©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Marigoldlike Calendula can be used to soothe skin and heal cuts and abrasions.

When looking for an herbal remedy to treat skin or wounds, think flower power -- or, more specifically, calendula. Its flowers, and occasionally its leaves, can be used to treat a variety of afflictions in different ways.

Calendula has a long history of use as a wound-healing and skin-soothing botanical. This lovely marigoldlike flower (although called pot marigold, it is not a true marigold) is considered a vulnerary agent, a substance that promotes healing. Calendula also has anti-inflammatory and weak antimicrobial activity. It is most often used topically for lacerations, abrasions, and skin infections; less commonly, it is used internally to heal inflamed and infected mucous membranes.

Uses of Calendula

Numerous topical preparations exist for external use. Calendula salve, for example, is a useful and versatile product to keep in the first-aid kit or home medicine chest. In addition to treating minor cuts and abrasions, the salve is great for chapped lips and diaper rash. You can use calendula teas as a mouthwash for gum and tooth infections, a gargle for sore throats and tonsillitis, and a sitz bath for genital inflammation or hemorrhoids. Or drink the tea to help treat bladder infections or stomach ulcers.

Calendula Preparations and Dosage

Most health food stores carry calendula soaps, oils, lotions, salves, and creams. Herb stores also supply bulk dried flowers, tincture, and calendula succus, which is made by extracting the fresh juice from the leaves and young flowers and preserving it with a bit of alcohol. Calendula succus is popular among naturopathic physicians, who use it during minor surgical procedures (to help heal the incision) and topically on skin wounds and infections. For internal use, take 1 teaspoon, three or more times daily.

Calendula Precautions and Warnings

Do not apply any fat-based ointments, including calendula salve, to wounds that are oozing or weeping; use watery preparations only, such as calendula tea, and allow the area to air dry completely between applications. On recently stitched wounds, wait until stitches have been removed and scabs have formed before applying calendula ointments or other calendula preparations. An exception would be a very brief and light application of calendula succus or tea applied without any rubbing or friction. Calendula should not be taken internally during pregnancy.

Side Effects of Calendula

Luckily, no side effects are commonly reported; calendula is considered safe and nontoxic.

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.