Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is one of our favorite herbs to use in skin care as it has so many benefits to the skin. This beautiful orange flower has a long history of use in skin care as well as herbal medicine. Traditionally calendula has been used in the treatment of minor inflammation of the skin and as an aid in the healing of minor wounds. It is a common flower found in Marian gardens of the Middle Ages.
The bright orange color of Calendula is due to vitamin A related compounds known as carotenoids. These fat soluble molecules include beta-carotene, leutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene. Carotenoids can lower inflammation, strengthen the immune system, and stimulate epithelial cell growth to promote cell turnover. Carotenoids can also help prevent damage to skin caused by UV light.
Water soluble polysaccharides and saponins in Calendula have been used as a tea to heal stomach ulcer as well as in a compress for various types of skin damage.
Other active constituents of Calendula include terpenoids, quercetin, flavonoids, polyphenols, xanthophyll derivatives and volatile oils essential oils. Many of these compounds are antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory agents. Exposure to the elements, including UV light, weather, altitude and other aspects of outdoor life can cause oxidative stress to the skin as well as inflammation. So calendula is helpful for those who spend time outdoors.
Calendula ointments are often used to decrease dermatitis, eczema and to use on wounds and burns. Extracts from Calendula can slow down the process of skin aging. Calendula also contains oil soluble sterols that help plump the skin and keep it thick.
Antioxidants in Calendula can help prevent free radical damage to the cells of the skin caused by many things, including pollution and UV light. This has been repeatedly demonstrated and has also been suggested to be useful for preventing and treating skin damage caused radiotherapy used in cancer treatments.
Calendula also stimulates skin tightness and more by improving skin firmness and viscoelasticity. This was demonstrated using an instrument called a cutometer to measure mechanical deformation of the skin. Skin hydration was also found to increase in this study (1). Calendula extracts have been shown to stimulate regeneration and epithelialization of wounds and promote healing (2) by stimulation epithelial cell growth. This translates well to an anti-aging effect by replacing old epithelial cells with new. Calendula can decrease the pigment melanin found in skin to help brighten skin and reduce age spots. This may be due to the flavonoids found in calendula (3).
Studies have shown that calendula can increase collagen production. Collagen is an important protein in the dermis of the skin and gives it support. Decreases in collagen occur both with age and with exposure to the sun when outdoors. Decreases in collagen lead to wrinkles in the skin or photoaging so increasing collagen is a major goal of anti-aging skin care products. Calendula extracts have been shown to protect against oxidative damage to skin caused by UVB light and by reducing changes in collagen fibers caused by UVB light (4). Calendula was also found to inhibit an enzyme that breaks down collagen fibers (MMP). By inhibiting breakdown of collagen fibers, collagen is protected (5).
Calendula is also an edible flower and the fresh petals can be used in a salad, dip or rice. I find the flavor a little too resinous though so a little goes a long way.
- Akhtar N1, Zaman SU, Khan BA, Amir MN, Ebrhimzadeh MA. Calendula extract: effects on mechanical parameters of human skin. Acta Pol Pharm. 2011 Sep-Oct;68(5):693-701.
- Arora, D., Rani, A., and Sharma, A., A review on phytochemistry and ethnopharmacological aspects of genus Calendula. Pharmacognosy reviews. 7. 179-187. 10.4103/0973-7847.120520.
- Naveed, Akhtar & Zaman, Shahiq uz & Khan, Barkat & Khan, Haji M. shoaib & Ahmad, Mahmood & Rasool, Fatima & Mahmood, Tariq & Rasul, Akhtar. (2011). Evaluation of various functional skin parameters using a topical cream of Calendula officinalis extract. African journal of pharmacy and pharmacology. 5. 199-206.