What Is It?
Health Benefits


Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use

General Interaction

Possible Side Effects



Evidence Based Rating Scale 

What Is It? 

Also known as pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), Calendula is a versatile Herb native to the Mediterranean region. Europeans have grown this flowering plant in their gardens since the 1100s, actively using it through the centuries as a food and healing agent. It’s the colorful blossoming tops that are used medicinally. A member of the aster family, Calendula should not be confused with the common garden marigold (Tagetes species), which also sports bright orange and yellow flowers.  

The name "Calendula" connotes to the plant’s tendency to bloom according to the calendar, either once a month or at the new moon. Some sources also refer to Calendula by its medieval moniker, "poor man's saffron," because it lends vibrant color and flavor to soups, rice and chowders. These days, the colorful petals are a popular addition to salads. 

Health Benefits 

Calendula is nature's remedy for many of life's little accidents: sunburns, bruises, and scratches, to name a few. In years past, the herb was used to treat wide-ranging ailments, such as cancer, fever and skin infections. Contemporary herbalists frequently use Calendula for its topical applications, namely for treating boils, rashes, sunburns, chapped hands, insect bites, and other instances of inflamed or damaged skin, as well as to treat infections in the ears, eyes, mouth and respiratory system, and to relieve upset stomach. Lotions and other topical Calendula preparations (tinctures, ointments, creams, gargles) are widely used in Europe, particularly for slow-healing skin problems. Many of these topical formulations can now be found in pharmacies, health-food stores, and other outlets in the United States. 

The herb's primary active compounds include flavonoids and triterpenoids, which have anti-inflammatory action. Modern laboratory and animal studies indicate that Calendula petals do indeed have anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antiseptic (antibacterial and antiviral) properties, and it may even offer immune-stimulating actions. The benefits of Calendula in healing burns and wounds have also been demonstrated in research studies. 

Specifically, Calendula used topically may help to:

  • Heal burns and soothe sunburns. Because it reduces inflammation and has antiseptic and gentle astringent actions, Calendula may help burns to heal more rapidly. Some herbalists contend that it is the single most effective herb for use in the treatment of first-degree burns. Sunburn is a first-degree burn, and a number of sunburn products contain Calendula. In a 1992 multi-center open, randomized, controlled trial comparing three ointments in treating second- and third-degree burns, Calendula offered a slight advantage over the conventional ointment Elase and placebo ointment. The ointments (20% Calendula in a petroleum jelly base, Elase in a petroleum jelly base, or petroleum jelly alone) were applied to burns on 156 patients over a mean period of 17 days. The Calendula treatment was found to be marginally better for healing than petroleum jelly alone and significantly better tolerated than either of the other products. (1) Another study of 38 patients found that cleaning wounds such as burns with 10% Calendula solution followed by daily application of 2% Calendula gel resulted in a greater number of healed wounds, as well as a reduction in the median time to heal when compared to using Calendula solution alone. (2) However, this study was found to be of low quality and was missing information such as the controls used, selection of participants, and secondary wound dressings applied, leading to inconclusive results. A later animal study found improved healing markers in a group of rats with sunburns treated with Calendula extract compared to the untreated control group. The treatment group exhibited accelerated wound healing time, enhanced antioxidant defense mechanism, and lowered tissue damage marker enzymes compared to the control group. (3) More research is needed to confirm or refute efficacy. However, Calendula used topically for these uses is considered safe.

    The anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and astringent properties of Calendula may help to reduce inflammation, itching and infection, as well as to promote healing in insect bites and stings and minor cuts and scrapes. Studies in this area have been limited, and evidence is insufficient to rate Calendula for these uses: however, among naturopathic and homeopathic practitioners, it is usually the first aid remedy of choice for superficial cuts and scrapes.(19)

  • Relieve athlete's foot. In laboratory studies, Calendula has demonstrated anti-fungal effects comparable to conventional anti-fungal medications. (4)The anti-fungal properties of Calendula may be useful in treating the fungi that cause athlete’s foot, an infection that most often appears between the toes.   And its anti-inflammatory properties may be useful in reducing inflammation associated with athlete’s foot. However, research is lacking regarding the use of Calendula specifically against athlete’s foot. Research is needed in this area.

  • Treat ulcers and upset stomach. Drinking Calendula tea may help to control internal inflammation, and herbalists may recommend it for stomach upset and ulcers. However, research is limited. A 1981 study found the herbal combination of Calendula and comfrey to be as effective as antacids in treating stomach ulcers. In the study, 170 patients with stomach ulcers were treated with either the herbal combination alone or the herbal combination with antacid. Spontaneous pains disappeared in 90% of patients in both groups, and palpitation pains subsided in more than 90%of all patients at the same time. More than 85% of patients in both groups reported relief of indigestion, but the antacid group indicated relief several days earlier than the group receiving only the herbal combination. After treatment, however, gastroscopic exams of all patients indicated the ulcer was healed in almost the same percentage of patients from both groups. (5) Other early studies offer support of the use of Calendula in herbal formulations to treat chronic colitis and to normalize bowel function and diminish pain associated with ulcers. (6, 7) Further studies have not been conducted to confirm or refute this preliminary evidence. More research is needed.

  • Soothe a sore throat, treat mouth sores and ease respiratory infections. The antimicrobial effects of Calendula may be effective in dislodging mucus and combating infection along the respiratory tract. (8) Therefore, gargling or rinsing with an astringent tea made from the dried Calendula flowers may help to reduce inflammation and ease a sore throat. German health authorities approve of using Calendula tea for treating throat soreness and inflammation. The 1986 German Commission E monograph states that calendula preparations are used internally to treat inflammatory conditions of the mucus membranes in the mouth and throat. (9) And in a major study of German physicians treating more than 50,000 patients with conventional and complementary therapies, including calendula extracts, calendula was most commonly prescribed to treat upper respiratory infections. Of patients treated with calendula extracts, calendula was prescribed to treat upper respiratory infections in 22% of patients, eye infections in 17% of patients, and skin disorders in 7% of patients. (10) Scientific studies regarding this use in the United States are in preliminary stages. A 2000 laboratory study of tissue cultures from irritated mucus membranes in the throat indicated Calendula showed strong therapeutic effects against mucus. (11) More research is needed to determine efficacy in easing symptoms of a sore throat. Some alternative sources indicate applying Calendula topically to mouth ulcers, or canker sores, may help to ease pain and speed healing. (12) And  rinsing with a Calendula mouthwash may put the anti-inflammatory properties to work against swollen, irritated gums. (13, 14)

  • Prevent dermatitis caused by radiation. Calendula recently gained attention for its potential efficacy in the prevention and treatment of skin damage caused during radiation therapy for breast cancer. In a 2004 study of 254 patients with breast cancer, patients who applied Calendula ointment topically to irradiated skin twice a day were less likely to develop grade II or higher dermatitis and indicated lower pain compared to those who used the conventional topical analgesic trolamine. (15) In fact, a 2009 Cochrane Database review of studies noted results from this breast cancer study as preliminary evidence in support of Calendula to treat radiation-induced dermatitis. However, the review called for these trials to be replicated. (16) More research is needed to confirm or refute efficacy.

  • Combat ear infections. The antibacterial effect of Calendula may help to treat ear infections and ease the associated pain. In a 2001 trial, 103 children ages 6 to 18 years and diagnosed with ear infections were treated with either Otikon Otic Solution (an ear drop formulation made in Israel containing Calendula  and three other homeopathically prepared herbs in an olive oil base) or conventional ear drops. The two treatments were found to be equally effective in reducing pain. (17) And in a later trial of 171 children with ear infections, the ear drop formulation with Calendula resulted in the most significant treatment effects, including diminished pain, compared to a conventional anaesthetic or conventional anaesthetic with amoxicillin. (18) However, because it is a combination, the benefit cannot be attributed solely to Calendula. 


  • dried herb/tea
  • tincture
  • ointment
  • lotion
  • cream
  • gel 

Dosage Information 

Special tips: In general use tea or diluted tincture (1 part extract: 3 parts hot water) for gargling and internal uses or to soak dressings for keeping wounds moist. Use cream or lotion in damp areas and ointment in dry areas. Lotions and gels may be used to cool burns, but gels contain alcohol and can be painful on any broken skin.  

  • To make Calendula tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1/2 teaspoon of dried florets (flower tops) and steep for 10 minutes. Once cooled, strain and use the tea as a mouthwash, gargle, or in a cooling compress for wounds.

  • Calendula Extract is typically prepared from dried flowers and included in topical products such as tinctures, lotions, creams, and ointments.

  • For burns (including sunburn), apply preparation three times a day to affected area until healed.

  • For cuts and scrapes, apply preparation 3 times a day, bandaging lightly to keep clean and moist.

  • For insect bites and stings, rub a dab of cream or gel into skin several times a day or as needed.

  • For athlete’s foot, apply ointment to affected area twice a day until clear.

  • For sore throat or canker sores, rinse mouth or gargle with tea or dilute extract 3 times a day.

  • For ulcers or stomach upsets, drink one cup of tea 3 times a day 

Guidelines for Use 

Most topical products containing Calendula can safely be used three to four times a day. 

General Interaction 

Ingesting Calendula internally along with drugs that have sedative properties may enhance the sedative effects. Do not use if contemplating surgery and alert the surgeon and/or anesthesiologist if emergency surgery is needed. 

Possible Side Effects

If you have an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemums, daisies or other members of the aster family, you may also be allergic to Calendula. 


When treating any type of wound, remember that the most important thing you can do to prevent infection is to thoroughly clean the area and keep it clean. 


1. 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 Metaanal. 1992;28;9-12.
2. Neto J, Fracasso J, Camargo Neves C, et al. Treatment of varicose ulcer and skin lesions with Calendula officinalis L. or Stryphnodendron barbadetiman (Vellozo) Martius. Rev Ciencias Farmaceuticas. 1996;17:181-186.
3. Chandran PK, Kuttan R. Effect of Calendula officinalis Flower Extract on Acute Phase Proteins, Antioxidant Defense Mechanism and Granuloma Formation During Thermal Burns.  Clin Biochem Nutr. 2008 Sep;43(2):58-64.
4. Kasiram K, Sakharkar P, Patil A. Antifungal activity of Calendula officinalis. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2000;62(6):464-466.
5. Chakürski I, Matev M, Stefanov G, et al. [Treatment of duodenal ulcers and gastroduodenitis with a herbal combination of Symphitum officinalis and Calendula officinalis with and without antacids.] Vutr Boles. 1981;20(6):44-7.
6. Chakurski I, Matev M, Koichev M, et al. Treatment of chronic colitis with an herbal combination of Taraxacum officinale, Hipericum perforatum, Melissa officinalis, Calendula officinalis and Foeniculum vulgare. Vutr Boles. 1981;20(6):51-4.
7. Matev M, Chakurski, Stefanov G, et al. Use of an herbal combination with laxative action on duodenal peptic ulcer and gastroduodenitis patients with a concomitant obstipation syndrome Vutr Boles. 1981;20(6):48-51.
8. Mills S. The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. London: Arkana Penguin. 1991;543.
9. Blumenthal M. American Botanical Council. Complete German Commission E monographs. 1998.
10. Jeschke E, Ostermann T, Lüke C, et al. Remedies Containing Asteraceae Extracts: A Prospective Observational Study of Prescribing Patterns and Adverse Drug Reactions in German Primary Care. Drug Safety. 2009;32(8):691-705.
11. Schmidgall J, Schnetz E, Hensel A. Evidence for bioadhesive effects of polysaccharides and polysaccharide-containing herbs in an ex vivo bioadhesion assay on buccal membranes. Planta Med. 2000 Feb;66(1):48-53.
12. Homeopathy and More. Calendula – mouth ulcers. Accessed on August 21, 2009.
13. Consumer Guide to Dentistry. Natural Herbal Mouth Rinses. August 21, 2009.
14. Hershoff A, Rotelli A. Herbal Remedies: A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies. "Mouth and Gums." Avery, 2001;216.
15. 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):1447-53.
16. Kassab S, Cummings M, Berkovitz S, et al. Homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Apr 15;(2):CD004845. Review.
17. 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 Jul;155(7):796-9.
18. Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Pediatrics. 2003 May;111(5 Pt 1):e574-9.
19. McCabe, V, Practical Homeopathy. St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, 2000.

Evidence Based Rating Scale

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies and what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice into a visual and easy to interpret format. This tool is meant to simplify the information on supplements and therapies that demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions.






Acid-related stomach disorders:Ulcers,GERD


Early preliminary evidence indicates potential efficacy. More research is needed to confirm or refute efficacy. (5-7)

Athlete’s foot  

Laboratory studies indicate potential anti-fungal properties. Research is needed to confirm or refute efficacy. (4)


Preliminary studies in animals indicate efficacy to improve and speed healing. Research in humans is needed to confirm or refute efficacy. (1-3)

A large trial and Cochrane Database review indicate potential efficacy for radiation induced dermatitis. More research is needed. (15-16)

 Canker Sores   Date Published: 04/18/2005
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