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Calendula (Calendula officinalis [Latin]), also known as pot calendula and pot marigold, is an orange or yellow flower native to the Mediterranean. Calendula is easy to grow from seed, but although it is sometimes referred to as marigold it should not be confused with regular French or African marigolds that are commonly used in gardens (Tagetes species). Calendulaís orange petals are thought to be antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, two traits that have made this flower a popular treatment for a host of bodily infections.

Calendula is often recommended for treatment of ear infections. Studies have shown calendula offers as much pain relief for ear infection as some non-herbal eardrops. One popular combination herbal product Otikon Otic (which includes calendula), has been shown effective alternative treatment for chronic ear pain in doses 5 drops placed in the affected ear 3 times daily.

Calendula washes may also be useful in treating chronic conjunctivitis. They antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects of calendula both soothe the inflammation and help kill unhealthy bacteria are in the membranes surrounding the eye.

Some research suggests that calendula extracts may also reduce inflammation when applied to the skin. In Germany, some doctors apply preparations of the herb to surgical incisions and other wounds that are slow to heal; studies indicate that this herb both reduces healing time and increases the quality of healing. Calendula also stimulates the production of collagen, and is used in many cosmetic creams to lessen the appearance of wrinkles and hydrate skin. Calendula ointments are available in 2% and 5% strengths, and have been used topically to treat pain and inflammation resulting from a variety of conditions, including hemorrhoids, vaginal itching caused by menopausal tissue changes, insect bites, diaper rash, acne, eczema, and sunburn. People with gastrointestinal disorders may benefit from calendula as well. German studies have shown that calendula protects the lining of the stomach and intestines by inhibiting the prostaglandin E1 (PGE), which causes swelling and inflammation, and by limiting the effects of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium associated with gastritis, peptic ulcers, and stomach cancer.

Calendula flowers are edible, and may be added to salads or cooked foods. They can also be dried for use in teas or gargles for sore throat or inflammations of the mouth; or in infused oils, creams, or ointments for treatment of minor skin injuries or irritations.

You can make and store calendula tea in your refrigerator as a soothing skin treatment; try swabbing it directly on inflamed skin (acne, hemorrhoids, etc.). Some people may have an allergic reaction to calendula, especially those who are allergic to other members of the aster family, such as ragweed. Itís best to do a spot-test before using this or any other herbal medication.

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