The petals of the calendula flower are the part that is used in the steam distillation to create the oil. It is classified as an infused oil because the petals are steeped, infused into a carrier oil. The petals of the flower can also be dehydrated and used whole, ground into a powder, or even eaten raw. In fact, calendula flowers are often added into salads and other dishes for their color. While its stems are technically considered edible, they actually don't taste very good, so are best avoided.
Calendula flowers contain calendulin, beta-carotene, other carotenoids, isoquercitrin, narcissin, rutin, amyrin, lupeol, sterols, and volatile oils. It contains a high amount of antioxidants, which protect the body against cell-damaging free radicals, called flavonoids. Research into this flowering plant has been ongoing for years, yet researchers are not sure what active ingredients are responsible for its healing properties, however, it does appear to have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial effects.
Calendula has been clinically shown to speed the healing of wounds and to help prevent dermatitis in breast cancer patients, while they are receiving radiation treatments. This is potentially because the calendula increases blood flow to the affected area. The calendula infused oil is very mild and soothing, and it is a preferable treatment for dry, damaged skin, such as burns, rashes, wounds, and inflammation, or just dry, chapped skin. In fact, calendula oil is so mild that it makes an excellent oil for babies and those with sensitive skin.
The dried petals of calendula are best made into an aromatic infused oil, a tea, or a tincture. The dried petals themselves, or the oil infused with them, make a great base for balms, salves, face creams, and other natural cosmetics. They are also used in soap, for the properties or even just for the nice yellow coloring.
The dried petals are often used in tinctures, ointments and washes to aide in the healing of cuts, bruises, burns, and the minor infections that these can cause. Don't think it works? The next time you or your child has a bee sting, try chewing some calendula petals, then place the masticated petals on the irritated area and just wait and see how fast the stinging goes away. Of course, if you really don't want to chew them yourself you can just add some fresh petals and water to a blender, reduce them to a paste, then place the paste directly on the affected area. While you have that paste out, you may as well go ahead and slather some on any varicose veins you may have. Calendula has a proven track record for treating and even for healing varicosities!
The tea, or tincture in water, can be swished and swallowed to help heal sore throats, gastric ulcers, or oral lesions. There are several other applications where calendula may be beneficial, both internally and externally. For more detailed information you can check out one of the many home herbal medicines books available at your public library for FREE, or check out the several on-line sources available, some for free and some for a fee.
As previously stated calendula is very mild and, unless you are allergic to its family, it is considered one of the safest herbs for use. It is quite frequently recommended for use in baby products, and is found more and more in commercial products, right along with lavender and chamomile. While some sites state a concern that it may [potentially] cause miscarrage, but from what I can see this is limited to its internal use. To be safe, until more is known and documented, I would advise against its use during pregnancy, internally. And, since its safe use during lactation has not yet been studied and established, it is also best to avoid it while nursing. We do know though that Calendula may be a central nervous system depressant, causing sleepiness and drowsiness. Therefore taking it, along with other sedative medications, could cause increased drowsiness. This is especially true when combined with other pharmaceutical medications, especially those that are used during and after surgery. In order to avoid potential issues you should make your physician aware of your intake and stop taking the internal calendula at least 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery. Also, be aware that if you are allergic to ragweed or other plants in the asteraceae/compositae family (such as chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies and others). You should check with a physician prior to using any product that contains calendula powder, petals, or oil that has been infused with calendula, whether its for internal or external use, as you may be sensitive to it.