Calendula: The Skin-Curing Herbal Remedy

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The gorgeous orange and yellow petals of the calendula flower contain medicinal properties that have been utilized since at least the 12th century. The calendula plant originates from the Mediterranean, where it was first ingested in order to cure fevers, muscle, stomach and menstrual cramps. In current times, this herbal remedy is mostly used as a skin healer through topical application in the form of creams, lotions cleansers and oils, allowing the skin to speed up its regeneration process in a completely natural way.

Research from the University of Maryland has shown that calendula can increase blood flow and oxygen to the area around a wound, helping the body grow new tissue and thus speed up the healing process. Often used to treat burns, bruises, scrapes and cuts, the petals of the flower contain flavonoids, which prevent infections, promote tissue growth, and protect the body's cells from being attacked by unstable molecules. Calendula products have also been proven to prevent skin inflammation and dermatitis, especially in breast cancer patients that used calendula cream while undergoing radiation therapy. Many professional homeopaths recommend calendula baths or calendula creams for healing sunburns, as its tissue regeneration properties are ideal for reducing inflammation and stimulating cell growth.

Calendulas are easy to grow in most climates, thriving in poor soil and requiring only moderate watering. Calendula seeds can be started in early spring, as the plant flowers from late spring until first frost, and can be harvested for drying or fresh use throughout its season. The ideal time to harvest calendula flowers is right before they fully open their petals, as they contain the highest amount of flavonoids at this time. Calendulas can be dried on woven racks or trays, and they should dry within two weeks. Once dried, the petals should be separated from the center of the flower, which can be composted. Dried petals can easily be stored in glass jars out of the direct light for future use in tinctures and oil infusions.

Calendula won't grow in many climates during the winter, but organic dried petals can easily be purchased from a bulk herb store or specialty herb shop so that you can make your own tincture, which can be used for concocting baby oils, soaps, salves and creams. If you want to skip the DIY step and feel the immediate benefits of this herbal remedy, check out some of the calendula products listed below.

Egyptian Calendula & Blood Orange Facial Cleanser by Pangea Organics

Perfect for washing off make-up without drying out your skin. The calendula in this cleanser soothes your skin while the blood orange gets rid of the grease and dirt.

Organic Calendula Lip Balm by bodyceuticals

From the Organic Authority Files

This beeswax-based lip balm is the perfect stick for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors exposed to the elements, or to cure cracked and dry winter lips. The combination of Pacific Northwestern beeswax, organic calendula oil and Vitamin E work together to encourage new tissue growth and lock in active nutrients for healthy and soft lips. 

Abundantly Herbal Calendula Cream by Arbordoun

This handcrafted cream is made from organically grown ingredients that are hand harvested from a small Washington farm that belongs to Arbordoun's owners. Made up of a blend of olive oil, beeswax, lavender, aloe, and of course calendula, the water-based cream absorbs readily and deeply into the skin.

Calendula Organic Herbal Oil by Cloverleaf Farm

Use this oil for massages or on very dry areas of the skin that will soak it up and reap the benefits. The oil can also be used for any application that calls for an essential oil, such as baby oils, homemade cleaning products or in a steamy sauna.

Organic Calendula Extract by Taos Herb Co.

This is a great product if you are interested in making your own creams, balms or soaps, but want to skip the first step. Calendula extract is made with grain alcohol, so be careful when you use this product. Make sure you have a safe recipe when mixing lotions or soaps because you will be injecting calendula in concentrated form.

Although calendula has been deemed completely safe, there are some factors to consider before lathering it on your skin. Ample research has not been conducted on the affects of calendula on pregnant women or women who are breast-feeding, so abstain from ingesting or topically applying the herb if you belong to either group. Calendula can also cause allergic reactions for people that are allergic or sensitive to the Compositae family, which includes plants like marigolds, daisies, chamomile, chrysanthemums and ragweed. Always consult a physician before using a new herbal remedy if you are allergic to other common herbs or other plants.

Image: audreyjm529

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