Spotlight on Marigold
Origins | Description | Qualities | History | Cultivation | Harvesting
Latin name(s) - Calendula officinalis, Catha officinalis
Origins - Calendula is a native of Southern Europe, but has become naturalised throughout temperate regions of the world. Many cultivated varieties actually come from completely different genera and should not be confused with Calendula officinalis.
Description - Calendula officinalis is an annual and has pale green, long and hairy leaves, with bright yellow or orange flowers which flower for a long growing period: June to October. The petals have a spicy flavour and the leaves a bitter aftertaste. It grows to a height of 30 - 60 cms. All parts are highly scented and therefore attractive to bees and hover flies, which enjoy eating the aphids! The plant is a good weather predictor! The flowers close when rain is coming.
Attributed medicinal qualities - Calendula officinalis has many uses. The main one today is in reducing inflammation, bee and wasp stings have been treated by rubbing the fresh flower on the affected area, and wound healing as it is an antiseptic and improves blood flow to the affected area. But it has also been shown to help with skin problems from ulceration to eczema when used as a salve. It has treated stomach ulcers, stomach cramp, colitis and diarrhoea when infused. Fever, boils, abcesses and to prevent persistent vomiting when infused. Bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, sores, boils in a salve or dilute tincture. And it has been used to treat athletes foot, ringworm and candida, acne and nappy rash, menstrual and menopause symptoms, by infusion along with alleviating the effects of radiation therapy, varicose veins, when used in a compress.
Calendula should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. Very occaisionally it may cause an allergic reaction so always do a skin patch test if you have not used it before. Calendula officinalis has been shown to have a high concentration of flavoniods - chemicals that act as anti-oxidants in the body.
History - The name Calendula stems from the Latin kalendae, meaning first day of the month, presumably because pot marigolds are in bloom at the start of most months of the year as the Latin word Calendulae means "throughout the months". Although the old Saxon name "'ymbglidegold', means 'it turns with the sun'. They were also called Mary buds and associated with the Virgin Mary.
In the middle ages Marigolds symbolised jealousy. In the past, Calendula officinalis was used to colour cheese yellow (rather that than some of the chemicals used today!) It was called "poor man's saffron". In the 12th century, Macer concluded that there would be an improvement in your eyesight just by looking at the plant. It was used as a treatment for smallpox and measles, in fact so much was grown in the Soviet Union that it became known as Russian penicillin.
The religious sect The Shakers in America believed they were an effective cure for gangrene.
Cultivation - Calendula officinalis is easy to grow and seeds can be sown in the late spring and early summer months. They prefer a sunny position and need a lot of water during dry spells but otherwise can be pretty much left to look after themselves and they self-seed easily. Marigolds are good companion plants to tomatoes as its pungent smell acts as a deterrent to some pests, particularly eelworms.
Harvesting, preparation and storage - The marigold is a common garden plant. Harvest the flower tops or just the petals when the flowers are open between June and September. They should be picked very carefully and can be used fresh or dry, but ensure there is no bruising or discoloration.
Culinary Uses -The petals, with their slight aromatic bitterness can be used in fish and meat soups, rice dishes, salads, and as a colouring for cheese and butter.
The whole flower was used as a garnish in medieval times. And chopped fresh marigold flowers can be scattered over rice and salad dishes and even used in sweet dishes like custard or baked puddings. They can also be used as an alternative to saffron.
Magical Uses - Their magical attributes include prophesy, legal matters, psychic energy, seeing magical creatures, love, clairvoyance, dreams, business or legal affairs, attraction and renewing personal energy. A fresh Marigold flower can be worn to court for a favorable outcome of a trial. If you place Marigold in your mattress, you will have prophetic dreams... and if you place it under your mattress it will make whatever you dream come true.
Culpeper - "Marigolds are very expulsive and little less effective in small-pox and measles than saffron."
William Turner - "Summe use to make theyr here yellow with the floure of the herbe, not being content with the naturall colour which God hath given them."