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The History of Calendula Officinalis
Marigold flowers have been used since ancient times to heal wounds and treat internal irritations. As a medicinal plant, marigold has made its way into Egyptian, Indian, Greek, and Roman medicine, and later into the herbal healing arsenals of the Europeans. Also known as gold-bloom, holligold, and marybud, this orange-gold flower blooms once a month, usually on the new moon, giving the plant a religious mystique. They have been used in the past to give reverence to Indian gods and goddesses, and are sometimes used in Catholic rituals to honor the Virgin Mary.
Calendula is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. It should not be confused with French or African marigold, which are annual flowers from a completely different family as Calendula officinalis. They do not share the same marigold flower benefits, but are instead decorative garden flowers. Marigold is a member of the Asteraceae family of plants, along with daisies, sunflowers, and chamomile.
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Marigold is perhaps most well known as a topical remedy for minor burns, cuts, bug bites, and bruises. As a calendula salve, ointment, or compress, this herb can be applied to the skin to speed the healing process, reduce inflammation and pain, and to protect the body from infection. Although there has been sparse scientific research regarding marigold as a medicinal plant on humans, there have been some studies on animals. Marigold flowers have been found to be an effective remedy for skin inflammation. Also, tests on women receiving radiation treatment for breast cancer have shown that a calendula salve can reduce the severe dermatitis that usually accompanies chemotherapy.
Not only is this herb considered a vulnerary, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory, but it is also useful as an emmenagogue, regulating and balancing both painful and irregular menstrual cycles. Of all the marigold flower benefits, this is perhaps the most interesting, as the flower itself blooms on a monthly basis.
Today, herbal healers also use marigold as a medicinal plant for all varieties of gastrointestinal problems — stomach ulcers, gallbladder disease, indigestion, even to possibly help prevent stomach cancer. This herb is considered a cholagogue; it protects the stomach and intestinal lining by inhibiting prostaglandin, which can lead to inflammation and swelling. Also, its antimicrobial properties protect the gastrointestinal system from the negative effects of harmful bacteria.
The active components of marigold flowers include a number of antioxidants, such as carotenoids and quercetin, as well as volatile oils, saponins, and mucilage.
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How to Make a Calendula Salve
A calendula salve can easily be made with fresh marigold flowers. Bring about two ounces of the freshly picked petals and seven ounces of melted beeswax to a light boil. Allow this mixture to simmer on a very low heat for about ten minutes, while stirring. Pour the liquid salve through a fine gauze, sifting out the remnants, making sure to extract all of the liquid from the flowers. Finally, pour the calendula salve into the glass jars which they will be stored in, allow to cool, and then close tightly. Other herbs such as lavender and chamomile can be added as well.
There are no known negative reactions to this gentle healing herb, although anyone who has an allergic reaction to ragweed should be careful when using marigold. Enjoy the benefits of calendula and introduce this plant into your herbal healing medicine kit.
Hoffmann, David. "The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies." (Element Books, 1996).
Medicine Plus (National Institute of Health)
photo credit: Tripitytrop
photo credit: Audrey JM 529
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