Chronic Wound
Some wounds heal more slowly than others. While it's a good idea for anyone with a poorly healing wound to consult with a physician-an underlying condition, such as diabetes or an autoimmune disease, can retard healing- such wounds provide an excellent excuse to impress and amaze your friends and neighbors with the speedy curative powers of calendula.
Bug bites and bumps and bruises are also good reasons to take calendula salves, ointments, or creams with you on your next outdoor adventure. Calendula reduces the swelling of bug bites and takes away some of their itch. And each of us has experienced that memorable backpacking trip, during which minor accidents seemed to happen at every turn. The same spot you spilled hot coffee on also happened to be in the way of the branch that poked out across the footpath, and managed to position itself against that jagged boulder tip protruding from the rock pile. What to do You got it: Calendula!
You're Going to Eat What!
Many of us mistake calendula with North American garden marigold, which gives off a bitter and unpleasant scent and is used as a toxic-and ornamental-insect repellant to safeguard garden vegetables against insects. Given this confusion, it's understandable that the general reaction to eating or ingesting calendula is one of repulsion. But it's not the same plant at all, and you can rest assured that Calendula is neither going to poison you nor keep you away from your own vegetables! You can safely add calendula petals to your salads, and swish calendula juice around in your mouth. No health hazards or side effects have been attributed to calendula.
As a member of the ragweed family, however, it is possible for sensitive individuals to develop an allergy to it, so as with any herb, use good judgment and follow label instructions when using calendula preparations.
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