Calendula Oil: Nature's Proven Wound Healer
Infused Calendula oil has long been used as a component of natural skin care preparations for its special soothing properties. The oil of the flowers had not been available as an essential oil for most of its history, as the flowers had been too delicate to process in the typical steam distillation process. With the recent introduction of the Supercritical cold-extraction process, a concentrated Calendula CO2 essential oil is now readily available, making it very easy to include this wonderful concentrated in any skin care and wound healing recipe. This new Calendula extract has been the subject of much research over the last several years, confirming its nearly miraculous regenerative, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions -- further encouraging its use for natural skin care products, whether purchased already blended or for you to make a personal formula at home.
Calendula flowers, a particular kind of Marigold, is a genus of 20 species of herbaceous plants in the Daisy family. Calendula infused oil -- made by soaking the flowers in olive oil -- is highly regarded as a base of soothing skin formulas, with cooling and hydrating effects. It has been a popular ingredient in formulas for eczema and baby's needs -- or anywhere skin irritation is being addressed. The infused oil had limitations in that the base oil needed to be the infused oil itself, limiting other carrier or base oils included in the formula. Even very small quantities (1-3%, or 8-24 drops per ounce) of the essential oil added to your recipes can have dramatic results.
With an essential oil of Calendula finally available, great flexibility of formulation has been afforded to the home user. This oil is often noted as Calendula CO2, indicating the use of pressurized carbon dioxide (the natural gas which becomes liquid at high pressures) used for extraction of the active constituents of the flowers. The product of this new extraction process has been the subject of MANY scientific inquiries, available through pubmed.gov, the database of the National Institute of Health. A search for "Calendula" currently produces 195 results, with abstracts published in peer-reviewed journals around the world.
The research focuses on several of Calendula's healing properties. Scientists have investigated the following effects of Calendula: an increased rate of wound healing, treatment of radiation burns from chemotherapy, powerful antioxidant activity, inflammation reduction, liver protection, plus anti-parasitic, antibacterial, antiviral, antispasmodic and even anti-tumorial effects. Most of the conclusions of these studies straightforwardly hail the healing effects of Calendula; in Volume 20, 2009 Journal of Basic Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, Indian scientists note "The data indicate potent wound healing activity of Calendula officinalis extract". Other researchers concluded in the 2009 Indian Journal of Experimental Biology: "Results suggest a protective role of the flower extract of C. officinalis against...hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity) and cisplatin induced nephrotoxicity (kidney toxicity)...has been found to contain several carotenoids of which lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene predominate...action of the flower extract may be due to its antioxidant activity".
One can read a great many of these studies coming to the same conclusions -- that Calendula extract (ie. the CO2 essential oil) has nearly miraculous healing powers. So then, how to use it? Let's have a look at some classic methods.
The easiest uses of Calendula essential oil will be in externally-applied topical formulas. Simply include a few drops per ounce of your recipe. For example, an excellent wound-healing AND anti-inflammatory blend could be made with 3 milliliters of Helichrysum italicum essential oil (a profound wound-healing and pain relieving essential oil) and 1 milliliter Calendula essential oil in a base of equal parts Tamanu, Coconut and Rosehip seed oils. This would be useful for treatment of wounds after accidents or surgery (while it should not be applied directly to open wounds -- around the open area would be fine). A stronger formula would be useful for deep tissue injuries, like sports injuries, muscle strains, sprains and the like. Use up to 25% Helichrysum and 5% Calendula in a simple base of pure Jojoba oil, massaging into painful areas up to 3 times daily. This type of formula utilizes the strong anti-inflammatory action of Helichrysum along with the wound healing and antioxidant effects of Calendula to speed healing and relieve pain of connective-tissue damage.
Topical therapeutic application may be best performed using the practice of reflexology. Calendula and other essential oils used for support of the liver and kidney can be massaged into the reflex points of the feet corresponding to these organs. These points are directly behind the ball of the foot (away from the toes, toward the arch) -- the liver point is in-line between the big toe and the second toe, the kidneys in-line with the split between the 4th and pinky toe. These areas can be massaged, with the practitioner and massage recipient communicating to find the exact points most in need of attention. An excellent detoxifying blend can be made with Calendula (10%), Helichrysum (3-5%), Blue Tansy (5%) and Carrot Seed (5%) in virgin Coconut oil. This same blend can be diluted in half again and applied on the body in the regions of the organs themselves.
Calendula extract is also safe for internal ingestion, listed as GRAS, or Generally Recognized as Safe by the FDA. A few drops can be ingested daily for simple antioxidant support, and the oil, while not particularly flavorful (tastes like strong green/orange flowers), can be ingested without dilution (unlike other 'hotter' essential oils). For more complete antioxidant protection from essential oils that are 'GRAS', consider Sea Buckthorn CO2 (3 drops daily, a nicer flavor) and Clove CO2 (1 drop daily -- this is a 'hot' oil and will require dilution in warm water or olive oil). Injestion of Carrot Seed, 1 drop daily, is recommended in the aromatherapy literature for liver support. The oils can be dropped in a en empty cellulose capsule and easily ingested this way. Ingestion also provides a means of utilizing the organ support offered by Calendula; while protocols are developed for human use, low dosages such as these are considered both safe and therapeutic by aromatherapy professionals.