Calendula, otherwise known as pot marigold, is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. The flowers bloom according to the calendar (hence the name), usually at the new moon. It has been used as a dye and food for centuries, and it's sometimes referred to as "poor man's saffron".

Only the deep orange flowers of this popular garden plant boast medicinal benefits. The petals contain terpene alkaloids and flavones; which have anti-inflammatory, astringent and antiseptic properties. Chinese herbalists have long prescribed calendula for menstrual irregularities. Russian healers consider it an aid for strep throat. Traditionally it has been used to treat everything from jaundice to small pox and measles. This versatile plant has even shown promise as an anti-AIV agent in vitro.

Perhaps the herbs most popular use is as a topical treatment for wounds, burns, rashes and chapped skin. You'll find calendula in the ingredients of many skin salves, sunburn lotions and first aid creams. It's also said to relieve the itch from insect bits and can help heal canker sores. In addition, some recommend its use for treating athlete's foot.

If you have an allergy to ragweed or other members of the aster family, avoid using calendula products.

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