Calendula Benefits, Uses & History

Despite its unmistakable beauty, the Calendula is a plant that offers plenty more than summery cheer to your garden. Known for its medicinal properties, the healing ability of its petals has been used for centuries, while its distinctive yellow color has served as inspiration for folk tales and mythological stories, alike. 

Within both the health and beauty industry, flowers have long been used for their healing, soothing and anti-inflammatory benefits. From red roses enriched with skin-loving nutrients to lilac lavender that’s able to help relieve feelings of anxiety, so many flowers serve as a base of inspiration for use in skincare and holistic medicines, and the golden yellow petals of the Calendula flower are no exception. 

Whether you’re interested in planting this flower in your backyard, or you’re favorite skincare brand has begun to use it as an ingredient and you want to know what all the hype is about, this article is going to be walking you through the history of the calendula, what it can be used for, as well as its benefits.

So, ready to learn more about the Calendula and uncover why it’s so much more than just a pretty flower? Just read on. 

History of The Calendula:

The Calendula flower, which also goes by the names of Marigold, Mary-Gold, and Poor Man’s Saffron, is one of the world’s oldest flowers, with its cultivation spanning over six centuries. In Latin, Calendula is known as Calendae, which quite literally means “the first day of the month”. 

Originally, the Calendula flower first originated in Asia and parts of the Mediterranean, although it now blooms all over the world. However, when the ancient Romans noticed that their Calendula flowers were blooming on the first of each month, they soon became a symbol of new beginnings, happiness, and beauty. Plus, thanks to how quickly the Calendula bloomed, the ancient Romans used the petals and leaves within their meals, as well as for medicinal purposes.

The Calendula flower was brought to the New World by the first people that settled in Europe. Initially, the Calendula flower was made into a paste and used as a way to add color to food and make it more appealing to eat. According to a book titled The Book of Flowers written by Joseph Breck, the Calendula was described as being a hardy plant, used often in wine, soups, puddings, and broths. 

However, it wasn’t until the 1800s that people began to notice the medicinal value of the Calendula plant. Though Calendula was never used as a prominent medicinal herb, it was known for easing the pains of headaches, alleviating toothache, as well as helping to reduce the inflammation caused by red eye.

Additionally, doctors also discovered the petals of the calendula had the ability to slow and even stop bleeding wounds, which is why war doctors during the civil war often carried a jar of calendula petals in case of emergency. These healing properties of the petals were also a catalyst for helping the calendula rise to prominence as a medicinal herb, rather than just a flower.

Additionally, with the first records of Calendula spanning back to the Third Century, BC, there are a variety of old folk tales that serve as an enrichment of the Calendula’s history, while also adding fairytale-like quality that only serves as a way to elevate the mystical properties of the plant.

One of the oldest and most widely-shared tales is linked to Aztec mythology, in which two lovers, Xótchitl and Huitzilin, would hike to the top of a mountain and leave flowers as a gift to the sun god Tonatiuh, while also declaring their love for one another.

Sometime after, Huitzilin was killed during a battle, which broke Xótchitl’s heart. Distraught, she prayed and prayed to the sun God in hopes that he would allow them to reunite down on Earth. 

Tonatiuh heard her prayers and was so touched, he allowed her wishes to come true and sent her a ray of sunshine that transformed her into a flower that was as golden as the sun, while also reincarnating Huitzilin as a hummingbird. Huitzilin, now a hummingbird, approached Xótchitl and touched her with his beak, to which she then bloomed into a beautiful Calendula flower with twenty golden petals.

Due to this beautiful tale, the Aztecs have ever since used the Calendula as a symbol of love and celebration of life as part of their Día de Muertos celebrations.

In England, the Calendula flower has also been used for centuries and has been cultivated there ever since the 1200s. Old English folklore surrounding the calendula describes a little girl with golden hair as bright as the sun, and who goes by the name of Mary-Gold. In the tale, Mary-Gold spends all her time in the sun, until one day she went missing and nobody knew what had happened to her, or where she may have gone.

In the area where she used to sit and watch the sun, a little flower that resembled the sun grew in her absence. All of Mary-Gold’s friends believed the flower to be her, and thus named the flower after her.

Uses of the Calendula:

Thanks to the soothing and healing properties of calendula, it should come as no surprise to hear that it can be used to serve a variety of different purposes. Let’s explore some of the ways that calendula can be used:

  • In the kitchen: The petals of the calendula are edible, which means that they can be added to a variety of different dishes. The perfect way to add a touch of vibrancy and color to your meals, calendula is a popular addition to salads, salsa, and even quiche, although calendula is most commonly used in broths. You can even get super creative and add the petals inside homemade ice cubes for a refreshing herbal-infused drink throughout the summer.
  • As sunburn relief: If you’re prone to sunburn, then the healing properties of calendula can be extremely beneficial in helping to soothe the affected skin. To use, mix a little bit of calendula extract into aloe vera to make your very own sunburn relief gel – and the best part? You can then chill both of these ingredients in the fridge without reducing their effectiveness.
  • To help treat mild burns: If you’re a fan of home remedies, then we’ll think you’ll love this one. Calendula has been shown to be very effective at helping to reduce the inflammation and redness of burns, while also helping to heal the skin. To make a salve, mix calendula extract with olive oil, and this can then be used to treat mild burns. 
  • In the bath: If you want to treat your body to a skin-soothing treat, then another way that you can use calendula is at bathtime! Calendula extract and even calendula flower heads can be used within a bath and have been shown to help relax, soothe and rejuvenate tired muscles. 
  • To help get rid of dandruff: If you’re suffering from an itchy scalp, then calendula can be used to help regulate and remedy dandruff. This is because it’s enriched with properties that are able to regulate fungal overgrowth, which is one of the main causes of dandruff. If you’re interested in trying this out, then there are a huge variety of shampoo and conditioner products available on the market that are infused with calendula for this specific purpose.
  • As part of your skincare routine: Another great way that calendula can be used is part of your skincare routine! The prevalence of calendula in skincare products is evergrowing, and it can most commonly be found in products including moisturizers, serums, and facial creams.
  • Many people also like to incorporate calendula essential oil into their oil tincture, which can then be used for soothing and aromatic purposes. As a side note, if you’re interested in using calendula-infused skincare products, then it’s important to keep in mind that if it has been used, it will be listed as “Calendula Officinalis” on the ingredient list. 

Benefits of the Calendula:

Whether used in herbal tea or within the formula of a facial cream that you’ve had your eyes on, calendula is often described as being a star ingredient – and it’s no wonder when you take a look at its benefits. Let’s discover them below:

Benefit #1 – It is packed full of antioxidants: 

Antioxidants are essential for health, and are found in a variety of foods and plants – and calendula just so happens to be at the top of that list. Full to the brim with antioxidants (which can fight free radicals and prevent the onset of premature aging while also supporting the overall healthy functioning of the body), it’s easy to see why calendula is such a power player in the body beauty and holistic spheres. 

In particular, calendula contains two sought-after antioxidants known as carotenoids and flavonoids, which are types of antioxidants that are suggested to increase the elasticity of the skin, aid in the healing process of all wounds, while also being able to reduce inflammation and increase a youthful radiance. 

Benefit #2 – It has anti-inflammatory properties:

Inflammation of the skin can manifest itself from a variety of different triggers. Whether it be caused by internal factors such as diet or hormones, to external factors such as air pollution and stress – inflammation of the skin can cause eczema and psoriasis flare-ups, as well as depleting the body’s natural levels of collagen.

Calendula has been shown to be gentle enough to be used on all skin types and can be used to help reduce inflammation of the skin and reduce any irritation.

Benefit #3 – It is hydrating:

If you’re big on your skincare products, then you’ve probably already noticed some of your favorite brands incorporating calendula alongside other powerhouse ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid. The petals and stem of the calendula are enriched with a variety of different fatty acids that are super beneficial to our skin.

These fatty acids are often used in serums and moisturizers as a way to help strengthen the natural barrier of the skin, while also helping to encourage a plump and more youthful appearance. 

Benefit #4 – It has antimicrobial properties:

Believe it or not, our bodies are covered in millions and trillions of tiny little microbes that, when combined together, all go by the name of the microbiome. The microbiome is essential to keeping our skin healthy and consists of healthy germs including fungi and bacteria.

When the microbiome is balanced, it acts as a protective barrier against external factors, while also contributing to the healthy functioning of our skin. However, when certain strains of bacteria grow too fast, this can cause the microbiome to become unbalanced, and this can lead to acne, skin condition flare-ups, and even dandruff. 

Benefit #5

Calendula is well-known for its healing ability, so it should come as no surprise to learn that it is enriched with a variety of skin-loving, anti-microbial properties that will be able to prevent the occurrence of unwanted rashes and breakouts.

So much so, that skincare products enriched with the calendula flower have been shown to be able to help regulate and manage the microbiome. So, next time you’re out shopping, keep an eye out for clarifying cleansers enriched with the calendula plant.

Benefit #6 – It can relieve aches and pains:

There have been many studies to suggest that calendula extract or oil has the ability to help relieve aching muscles after a workout. In addition to that, calendula has also been linked to soothing and easing menstruation pain, with many people claiming that calendula herbal tea can be very helpful during this time. However, it is worth noting that there is research lacking within this area.