What Are the Health Benefits of Marigold Extract (Calendula)?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on May 31, 2022
4 min read

Pot marigold is a plant that belongs to the daisy (Asteraceae) family. It's been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years.

Calendula is a small bushy plant that has light green leaves and flowers that can be yellow or orange. There are about 20 species of plants that are part of the Calendula family. But only Calendula officinalis, more commonly known as calendula, is used for medicines and as food.

Calendula has several common names: 

  • Poet’s marigold
  • Pot marigold
  • Marigold 

Calendulas are not the same as true marigolds. True marigolds are of the Tagetes genus and are popular ornamental plants. The two flowers look quite similar with their bright yellow and orange shade and are often confused. But while calendula flowers are edible, there’s some disagreement about whether true marigolds are edible.

The word "calendula" comes from the Latin kalendae or Middle English word calends, which means “first day of the month.” Experts say this may refer to the plant blooming at the beginning of most months.

In traditional medicine, pot marigold petals have been made into ointments, extracts, and infusions and used for a variety of ailments, including:

There haven't been many scientific studies that support the traditional uses of pot marigold. More research is needed. Talk to your doctor before you start any new treatments or supplements.  

These are some of the potential health benefits of calendula. 

May promote skin health. Pot marigold (calendula) may play a role in improving your skin’s appearance. One small study of 21 adults found that using a topical cream of pot marigold extract may help make skin firmer and more hydrated. There was also a very slight improvement in elasticity of the skin. But more research is needed.

Wound healing. Plant compounds in calendula, like flavonoids and saponins, may help prevent your body from releasing enzymes that cause inflammation and sensitivity. Calendula also has other active ingredients, like triterpenoids, that have anti-inflammatory properties.

A study of 72 women with cesarean scars found that those who were treated with calendula ointment had faster healing times than those who had standard hospital treatment. Those treated with calendula also had less swelling and redness.

Researchers say that marigold (calendula) extract is an effective treatment for venous leg ulcers. In one study, 72% of participants treated with calendula officinalis extract had complete wound healing, compared to 32% of those in the control group.

Venous leg ulcers are open sores that develop on your leg that take a long time to heal. They usually form near or around your ankle. One of the main causes is problems with blood circulation.

Bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis is inflammation of the vagina. It’s caused by overgrowth of a type of bacteria that’s naturally found in your vagina. 

In a study of 80 women, cream of calendula extract was as effective as the standard drug metronidazole in treating bacterial vaginosis. The women were treated for 1 week, and there were no side effects.

Eczema. Some people use marigold (calendula) to treat their eczema. But there have been few research studies in support of this use. One study on people receiving post-op radiation therapy for breast cancer found that calendula was able to relieve pain from dermatitis caused by radiation.

Diaper rash. Researchers found that calendula creams aren’t as effective as bentonite clay when treating diaper rash. Bentonite is a type of mineral that's used as to moisturize and protect skin. While 86% of the infants using bentonite clay healed completely in the first 3 days, only 52% using the calendula cream healed fully.

Sunscreen. In a lab study, scientists learnt that magnolia (calendula) oil in cream form has sun protection factor (SPF) properties. But more research is needed to find out if calendula cream can actually be used as sunscreen.

Extracts of pot marigold flowers have been found to contain 15 amino acids and phytonutrients like flavonoids. They also have plant chemicals called carotenoids, including:

  • Neoxanthin
  • Luteoxanthin
  • Lycopene
  • Lutein
  • Beta-carotene

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, don’t use marigold extract. The risk of marigold extract to pregnancy and breast milk is still unknown.

If you have an allergy to plants within the Asteraceae (daisy) family, you may want to be careful when using marigold (calendula) extract. 

Do your research before trying any edible flowers, as there are many plants that may look similar. 

It's best to use pot marigold flowers that you've grown yourself. Store-bought ones may have been treated with pesticides. Use pot marigold flowers when they're at their peak. Collect the flowers in the morning.

Edible uses. Calendula flowers have a peppery, tangy taste. You can try adding them to a salad to give it more zest. Adding the flowers to soup gives it a peppery taste.

Natural food coloring. Calendula used to be known as “poor man’s saffron.” It was used to flavor and color foods like:

  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Bread 
  • Custard
  • Soups
  • Cookies

Calendula petals can be used to dye fabrics and hair. It’s also used by pharmaceutical companies to give a more pleasant color to some medicines.

Fresh flowers. Apply fresh flowers on wounds. If you have a cut or scrape, put a few petals on your wound, then put a bandage over it. Every few hours, replace it with fresh petals.

Calendula salve. Try making a healing calendula salve that can be used for dry skin, rashes, lip balm, and minor skin irritations:

  1. Collect calendula flowers and place in a jar.
  2. Fill with enough olive oil to cover the flowers.
  3. Add a few drops of vitamin oil or wheat germ oil to reduce the possibility of mold forming.
  4. Let sit for 6 weeks in a cool, dark place.
  5. Strain the oil using a cheese cloth and funnel.
  6. Gently heat 2 tablespoons of oil. 
  7. Add 1.5 tablespoons of grated beeswax and stir. Be careful, as beeswax melts quickly.
  8. Pour into a sterile jar. If it's too watery, add more beeswax. If it's too solid, add more oil.