After arnica, the single most important remedy for the home medicine cabinet is calendula. Known by gardeners as the common marigold, calendula officinalis hails from the plant family that provides a significant proportion of our healing plants. The Compositae, or Asteraceae family, has over fifty species of perennial herbs, many of which are used in first aid.
Its name refers to the calendar since the Romans noted it was in flower at the beginning of each summer month. Used by the Egyptians to revive and rejuvenate the skin, it has also been used in culinary ways often as a substitute for saffron. Marigolds are associated with the energy of the sun and act herbally to heat the system and stimulate circulation.
Considered an indispensable remedy for wounds, lacerations, and abrasions, calendula was used as a tincture and compress after surgery prior to the advent of antiseptics. Physicians marveled at its ability to prevent infection. It was in used widely during the Civil War to combat infection of wartime wounds and injuries with great success. Also strongly regarded for its ability to limit the pain of wounds, calendula was found to be superior to opium in this regard.
Calendula can be used successfully in replacement of antibiotic ointments in wound care, whether minor cuts and scrapes or surgical incisions. It is actually more desirable because by using plant compounds you have a trifecta of benefits including healing the skin, protection from infection, and pain reduction. It is also the primary natural treatment if a wound has become infected but its use should begin before this threat occurs.
Calendula is best administered as an external application by topical cream or ointment directly to healing wounds. Its action promotes the growth of new connective tissue and blood vessels. It also works as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral, antibiotic, pain reliever, and hemostatic, meaning it stops bleeding. Calendula reduces the production of scar tissue by promoting proper wound healing and increasing the production of collagen at the injury site. It makes wounds impregnable from external agents such as germs and microbes and promotes blood flow to the skin. It is singular in its ability to heal and repair the skin. Where infection is suggested, calendula will reduce and remove pus and suppuration. Calendula is especially effective when the wound has a “stinging” sensation.
The physiological action of calendula acts by bringing white blood cells to the affected area and promotes the conversion of fibrin to new tissue. Pain medications can subvert the signal that tells the body to convert fibrin to new tissue preventing new, healthy tissue formation. This is a key component of how calendula works to promote healthy scar formation.
Although associated with first aid, arnica should never be used topically on open skin. Arnica gels or creams should be used only on sore or bruised muscle or tissue where there is no broken skin. Only calendula is appropriate for wounds where the skin has opened or has been burned. It can also be used on irritated skin or acne.
Calendula can be applied frequently throughout the day and evening. Applying the cream should be a soothing, pleasant experience. It isn’t possible to apply too often. Every application will assist in the healing of the wound or scab and the prevention of excessive scar tissue.
Calendula is equally effective as a first aid application. Whether a deep cut or scrape, or any injury that might form a scab, calendula works its same magic in terms of accelerated healing and antibiotic and antimicrobial action. It is the first cream to have on hand after an accident that breaks the skin.
Using a calendula tincture diluted in water, a mouthwash can be made for use after tooth extraction where bleeding is an issue. When the gums bleed after extraction, or if disease is already present, calendula helps close the capillaries. Gargle with the solution every half hour or so if the tooth socket continues to ooze. The calendula also helps as a natural antibiotic.
Once you begin to use calendula you may want to collect different types of products. From creams to tinctures to salves, there is a product for every application you might need. In surgical recovery, use a high quality cream to soothe the wound and advance healing.