Calendula officinalis, or pot marigold, bears bright yellow flowers that resemble daisies and make it an ornamental favorite, but it’s also edible and has medicinal value.
Active ingredients in its flower petals have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial abilities that help heal cuts and burns.
If you eat calendula, you’ll gain some antioxidants, but it’s best known as an affordable substitute for saffron.
Calendula is an ornamental plant that thrives in gardens throughout most of the United States.
Depending on the variety, it grows from 8 to 24 inches tall, tolerates full sun and partial shade, and produces yellow and orange flowers from early summer through the first frost.
Harvest the flowers when they’re at full bloom to keep the plant blooming until the season is over. You can use the flowers and leaves for culinary and medicinal purposes, and consume them fresh or dried.
The active ingredient in pot marigold is oleanolic acid, which has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antioxidant abilities, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Research suggests that calendula may prevent dermatitis caused by radiation treatment, according to an April 2009 report published online in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, but results were not definitive.
When a calendula ointment was used to treat diaper rash in 34 infants, it had significantly better results when compared to the aloe vera cream used on 32 other infants, according to a study in the April 2012 issue of the “Scientific World Journal.”
The nutrients in pot marigold haven’t been measured and assessed for potential benefits.
In April 2012, the “Chemistry Central Journal” published an analysis of the flower’s active components; calendula contains antioxidants in the form of flavonoids and carotenoids.
The leaves contain lutein and beta-carotene, which are vitamin A carotenoids that work as antioxidants. Your body can also convert beta-carotene into the form of vitamin A it needs to maintain vision and healthy skin.
The flower petals impart their yellow color to food, so dried calendula is often used as a substitute for saffron. Other culinary uses depend on whether you like the flavor of the flowers or leaves.
The University of Kentucky recommends eating only the flowers. In addition to adding flowers to salads, try using them in herbal butter and cheese spreads, or use the dried flowers to make tea.
The leaves have a spicy taste and make good flavorings for soups and salads, according to Cornell University.
Whether it’s consumed or used as a topical treatment, calendula is safe for most people, but women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using it in any form.
Calendula may cause an allergic reaction if you’re sensitive to ragweed, marigolds or daisies. If you have any plant-based allergies, talk to your healthcare provider before taking calendula.
It may also cause excessive sleepiness if you consume pot marigold along with sedative medications, including clonazepam, lorazepam, and Ambien.
Author Bio: Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.
*This article was originally published at healthyeating.sfgate.com By Sandi Busch.