Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
Since the Middle Ages, marigolds (aka Calendula officinalis) have been used to treat a slew of maladies, from wounds to acne to athlete’s foot to colitis to diaper rash. It certainly helps that these golden orange flowers happen to be both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial.
Nowadays, calendula extract is predominantly used in topical skincare products for its healing and soothing properties. A clinical study published in the 2005 International Journal of Tissue Reactions showed that an ointment containing marigold extract, applied twice daily over a three-week period, effectively reduced the total surface area of patients’ venous leg ulcers by almost 42 percent.
A 2013 review of calendula research noted that “pharmacological studies reveal that C. officinalis exhibits antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antioxidant properties.” And a 2018 review of research published in the Pharmacy & Parmacology International Journal found that “marigold therapy offers a non-invasive and gentle treatment” for plantar warts, hyperkeratotic lesions, and bursitis related to bunions.
There are, however, some cautions to consider. Cosmetics and skin care consultant Paula Begoun warns that calendula “may have a positive effect on wound healing. But it may also trigger an eczema-like reaction” (itchy, irritated or swollen skin). Nine out of 443 patients patch tested for calendula allergy had a positive (allergic) response to it in a study published in Contact Dermatitis.
“People with allergies to other plants (ragweed, daisies, dandelions, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, arnica and other daisy-shaped flowers) are more likely to have an allergy to calendula, or to eventually develop one,” explains Holly Phaneuf, PhD, author of Herbs Demystified: A Scientist Explains How the Most Common Herbal Remedies Really Work.
It is always best to consult a knowledgable healthcare professional before considering any herbal treatment. Though once you do, a little dab of calendula cream might be just what the doctor ordered.