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Calendula officinalis - The wound healer

This month's remedy is Calendula, the English Marigold (not to be confused with the more common African marigolds of horticulture). With summer upon us, it's a good time to get more familiar with the premier homeopathic remedy for cuts, scrapes, and wounds of all kinds.
     Calendula was introduced to our homeopathic materia medica by Karl Franz. Franz came to homeopathy after being successfully treated by Samuel Hahnemann in Leipzig for a persistent skin affection. He subsequently changed his career from theology to the study of medicine, eventually setting up a homeopathic practice in Leipzig. He worked closely with Hahnemann, serving as a member of Hahnemann's inner circle of colleagues and the first provers' union, and contributing his particularly strong knowledge of botany and medicinal plants.
     Although native to southern Europe, Calendula has been introduced throughout northern Europe and the New World for its ornamental and medicinal uses, often naturalizing in disturbed ground as a garden escapee. It thrives in a variety of well-drained soils, in open sunlight or light woodland. It is easily cultivated as an annual, and has an extended period of flowering from mid-summer through heavy frost, rendering it an ideal ornamental garden flower.
     Calendula belongs to the botanical family Compositae, which contributes many other members to our materia medica including: Echinacea angustifolia, Bellis perennis, Arnica montana, Taraxacum officinale, Achillea millefolium, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Matricaria chamomilla, Artemesia absinthium, and Cina maritima.
     There is a long history of domestic herbal use of Calendula as a vulnerary (wound-healing agent), applied particularly in bites, stings, and open wounds. Eclectic botanical physicians of the 19th and 20th centuries adopted Calendula as their principal agent to promote the healing of wounds.
     William Clary, in King's American Dispensatory (one of the principal Eclectic Materia Medica texts), said: "As a local remedy after surgical operations, it has no equal in Materia Medica. Its forte is its influence on lacerated wounds ... If applied constantly, gangrene will not follow, and, I might say, there will be little, if any, danger of tetanus. When applied to a wound it is seldom that any suppuration follows ... I would not be without it for a hundred times its cost."

Illustration from Die Pflanzen des Hömoopathichen Arzneischatzes (Theplants of the homœopathic remedial treasure), by Dr. A. von Villers and F. von Thümen, 1893.

Provings vs. clinical use
The homeopathic provings of Calendula are fragmentary, with only 52 symptoms recorded in Franz's proving, and 22 recorded symptoms from the observed effects of large doses in tincture on two individuals. James T. Kent relates, "The proving of Calendula is so nearly worthless that we cannot expect at present to use it as a guide to the internal administration of the remedy."
     The bulk of our knowledge of this remedy is based on clinical observation, which we adopt in the manner described by Edwin Moses Hale, in the introduction to his Special Symptomatology of the New Remedies: "Can allopathic authority, or allopathic cures, become of value to the homœopathist? I answer, their bald dictum cannot, but their cures can. No proposition is more generally accepted in our school than, that a dose, to be homœopathic, need not be a high potency dose. The true definition of a homœopathic dose is, any quantity of medicine capable of effecting a cure. If we do not admit this, we must admit that allopathists cure by virtue of the law of contraria, and if we do this, we give them vantage ground at once. All cures are homœopathic cures, whether made with the 200th, or with grain doses of the crude drug. Our course, as consistent homœopathicians, is, to claim all cures as made by the law of similia, and prove them to be such, as did Hahnemann. The law discovered by our great master is all embracing, universal, and the sooner his followers adopt this proposition, the better it will be for the honor and influence of our school."
     Constantine Hering described the adoption of such clinical symptoms into our materia medica, alongside the symptoms derived from provings, as symptoms born by "breech presentation." Kent tells us "Some will say it is not homœopathic, but these are the individuals who 'strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.'"
     Calendula has proven its worth in such application. In Surgeon's Friends in Homeopathy, Fayazuddin reports: "During the war, Dr. Petrie Hoyle, that keen fighter for recognition of the value of Homœopathy, used Calendula almost exclusively for dressing the most filthy wounds in his front-line hospital, and he was commended by a visiting Staff Officer for the clean state of the patients' wounds, the absence of smell in the wards, and received much praise on the rapid evacuation and cure of all kinds of septic wounds among the soldiers. They had no fatal cases of gas gangrene among the patients, I believe. And all this was due to the action of the Calendula lotion ..."
     J.H. Clarke, in his Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica, begins his description of Calendula with: "Calendula belongs to the same family as those other great vulneraries Arnica and Bellis perennis. The special kind of wounds indicating its use are lacerated wounds and suppurating wounds. It is the homœopathic antiseptic—it restores the vitality of an injured part, making it impregnable against the forces of putrefaction. Unlike Arnica it has no irritating property capable of producing erysipelas. It is therefore suitable to all cases of injury where the skin is broken. Jahr, who was in Paris during the Coup d'Etat of 1849, treated a number of cases of gun-shot wounds with comminuted [pulverized] bones, and saved several limbs by means of Calendula. It prevented suppuration and pyaemia. In some cases of carbuncle it acts with great promptitude, subduing pain and fever."

Indications for use
Some guiding symptoms in Calendula's application as a vulnerary include:
     "The wound is raw and inflamed; is painful, as if beaten; the parts around the wound become red, with stinging in the wound during the febrile heat" (A. Lippe).
     "Pain is excessive, and out of all proportion to the injury" (S.R. Phatak).
     As such, it finds its place alongside the "surgeon's remedies" of our practice, which particularly include Arnica, Bellis, Hypericum, Ledum, Staphysagria, Tarentula cubensis, and Symphytum. It is most commonly used in external application, but may be used internally to the same ends.
     Other common applications of Calendula include:
     Perineal tears from giving birth (Charles Raue).
     Hemorrhages; in scalp wounds; after tooth extraction (S.R. Phatak).
     "It seems to have some specific action upon mucous membranes, for no remedy can equal it as an injection in vaginal and uterine leucorrhoea" (William Burt).
     Traumatic conjunctivitis, keratitis, iritis (Ernest Farrington, Comparative Materia Medica).
     Burnett adopted Calendula as a remedy with a strong "specificity of seat" in liver disorders: "The two symptoms, 'chilly hands' and 'easily frightened,' taken together and in conjunction with liver troubles, would seem to call for Calendula" (J.C. Burnett, The Diseases of the Liver).

Karl Franz, a colleague of Samuel Hahnemann, was the first prover of Calendula.

A Calendula case
From T.S. Hoyne, Clinical Therapeutics (1878): "A boy, aged ten, fell down stairs, his chin coming in contact with a chair standing upon the landing at the bottom of the flight. The lower lip was divided, and a deep incised wound made in an oblique direction for three inches, to the angle of the jaw. There was not much hemorrhage, considering the extent of the injury. Five sutures were required to draw the two sides of the wound into apposition. A pledget of lint, soaked in the tincture of Calendula, was applied and although the whole of the lower part of the face was much ecchymosed [bruised] from the force of the fall, the wound healed by the first intention, and has left but a slight linear cicatrix, which is scarcely discernible at a short distance from the lad. We have no doubt that plastic surgical operations would be more generally successful if this preparation were more generally used."

"Calendula is wonderfully soothing as an external application. It neither destroys nor irritates any new epithelial cells which are growing; on the contrary it stimulates their growth. The Calendula tincture is diluted for use by adding one teaspoonful to a pint of boiled water, but lately I have found that ordinary unboiled water will do just as well. ...

"Everybody should grow Calendula ... on any spare patch of garden they have; it grows easily, the golden flowers give a patch of welcome colour these grim days, besides being a most useful plant medicinally. The half-open buds or newly opened flowers with the gummy end shoots are the parts used for the tincture ...

"The fresh yellow florets of the flowers can be applied directly to the wound and covered with a bandage; or the pulped fresh blooms can be applied and bound over the wound. This method answers particularly well in all kinds of insect stings, bees, wasps, etc.

"Calendula ointment is extremely soothing and heals rapidly when applied to all kinds of cuts, cracks, chapped hands and legs, small septic spots, etc."
—From Dorothy Shepherd's Homœpathy for the First Aider, 1953.

About the author:
Will Taylor has a practice devoted to classical homeopathy in a small coastal community in downeast Maine. Initially trained in conventional medicine, he received his MD from the University of Vermont, did a residency in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and returned to rural Maine to practice as a family physician. His own intractable case of shingles led him in desperation to homeopathy and to the discovery of his own "true and highest calling" as a homeopathic practitioner