Calendula: “Gold for babies”
Calendula officinalis has been an official medicine in Western and Mediterranean herbal pharmacy since the 12th century. A member of the Compositae (or more familiarly the ‘daisy’) family, this precious plant is known for its soothing actions on the skin and internally as well. A closer look at the biochemical content of Calendula shows why it is such a useful medicine. The radiant orange blooms reveal the presence of skin loving and anti-inflammatory chemicals such as carotenoids (also found in carrots), quercetin and rutin (a chemical that strengthens capillaries). The leaves, thick and downy, suggest a softening and protective action, and indeed the plant is rich in mucilage, a protective chemical that soothes and moistens the skin and internal mucous membranes. This explains in part its ability to reduce redness, swelling, heat sensitivity and pain in burnt or scalded skin. Beyond skin therapy however, numerous clinical studies have also successfully demonstrated that Calendula officinalis extracts can inhibit tumour growth (due to the triterpene saponins contained), calm an agitated nervous system, and inhibit the growth of many infectious bacteriae including Escherichia coli (digestive infections), Candida albicans (fungal infections) and Staphylococcus aureus (impetigo). (1)
Calendula for Mother and baby
Calendula really is one of the most healing botanicals around! For centuries, midwives and mothers alike have used Calendula to heal all manner of skin conditions in babies like nappy rash, eczema, cradle cap, and minor cuts and grazes. Recent research suggests that the fragrant essential oil found in Calendula has an SPF (sun protection factor) of approximately 14.84, what a bonus! (2)
Furthermore, not only is it completely safe for babies, it’s also a fabulous protective and healing agent for mothers with nipple soreness during breastfeeding and skin irritations. Calendula has been shown in a recent clinical trial to produce strong improvements in skin hydration and firmness. It was utilized as a protective agent for women undergoing radiation therapy in a French clinical trial [Pommier 2004] where it significantly reduced the toxic impact of radiation on skin compared to a topical anti-inflammatory preparation. (3)
How Calendula helps treat Nappy Rash
Calendula is a safe and natural treatment for inflamed and irritated skin during nappy rash. While reducing itch, redness and irritation, it improves skin tone, strength and hydration at the same time, while the antimicrobial properties of the plant fight any surrounding bacteria. (4) When breastfeeding mothers suffer from internal thrush the fungus may be passed on to baby during feeds. The resulting fungi in the baby’s stool often causes nappy rash so once again fungus-fighting calendula is the medicine of choice. If your nappy change cream or rash relief cream also contain zinc oxide this will further help by protecting the skin against dampness and wet spots, which encourage fungal infections.
How Calendula helps treat Cradle Cap
Cradle cap is a sebum related condition and needs to be treated with a skin-loving medicine such as Calendula, to regain skin health. A small amount of calendula oil softly massaged into the affected areas enables the crusted skin to loosen and fall naturally, removing the need to rub or scratch at them which would expose the raw underlying skin to infection, and only compound the problem.
A word of advice
Always buy organic and biodynamic calendula products. Research shows that it is the organic calendula extracts and not the non-organic products that possess the powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activities. There are up to 20 species of Calendula flowers with varying medicinal qualities so ensure that you have the right one. The species discussed here is Calendula officinalis.
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- Arora D, Rani A, Sharma A (2013) “A review on phytochemistry and ethnopharmacological aspects of genus Calendula” Pharmacognosy Reviews v.7 iss.14
- Mishra A, Chattopadhyay P, (2012) “Assessment of In vitro sun protection factor of Calendula officinalis L. (asteraceae) essential oil formulation” Journal of Young Pharmacists v.4 iss.1
- Pommier P, Gomez F, Sunyach MP, D’Hombres A, Carrie C, Montbarbon X, 2004, “Phase III Randomized Trial of Calendula Officinalis Compared With Trolamine for the Prevention of Acute Dermatitis During Irradiation for Breast Cancer”, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol.22, No.8, pp. 1447-1453
- Akhtar N, Zaman S, Khan B, Amir M (2011) “Calendula extract: effects on mechanical parameters of human skin” Acta Pol Pharm, v.68, iss.5
- Anonymous, 2001, “Final report on the safety assessment of Calendula officinalis extract and Calendula officinalis”, International Journal of Toxicology Vol.20, Suppl 2, pp:13-20
- Akihisa T, Yasukawa K, Oinuma H, Kasahara Y, Yamanouchi S, Takido M, Kumaki K, Tamura T. (1996) “Triterpene alcohols from the flowers of compositae and their anti-inflammatory effects.” Phytochemistry. Vol.43 No.6 pp:1255-60
- Renee van Leeuwen, (2007) Dutch Pure Pregnancy Book, Weleda, Holland
- Bone K, Mills S (2000) Principles & Practice of Phytotherapy, Churchill Livingstone, London
- Bone K (2007) The Ultimate Herbal Compendium, Phytotherapy Press Australia
- Kraft K, Hobbs C (2000) Pocket Guide to Herbal Medicine, Thieme, New York