Apart from the beauty of their bright yellow-orange flowers, calendula – and more broadly all marigolds – have many health benefits that stem from their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties. Plant some marigolds in your garden and make your own calendula skin care products, which can help heal cuts, wounds, and burns. Learn more about their benefits and what side effects to watch out for.
What are Marigolds?
Marigold plants of the Calendula and Tagetes genus have different origins and somewhat distinctive qualities. Both are members of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and bloom gorgeous colorful flowers. Some species of Marigolds are mainly used as decorative garden plants, while the flowers and leaves of other species have been nurtured as remedies in both European and Native American folk medicine [1, 2].
The Calendula genus is native to central Europe and the Mediterranean. It includes 25 species, the most common ones being English or pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) and field marigold (Calendula arvensis) .
Pot marigold or common marigold is also simply known as calendula. It has been used since the 12th century for its medicinal properties. Due to its triterpenoids and flavonoids, pot marigold is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and anticancer remedy. Moreover, it can boost oral health, heal burns and wounds, and soothe muscle cramps [3, 1, 4].
Field marigold has been used traditionally in Spanish and Italian folk medicine for fevers, reducing inflammation, and fighting cancer. People would crush the leaves and use them to close wounds while the flowers were applied to burns.
Native American & Other Marigolds
The Tagetes plants include 56 species native to South America, and nowadays cultivated in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Traditionally, their ornamental flowers were used to make decorations and accompany ceremonies .
Thienyls from the roots of these plants have antifungal properties, whereas terpenoids from flowers and leaves have antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Aside from being bug repellants, they are used as remedies for dental, stomach, gut, and emotional problems .
Tagetes erecta, commonly known as Aztec marigold is native to Mexico. Historically, the Aztecs used this plant as a remedy for boils, injuries, headaches, earaches, stomach aches, and colds. Studies show that Aztec marigold also has antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, anticancer and antidepressant properties [8, 9, 2, 10].
Tagetes lucida, also known as Mexican marigold or Spanish Tarragon, is native to Mexico and Central America. It is used traditionally as an anti-inflammatory, but also to reduce anxiety, depression, and emotional issues. The Aztecs considered this plant a remedy for cancer, dementia, and fever, while its flowers are used for seasoning and coloring food [11, 12, 2, 13].
In Bangladesh, the leaves of French marigold (Tagetes patula) are applied on boils and calluses. The leaves are also used for kidney disease, muscle pain, and hemorrhoids, whereas their juice is applied to reduce eye infections. In Pakistan, both the leaves and flowers are used to lower fever. Extracts of French marigold have antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties [14, 2, 15, 16, 17].
Tagetes minuta or wild marigold is used widely in the folk medicine of Africa, Latin America, and Pakistan. Leaves and flowers infusions are considered remedies for wounds, sores, dental infections, skin conditions, cough, and stomach disorders, and insomnia. Extracts of the wild marigold can kill bacteria, fungi and repel insects [18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23].
Types of Marigolds
Snapshot of Marigolds
- Promote skin health & help heal wounds and burns
- Enhance oral health
- Kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses
- Relieve cramps
- May fight inflammation, protect the liver and stomach
- May prevent depression
- May help fight diabetes and heart disease
- Repel bugs
- Possible allergic reactions
- Possible drug interactions
- Likely unsafe for pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Flavonoids (quercetin, rutin, narcissin, isorhamnetin, kaempferol)
- Phenolic acids
- Carotenoids (beta-carotene)
- Triterpenoids (faradiol laurate, faradiol myristate, faradiol monoester)
- Fatty acids (calendic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid)
- Complex sugars (polysaccharides)
- Minerals (potassium , sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron)
- Amino acids (alanine, arginine, lysine, tyrosine)
- Volatile oils
- Minerals (iron, copper, magnesium, calcium, zinc)
- Phenolic acids
- Fatty acids
Health Benefits of Calendula
1) Promote Skin Health
In clinical studies with over 700 people undergoing radiation, pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) cream or oil decreased the risk of radiation dermatitis and reduced pain caused by radiation [48, 49, 50].
However, in clinical trials with over 300 children, alternative treatments (Bentonite, olive oil cream, shampoo-clay) improved diaper rash symptoms faster and better than pot marigold ointment [53, 54, 55, 56].
Pot marigold ointment reduced tissue damage and improved a skin condition causing dry peeling lips (exfoliative cheilitis) in an 18-year old man .
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are enzymes that break down components of the connective tissues and skin. Increased MMP-1 and MMP-2 production can cause skin damage, wrinkles, and skin aging. In cell studies, both Aztec marigold and pot marigold extracts reduced MMP-1 and MMP-2, while increasing collagen and laminin-5 [58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 62, 27, 63, 64].
2) Boost Wound and Burns Healing
In clinical studies with more than 200 people with feet conditions that cause injuries or calluses (such as diabetic feet), pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), French marigold (Tagetes patula), and Aztec marigold (Tagetes erecta) extracts blocked infections, reduced the wounds and calluses sizes, diminished the pain, and decreased itching and redness [69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75].
In several clinical studies with over 150 people with chronic skin wounds (various ulcers or diabetic foot), pot marigold spray reduced the number of wounds, dead tissue, and bad smell, while speeding up healing [76, 77, 78].
In a clinical study on 156 people with burns, pot marigold ointment sped up the healing process better than just vaseline .
In 111 women who had vaginal wounds from a surgical procedure for easier childbirth (episiotomy), pot marigold ointment decreased swelling and increased the speed of healing .
In 24 women who had a cesarean section, field marigold (Calendula arvensis) oil together with St John’s wort oil improved the surgical wounds better and faster than the placebo .
In cells, pot marigold extracts increased collagen and decreased the enzyme that breaks down collagen (collagenase). Marigolds triggered the growth of cells that help repair and rebuild connective tissue (fibroblasts) and promoted new blood vessel formation (angiogenesis) [84, 31, 85, 64].
- Promoting the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis).
- Increasing collagen and cells that help repair and rebuild connective tissue (fibroblasts).
- Decreasing the enzyme that breaks down collagen (collagenase).
3) Enhance Oral Health
In a clinical study on 240 people with gum disease (gingivitis), pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) mouth rinse twice/day for 6 months reduced the dental plaque (mass of bacteria), gum bleeding and improved gum disease .
In a clinical study on 60 people with gum disease (gingivitis), a mouth rinse with pot marigold, rosemary, and ginger twice/day for 2 weeks decreased the dental plaque (mass of bacteria), and improved the symptoms compared to placebo .
In 60 people with oral inflammation and wounds in the lining of the mouth and tongue (oral leukoplakia), pot marigold gel decreased the size of the wounds within 1 month .
In 40 people with oral wounds, swelling and pain from radiotherapy, pot marigold mouth rinse reduced the symptoms and treated the wounds within 6 weeks .
In cells, pot marigold root extracts blocked the growth of the bacteria causing oral infections, teeth and gum diseases (Porphyromonas gingivalis, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Veilonella parvula) .
- Blocking the growth of bacteria that cause oral infections and teeth and gum diseases.
- Reducing the size and number of oral wounds.
- Improving symptoms of gum disease and mouth inflammation.
4) Help fight Infections
In a clinical study with 150 women with vaginal yeast infections (Candidiasis), pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) vaginal cream for 30 – 35 days decreased the frequency of symptoms and improved sexual function compared to the conventional therapy (clotrimazole) .
In clinical studies with over 270 children with ear infections, 5 drops of a herbal solution containing pot marigold and other herbs (garlic, mullein, St. John’s wort, lavender, vitamin E, gordolobo) reduced ear pain better than the anesthetic ear drops [91, 92].
Kill Bacteria, Fungi, and Viruses
In cells, all marigolds ( Calendula officinalis, Calendula arvensis, Tagetes erecta, Tagetes lucida, Tagetes minuta, Tagetes patula) blocked the growth of the following bacteria [93, 9, 30, 90, 94, 95, 96, 97, 6, 14]:
- Plasmodium falciparum, which causes malaria
- Shigella flexneri, which causes diarrhea
- Various bacteria that cause urine tract, respiratory, blood and skin infections, brain, and spinal cord inflammations (such as Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus, Bacillus, and Enterobacter species)
- Bacterial infections that cause complications in people with poor immunity and hospital infections (Micrococcus luteus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa)
- Bacteria that cause oral infections and teeth and gum diseases
- Fungi that produce aflatoxin (Aspergillus species)
- Various Candida species
- Yeast infections that cause complications in people with poor immunity (Rhodotorullaalbicans)
- HIV-1 that causes HIV infections and AIDS
- Rhinovirus (HRV), that can cause the common cold and other respiratory infections
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), causing mononucleosis
- Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), which mainly affects animals but can also cause fever, muscle pain, and weakness in humans
- Killing bacteria.
- Inhibiting viruses.
- Blocking the growth of fungi.
5) Relieve from Cramps
In 72 young women with menstrual cramps, pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) and mint oil topical application (belly massage) reduced menstrual cramps and pain, menstrual bleeding, and the need for painkillers during menstruation .
- Blocking calcium channels, which decreases spasms and soothes the muscles.
6) Lower Inflammation & Oxidative Stress
In rats exposed to cigarette smoke, pot marigold increased the production of antioxidant enzymes and vitamins (superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C) and prevented cell injury .
- Their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds (aradiol 3-O-laurate, palmitate, myristate, faradiol monoester).
- Their antioxidant compounds (rutin, quercetin, quercetagetin, lutein).
- Lowering inflammatory cytokines (TNF-a, IL-6, IL-1 beta, INF-gamma).
- Inhibiting Cox-2, an inflammatory enzyme.
- Blocking NF-κB, an inflammatory protein complex.
- Increasing the IL-10 production, an anti-inflammatory cytokine.
- Activating lymphocytes, white blood cells important for immune function.
- Increasing the production of antioxidant enzymes and vitamins.
7) May Fight Cancer
In cell and animal studies, various marigolds blocked the growth of cancer cells (prostate, breast, liver, melanoma, leukemia, cervix, lung, pancreas and colorectal), increased cancer cell death, and prevented metastasis [111, 95, 96, 121, 34, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 102, 6].
The following Marigolds were used:
- Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)
- Field marigold (Calendula arvensis)
- Aztec marigold (Tagetes erecta)
- French marigold (Tagetes patula)
- Wild marigold (Tagetes minuta)
This highlights the cancer-fighting potential of completely different Marigold species that should be researched further.
- Killing cancer cells and blocking their growth.
- Blocking enzymes and acids cancers need to spread (hydroxyproline, uronic acid, hexosamine, blood sialic acid, and GGT).
- Supporting the immune system by increasing lymphocytes.
- Lowering oxidative stress.
8) May Protect the Liver and Stomach
In rats, pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) increased the production of antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione), reduced oxidative stress, reduced liver inflammation, and minimized liver damage [129, 130, 131].
- Increasing the production of antioxidant enzymes.
- Reducing oxidative stress.
- Lowering liver and stomach inflammation.
9) May Prevent Depression
- Increasing levels of serotonin, the happiness neurotransmitter.
- Blocking monoamine oxidase (MAO-A), a brain enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline, adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine.
10) May Help with Diabetes
- Lowering high blood sugar (glucose) levels.
- Decreasing high lipase, an enzyme that breaks down blood fats.
- Reducing high creatine kinase, an enzyme involved in energy production.
- Increasing low amylase levels, an enzyme that breaks down complex carbs.
11) May Protect the Heart
Pot marigold stimulated the heartbeat and the blood flow in a study on hearts with reduced blood flow. It also decreased the death of heart muscle cells, preventing a heart attack .
- Reducing blood fats and blood pressure – the main risk factors for heart disease.
- Reducing the risk of heart attacks by increasing blood flow and stimulating the heartbeat, even when oxygen levels are low (helping muscle cells live longer).
12) Repel Insects
In 4 men, pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) oil and myrtle oil repelled the mosquito-causing malaria parasite (Anopheles stephensi). However, the repellent effects lasted shorter than the chemical bug repellant (DEET) .
- Mosquitos (Culex quinquefasciatus, Aedes aegypti, Anopheles stephensi)
- Ticks (Rhipicephalus microplus, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, Amblyomma cajennense, Argas miniatus)
- Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius)
- Winchukas (Triatoma infestans), which can cause a parasitic disease (Chagas disease)
- Fleas and flies that cause infections in cats and dogs
- Parasites and insects harmful to vegetables and plants
People who are allergic to the daisy or sunflower (Asteraceae/Compositae) family plants, such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, chamomile, and echinacea, should avoid marigold products, as their intake may cause serious allergic reactions (anaphylactic shock) [160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165].
Limitations and Caveats
There are sufficient clinical trials examining the effect of marigolds on skin health and wound healing. Other health benefits are supported mainly by animal and cell studies, or clinical studies with a small number of participants.
Moreover, most research is focused on the Calendula plants and not on the Tagetes family plants.
More research would provide additional information about the risks and health benefits of marigolds.
Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) has a calming effect and may induce sleepiness. Taking pot marigold together with sedative drugs may cause excessive sleepiness or drowsiness. It is recommended to avoid consuming pot marigold with clonazepam, lorazepam, phenobarbital, zolpidem, and other sedative or anti-seizure drugs [26, 147].
Blood Pressure-Lowering Drugs
Blood Sugar-Lowering Drugs
Marigold Products and Supplements
For the improvement of skin conditions, wounds, and burns, both marigold plants (Calendula, Tagetes) come in various forms: paste, tincture, oil, ointment, ear drops, mouth rinse, herbal tea, gel, and cream [168, 26].
However, the preparation of these products varies from brand to brand. Some products may not be standardized .
The dosage varied in studies and depends on the form of supplementation.
For wounds, burns, and cramps, either 2 – 4 ml of calendula (Calendula officinalis) tincture diluted to 250 – 500 ml water or 2 – 5 g of calendula in 100 g of ointment. Topical applications may be applied 3 – 4 times daily [5, 160, 3, 26].
For oral health, 2 ml of pot marigold tincture diluted in 6 ml of water, and this mix used as a mouth rinse twice daily for 6 months is suggested .
How to Make Your Own Calendula Skin Care Products
How to Make Calendula Oil
You will need:
- 1/4 cup pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) flowers*
- 1/2 cup olive oil (or avocado oil or almond oil)
- Place calendula petals in a clean, dry glass jar.
- Pour enough olive oil so that the petals are covered by about one inch of oil.
- Seal jar with a tight-fitting lid and leave on a sunny windowsill for 4 – 6 weeks. Shake the jar once a day. The olive oil will change into a golden color.
- After 4 – 6 weeks, strain the herbs with a mixer (or a cheesecloth) and pour the liquid into a clean, glass jar.
- Store the jar out of sunlight, preferably in a dark and cool cabinet.
*You can also make marigold oil for skin use from Native American and other (Tagetes species) marigolds.
Tip: There is a quicker method if you do not want to wait for 4 – 6 weeks. You can very gently heat the jar with marigold flowers and olive oil in a hot water bath (Bain Marie) for 2 – 6 hours. Then, strain the liquid and pour it into a clean glass jar and store it in a dark, cool place.
Calendula Ointment Recipe
You will need:
- 120 ml marigold oil
- 30 ml beeswax
- 10 or more drops of 100% pure lavender essential oil (optional)
What you will do:
- Place the marigold oil in a hot water bath (Bain Marie) on low heat.
- Add 30ml beeswax and boil slowly until the beeswax is melted.
- When melted, remove the mix from heat and add 10 drops of the lavender essential oil. Mix well.
- Pour the mix in a clean glass jar and seal it. Let it cool down.
- The cooler the mix gets, the thicker it will become.
- Your marigold ointment is ready for use.
More Calendula (Marigold) Recipes
It is easy to make marigold tea or jelly at home by following the steps below.
Note: Only the Calendula officinalis flowers are edible, not the Tagetes marigolds.
You will need:
- 200ml water
- two teaspoons of dried pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) petals
- Cut the petals from the pot marigold flowers right where the green part begins and keep only the petals.
- Rinse the petals well and place them in a jar.
- Boil the water.
- Once the water boils, remove it from the heat and pour it over the marigold petals.
- Cover the liquid with a lid and let it cool down for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Strain the liquid and pour it into a glass.
- Enjoy your marigold tea while it is still warm.
You will need:
- 200ml water
- 3 cups dried pot marigold petals
- 1 box low-sugar pectin
- 3 cups sugar*
- 3 teaspoons lemon juice
*Optional, add stevia instead or skip the sugar altogether if you wish.
- Cut the petals from the pot marigold flowers right where the green part begins and keep only the petals.
- Rinse 3 cups of marigold petals.
- Put the petals in a jar and pour boiling water over them until they are covered. Let them steep and cool down for 3 – 4 hours.
- Strain well the petals and add water enough to produce 4 cups of liquid.
- In a small bowl, whisk ½ cup sugar with 1 box low-sugar pectin.
- In a large pot, place the sugar-pectin mix, the marigold liquid, 3 teaspoons lemon juice and bring to boil.
- Add 2 ½ cups sugar to the pot, whisk it and continue to boil for one minute.
- When the mix is no longer liquid, your jelly is ready.
- Remove the pot from the heat and pour it into sterilized glass jars.
- Enjoy your marigold jelly.
Users found calendula (pot marigold) cream very effective for improving wounds, burns, and rashes, although one user reported itching as a side effect.
Bonus: How to Plant and Grow Marigolds
How To Plant And Grow
- Calendula plants prefer full sun or little shade in the warmer areas. You should plant the seeds 6 – 8 weeks before the last frost or immediately after the last frost.
- Moist the soil and plant the Calendula officinalis seeds 24 to 36 inches apart in garden beds or large pots with organic soil. It takes seeds 45 – 60 days to bloom.
- Water well and apply a liquid fertilizer several times throughout the gardening season.
- Regular pinching extends the blooming period and produces healthier flowers.
- Add a layer of mulch between plants to prevent weeds and keep the soil moist.
Harvest And Preserve
- Start harvesting your flowers as soon as the first flush of flowers is in full bloom. Pick the flowers in the morning, after the dew has dried. Choose the fully open or semi-open flowers.
- The best way to preserve the flowers is to dry them. Place the flowers in an airy container and store them somewhere with strong airflow or use a dehydrator at the lowest temperature. 24 hours are enough to dry the flowers, and the petals will darken.
- Place the dry flowers in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid or in paper bags. You can use the dried petals for herbal teas, tinctures or oil infusions.
How To Plant And Grow
- Marigolds thrive in full sunshine and can often endure very hot summers.
- Prepare the soil by removing any stones, drain it well and dig down about 6 inches to loosen it. You can also add a slow-release (granular) fertilizer in the planting hole.
- Moisten the soil and plant the seeds directly in the garden no more than 1 inch deep. Plant the French marigold (Tagetes patula) and Mexican marigold (Tagetes lucida) seeds 8 – 10 inches apart. Aztec marigold (Tagetes erecta) seeds should be at least 10 to 12 inches apart, It takes seeds around 8 weeks to bloom.
- Water from the base and not from the top. Avoid using fertilizer when the plants are growing, but add a layer of mulch between plants to prevent weeds and keep the soil moist.
How To Harvest And Preserve
- Cut perfect blossoms at their peak.
- Remove foliage from the stems.
- Hang upside down in a warm, dry place until dry.
- The flowers will shrink, but their color will remain strong. Once dried, you can use them for flower arrangements or other purposes (skincare products).
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Various species of marigolds have been used in different parts of the world – from the Aztec marigold used to adorn ceremonies and in folk medicine to soothe depression, to Mediterranean marigold or calendula, a traditional remedy for skin irritation and inflammation in Europe.
Modern research uncovered that these plants also have a diverse array of additional health benefits. They may help fight bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, and may even enhance cancer protection and antioxidant defense.
Planting your own marigolds or making calendula skincare products from their flowers is easy and fun. These plants require little work, all the while livening up your home or garden and serving as potent herbal remedies.
If you are not a fan of gardening or DIY recipes, high-quality calendula oil and ointments/creams are widely available and affordable. Watch out for allergic reactions, especially if you react to other plants of the daisy/sunflower family (Asteraceae).