FWD 2 Expanded Commission E: Calendula flower

Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E

Calendula flower

Latin Name: Calendula officinalis
Pharmacopeial Name: Calendulae flos
Other Names: marigold, poet's marigold, pot marigold


Calendula, or pot marigold, is native to the Mediterranean countries. The name, calendula, refers to the plant's tendency to bloom in accordance with the calendarevery month in some regions, or during the new moon. 'Marigold' refers to the Virgin Mary, and marigolds are traditionally used in Catholic events concerning the Virgin Mary. Calendula officinalis is sometimes confused with Tagetes species of marigolds, more frequently planted in gardens than calendula (Foster, 1993). Used historically as 'poor man's saffron,' calendula adds both color and flavor to some foods, typically rice and chowders. It was prevalent in European marketplaces during the Middle Ages and was a common soup-starter. Today, petals are sometimes added to salads.

Medicinally, infusions, extracts, and ointments prepared with these petals were used by folk medicine healers in Europe to induce menses, produce sweat during fevers, and to cure jaundice. American Eclectic physicians of the nineteenth century considered calendula helpful in treating stomach ulcers, liver complaints, conjunctivitis, and superficial wounds, sores, and burns (Ellingwood, 1983). Calendula flower preparations were observed to be anti-inflammatory and astringent. In both contemporary and historic times, calendula tinctures, ointments, and washes have been used to notably speed the healing of burns, bruises, cuts, and the minor infections that they cause (Foster, 1993; Tyler, 1994).

While calendula's mechanism of action in stimulating wound healing is poorly understood, effects are localized (Foster, 1993), and the triterpenes clearly demonstrate anti-inflammatory actions, in some cases exceeding the effects of indomethacin (Zitterl-Eglseer et al., 1997). In Europe, ointments used to treat oral lesions or slow-healing cuts and sores rely on the immunostimulating and antibacterial actions of calendula (Foster, 1993). Tests also demonstrate that ointments containing calendula activate tissue regeneration and epithelial tissue development (Klouchek-Popova et al., 1982).

Some clinical studies validate the early treatment of stomach ulcers, although further research is needed (Chakurski et al., 1981; Krivenko et al., 1989). Antiviral and immunostimulating effects have also been reported; calendula's high-molecular weight polysaccharides stimulate immune system activity (Wagner et al., 1985). Calendula has been researched for immune system activity and was initially determined to have some potential therapeutic activity against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): extracts significantly inhibited HIV-1 in vitro, and reduced HIV-1 reverse transcriptase in a dose- and time-dependent manner (Kalvatchev et al., 1997).


Calendula flower consists of the dried flower heads or the dried ligulate flowers (ray florets) of C. officinalis L. [Fam. Asteraceae], as well as its preparations in effective dosage. The preparation contains triterpene glycosides and aglycones, as well as carotenoids and essential oils.

Chemistry and Pharmacology

Constituents include the flavonol glycosides isoquercitrin, narcissin, neohesperidoside, and rutin, terpenoids a- and b-amyrin, lupeol, longispinogenin, and sterols, volatile oils, arvoside A, carotenoid pigments, calendulin, and polysaccharides (Newall et al., 1996).

The Commission E reported anti-inflammatory, granulatory, and wound healing action with topical application.

Human studies of post-mastectomy lymphedema indicate that external applications of calendula (in conjuction with other plant extracts) possess pain reduction properties (Newall et al., 1996). In vitro research suggests antibacterial activity as well, due to the presence of ethanol (Bruneton, 1995). Other activities include an increase of glycoprotein, nucleoprotein, and collagen metabolism at wound sites; and antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties (Leung and Foster, 1996).


The Commission E approved the internal and topical use of calendula flower for inflammation of the oral and pharyngeal mucosa. It was also approved externally for poorly healing wounds. Specifically, herbal infusions, tinctures, and ointments are used to respond to skin and mucous membrane inflammations such as pharyngitis, dermatitis, leg ulcers, bruises, boils, and rashes (Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).


None known.

Side Effects

None known.

Use During Pregnancy and Lactation

No restrictions known.

Interactions with Other Drugs

None known.

Dosage and Administration


Unless otherwise prescribed: 1-2 g per day whole dried flower.

Infusion: 1-2 g dried herb in 150 ml.

Fluidextract 1:1 (g/ml): 1-2 ml.

Tincture 1:5 (g/ml): 5-10 ml.


Bruneton, J. 1995. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. Paris: Lavoisier Publishing.

Chakurski I., M. Matev, A. Koichev, I. Angelova, G. Stefanov. 1981. [Treatment of chronic colitis with an herbal combination of Taraxacum officinale, Hipericum perforatum, Melissa officinalis, Calendula officinalis and Foeniculum vulgare] [In Bulgarian]. Vutr Boles 20(6):51-54.

Ellingwood, F. 1983. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy. Portland, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications [reprint of 1919 original].

Foster, S. 1993. 101 Medicinal Herbs: An Illustrated Guide. Loveland: Interweave Press.

Kalvatchev, Z., R. Walder, D. Garzaro. 1997. Anti-HIV activity of extracts from Calendula officinalis flowers. Biomed Pharmacother 51(4):176180.

Klouchek-Popova, E. et al. 1982. Influence of the physiological regeneration and epithelialization using fractions isolated from Calendula officinalis. Acta Physiol Pharmacol Bulg 8(4):63-67.

Krivenko, V.V., G.P. Potebnia, V.V. Loiko. 1989. [Experience in treating digestive organ diseases with medicinal plants] [In Russian]. Vrach Delo (3):76-78.

Leung, A.Y. and S. Foster. 1996. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Newall, C.A., L.A. Anderson, J.D. Phillipson. 1996. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press.

Tyler, V.E. 1994. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press.

Wagner, H. et al. 1985. [Immunostimulating action of polysaccharides (heteroglycans) from higher plants] [In German]. Arzneimforsch 35(7):1069-1075.

Wichtl, M. and N.G. Bisset (eds.). 1994. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers.

Zitterl-Eglseer, K. et al. 1997. Anti-oedematous activities of the main triterpendiol esters of marigold (Calendula officinalis L.). J Ethnopharmacol 57(2):139-144.

Additional Resources

Akihisa, T. et al. 1996. Triterpene alcohols from the flowers of compositae and their anti-inflammatory effects. Phytochemistry 43(6):1255-1260.

Boucaud-Maitre, Y., O. Algernon, J. Raynaud. 1988. Cytotoxic and antitumoral activity of Calendula officinalis extracts. Pharmazie 43(3):220-221.

Della Loggia, R. et al. 1994. The role of triterpenoids in the topical anti-inflammatory activity of Calendula officinalis flowers. Planta Med 60(6):516-520.

Gasiorowska, I., M. Jachimowicz, B. Patalas, A. Mlynarczyk. 1983. [The use of Calendula officinalis in the treatment of periodontopathies] [In Polish]. Czas Stomatol 36(4):307-311.

This material was adapted from The Complete German Commission E MonographsTherapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. M. Blumenthal, W.R. Busse, A. Goldberg, J. Gruenwald, T. Hall, C.W. Riggins, R.S. Rister (eds.) S. Klein and R.S. Rister (trans.). 1998. Austin: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications.

1) The Overview section is new information.

2) Description, Chemistry and Pharmacology, Uses, Contraindications, Side Effects, Interactions with Other Drugs, and Dosage sections have been drawn from the original work. Additional information has been added in some or all of these sections, as noted with references.

3) The dosage for equivalent preparations (tea infusion, fluidextract, and tincture) have been provided based on the following example:

  • Unless otherwise prescribed: 2 g per day of [powdered, crushed, cut or whole] [plant part]
  • Infusion: 2 g in 150 ml of water
  • Fluidextract 1:1 (g/ml): 2 ml
  • Tincture 1:5 (g/ml): 10 ml

4) The References and Additional Resources sections are new sections. Additional Resources are not cited in the monograph but are included for research purposes.

This monograph, published by the Commission E in 1994, was modified based on new scientific research. It contains more extensive pharmacological and therapeutic information taken directly from the Commission E.

Excerpt from Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs
Copyright 2000 American Botanical Council
Published by Integrative Medicine Communications
Available from the American Botanical Council.