Name: Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
Otherwise known as: Golds, Ruddes, Mary Bowles
Habitat: An annual, sometime perennial member of the Asteraceae family growing up to 70cm in loamy soil in Europe and the Mediterranean region. It is covered in long, pale green, hairy leaves and stems topped by bright yellow, daisy like flowers in double and single form. The name is taken from the Latin for the ‘little clock’
What does it do: A plant of ancient repute, it is said ‘to comfort the heart and cheer the spirit’. Marigold is one of the most versatile and valued sources of herbal medicine and is very popular with Homeopaths. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-protozoal, anti-histamine and anti-bacterial, especially against staphylococcus and streptococcus. In addition it is anti-septic, anti- emetic and immune boosting.
Marigold as an ointment is best known for its efficacy in treating skin disorders. Topically it is applied to cuts, grazes, wounds and sun-burnt skin. It is a favoured treatment for nappy rash and skull cap; nursing mothers apply it to sore nipples. It is known to give relief to varicose veins and ulcers as well as abscesses. Herbalists use preparations from the plant to treat vaginal thrush, ringworm and athlete’s foot; they claim it challenges the underlying toxicity that causes skin disorders such as eczema.
Modern herbalists recommend an infusion of the plant for all post-surgical recovery. It is also thought to be most efficacious in treating enlarged and inflamed lymph glands, bladder and duodenal problems, rectal inflammation and balanitis.
One of the main constituents of marigold is lutein, a member of the Carotenoid family and essential to the health of the eyes; recent research indicates that the chemical may retard age related macular degeneration.
Marigolds are very common in Cyprus and make excellent companion plants deterring predatory insects from the vegetable patch.
Alexander McCowan is author of The World’s most Dangerous Plants