Calendula Is Good For Your Skin
I was told once that every grandmother who spends time with her grandchildren ought to have a jar of calendula oil. It is a fond part of childhood memory for many that there was always that very thing available to them as a part of the story of mending each scraped knee.
This bright orange flower begs to be front and center in the flower bed, it is so beautiful that it is often planted by those who do not know anything about the health benefits or the history hiding in plain sight.
Is Calendula the Same as Marigold?
Calendula and marigold are distantly related. The two flowers aren’t used the same way in health, ceremony or beauty, but they often share a common name. That may have started in Mexico.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is well loved in Mexican culture for its use as a beauty treatment. Added to a woman’s skincare routine, the anti-inflammatory nature of the flowers keeps skin smooth, supple and looking young.
The Day of the Dead sees another prominent use of calendula. This is where a lot of the confusion arises. The marigold of the Tagetes genus is the traditional plant intended to propitiate dearly departed family members… the petals of the marigold are wider and scoop-shaped and the flower takes on a more pungent odor. Calendula has a sweeter smell and more lance-shaped flower petals. They are in the same family (Asteraceae), but mostly what they have in common is their brilliant orange and yellow colors.
At some point, calendula and marigolds came to be interchangeable in many cultural practices so when you read something with a reference to “marigold” in relation to Mexican healing, culture or cuisine it is necessary to dig a bit deeper to find which plant is actually being discussed.
Calendula, pot marigold, or marigold - regardless of what you call it or how you pronounce its name…it’s been a part of many households for a very long time. It’s reputation for bumps, bruises, cuts and burns is well deserved and backed by scientific research.
10 Ways Calendula Can Benefit Your Skin
- Wound healing
- Minor burns
- Rashes (diaper, heat)
- Looking younger
Developing a Body Cream Recipe
As a young herb farmer, I started off with some of the basic products… a lip balm, herbal infused snacks… and of course, body cream!
My body cream recipe took me an entire winter of experimentation. So many disgusting failures….
Before I dumped store-bought, toxic, body care- I used to LOVE a rich body butter. I didn’t like lotions that just disappeared and had to be reapplied 30,000 times a day. I also didn’t want to sell something that was so greasy that you couldn’t handle anything (I need to type!!) the rest of the day!
Getting just the right texture- and then choosing the herbs I would add to enrich the recipe with a deeper function- was no small feat. I finally settled on infusing the oils with comfrey and calendula.
Once I got it right, I introduced the same body cream that I sell today. It is a luxurious cream that looks a bit like cake icing… it sinks in so that you aren’t greasy, but it doesn’t disappear. It provides a barrier to moisture loss without re-applying, so my cream fits nicely into a healthy budget. The texture is really down to the beeswax and coconut oil, but the herbs add something altogether MORE….
My Favorite Calendula Experience
One Saturday at the farmer’s market, a new customer stepped into our booth. It was a hot, summer morning, but she was entirely covered up. She wore a large sunhat, sunglasses, a scarf around her neck, and long sleeves. She seemed very shy and held herself like someone who didn’t want to be noticed. So, of course, I noticed her right away!
When she stepped up to my table, she immediately picked up a jar of my body cream. Her question was not like anyone else’s. She wanted to know how helpful it might be on skin that was damaged from radiation treatments. At that point, she unwound her scarf to show me. She was undergoing radiation treatments for cancer in her throat. Her skin was red, cracked and drier than anything I’d ever seen. In a word, it was burnt.
I had never had anyone use my body cream for that purpose… I couldn’t quote any studies… in short, I was really honest with her and said “I don’t know”. What I did know is that both of the herbs I chose to infuse into the cream had a strong history of being used on burnt skin.
I sent her away that day with a free jar of body cream. I had intended it to be soothing for really dry skin, hers was a deeper need, and I didn’t want her to have to pay to find out if I'd gotten the formula right enough to help her.
The following Saturday was another beautiful day. As I sat out my goodies, I glanced up from the table and saw something beautiful coming along the sidewalk. I feel ridiculous, but I still tear up, even though I’m writing this instead of speaking it!! Here came the woman from last week… only, now she walked with her head held high and was wearing a summery flowy skirt, a tank top, and a beautiful confident smile. She breezed into my booth to show me that the front of her neck had improved to the point that she no longer felt like she needed to hide. She used my cream throughout the rest of her treatments and it became a sort of underground IYKYK in the local cancer circles.
How Does Calendula Benefit Your Skin?
- Anti-inflammatory- studies support this traditional use of calendula. The ability for these flower petals to reduce skin level inflammation is why people swear by the plant for conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
- Antioxidant- we can’t get enough of the chemicals in plants that reduce oxidative stress and damage. Unfortunately, so many people focus on what that means internally- and eat their dark colored berries religiously… but don’t take advantage of what this all means applied right to the skin! Antioxidants can dial back the clock on skin damage, preventing the loss of collagen and elastin- this is why calendula is such a successful beauty secret in Mexico!
- Anti-microbial and Anti-fungal- scientific studies have demonstrated again that calendula can mop up the overgrowth of problematic bacteria and fungus. This is why calendula products are so helpful for acne and rashes!
- Skin Plumping- back to the idea of beauty treatments… the fatty acid, linoleic acid, content in calendula is hydrating for the skin. With any kind of dry skin condition, this means magic… but even everyday beauty requires our skin to be fully hydrated to be at its most youthful and plump potential.
- Wound Healing- so many studies have been done to understand why a jar of calendula infused oil was such a staple in your grandmothers’ kitchen. Turns out, she knew a thing or two. Because the plant contains chemicals that are known to be anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial, it is pretty effective at supporting the body in its goal to heal damaged skin or wounds.