Family: Compositae/Asteraceae or daisy
Synonyms and Common names: Caltha officinalis. Golds. Ruddes. Mary Gowles. Oculus Christi. Pot Marigold. Marygold. Solis Sponsa.
Description and Habitat: A native of South Europe and hardy in the whole of Britain. A herb of pale green leaves with bright orange flowers and a long growing season, from late spring right through until the first frosts.
The flowers close at night and open in the morning when the sun comes up, and are open until the sun goes down at night. The leaves are downy to the touch and are elongated. The flowers are finely ribbed with many petals and a pollen-laden centre. When the herb seeds, its seeds are in the shape of a letter C, which when left will readily grow wherever they fall. This herb is easy to cultivate and will grow anywhere where the sun shines, or in partial shade. The whole plant has a particular but not offensive smell, which once recognised won’t be forgotten.
Parts used: Flowers and leaves are of use
Collection and preparation: Gather leaves in fine weather and in the morning after the dew has gone and they are dry. Gather flowers on a sunny day when their sugars are at its highest, they too must be gathered dry. Both leaves and flowers must be dried spread out on a flat surface and in a dry dark place, with each flower and leaf not touching its neighbour; turn them regularly to avoid mustiness.
Constituents: Saponins, carotenoids, bitter principle, essential oil, sterols, flavonoids, mucilage.
Actions: Anti-inflammatory, astringent, vulnerary, anti-microbial, cholagogue, emmenagogue, tonic.
Indications: Inflammation, infection, bleeding, wounds, bruising, strains, burns, gastric and duodenal ulcers, gall bladder problems, indigestion, irritated eyes, conjunctivitis, fevers.
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Calendula officinalis is a useful herb for skin problems, be it to rub on an insect bite or nettle sting, or to make into creams or lotions to combat skin irritations, cuts or wounds. Also useful to take internally for digestive problems. Sore throats can be eased by mouthwash or gargle, as can sore gums. Both leaves and flowers are used in the same way, easy access to the oils by infusion into oil, boiling water or just by rubbing the herb on the affected area.
Calendula officinalis is a useful herb for children’s illness, as a decoction into water it brings down fever and brings out any underlying infection such as measles, chickenpox etc.
Calendula officinalis is a useful herb for many health problems:
Marigold cream for eczema,
Essential oil for use on insect bites and nettle stings,
Marigold compress for inflammation, boils, sore nipples, sore eyes,
Gargle or mouth wash for sore throat or gums,
Infusion for fevers, tonsillitis, gastritis,
Use with comfrey for adhesions and stomach ulcers,
Use with sage to prevent colds and flu.
Also useful for amalgamation with other herbs in an ointment.
Contraindications: Calendula officinalis is safe to use and can be freely given to all ages, the leaves and flowers can be included in a salad, and eaten freely.
Preparation and dosage: Preparation by infusion or tincture and used freely as an infusion, a compress, a mouthwash, a gargle, a cream, an ointment or a lotion, and can be freely applied as needed.
Additional comments and Folklore: Folklore tells us that the marigold is a herb with an ancient history, known to Romans, Greeks and Egyptians as a remedy for skin complaints and stomach problems. Its Latin name of Calendula refers to its habit of flowering through the months or flowering all through the seasons of spring to autumn. It’s a symbol of love, heat and sexuality, and is aligned to the sun.
In folklore, it was aligned to the sparks given off from lightning in a thunderstorm. The marigold has been used to make cheese yellow, and to turn hair a golden colour, it is said that if flowers are not open before nine in the morning, then there will be a thunderstorm by the end of the day. It is also said that if you pick a bunch of marigolds at dawn you risk turning into an alcoholic!
The marigold is a herbal on a stem, an easy herb to use and its availability makes it not only a useful flower to have in the garden, but according to Aemilius Macer (13th century) “simply gazing on the flowers draws wicked humours out of the head and makes the sight bright and clean”
The common name marigold probably refers to the Virgin Mary, or its Anglo Saxon name 'ymbglidegold', which means 'it turns with the sun', this comes from the herbs habit of facing the sun as it moves across the sky.
The ‘calendula officinalis’ is a particularly good flower to grow in greenhouses and in the garden where any green vegetable is being grown, as it respells aphids and other pests, whilst tempting honey bees to it wherever its growing.