In A Nutshell – Marigold – Calendula officinalis
by Jill Rosemary Davies
A popular garden plant, Marigold has exceptional healing powers and is used in many therapeutic disciplines, as its unique anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties promote rapid healing. This remarkable herb is multi-healing, both internally and externally. It lifts the spirits, relaxes spasms, it is a common first aid treatment for cuts, grazes, and scalds, and is particularly helpful for skin problems.
A history of healing
Anatomy of Marigold
Marigold in Action
Energy and emotion
Growing, harvesting, and processing
Preparations for internal use
herbal tea (Infusion)
Preparations for external use
Natural medicine for everyone
How marigold works
A popular garden plant, Marigold has been valued for many centuries for its exceptional healing powers and is particularly remarkable in the treatment of wounds. When used for medicinal purposes, it is commonly referred to as 'Calendula'. In this book, therefore, the terms Marigold and Calendula are used interchangeably.
In appearance, Marigold looks like a large yellow or orange coloured daisy, each floret being about 1.25 cm (½ in) long. A hardy annual, the plant produces its bright flowers throughout the summer and the flower heads may grow up to 7 cm (3 in) in diameter. Marigold's simple fruits are closely curled in the middle of the flower head, almost in the form of a ring. Hence in Germany, its common name is Ringelblume, meaning ringed flower.
The plant grows to a height of approximately 50–70 cm (20–28 in). The stem is erect and branched, bearing alternate, light green, lance-shaped leaves and both stem and leaves are covered with fine hair. Marigold is described by some as without a marked scent, but others find its odour rather heavy, while its taste is bitter.
Calendula officinalis, the botanical name, originates from the Latin word calends which comes from calare, to call. The Roman writer Varro said that the term calends derived from the priest's practice of calling the citizens together on the first day of the month to inform them of the time of the various sacred days and festivals. (Eventually the posting of the calendar in public places replaced this custom, and calends came to refer to the whole month, rather than just the first day.) Marigold may have acquired its botanical name, Calendula, from its reputation for blooming on the first day of every month. The word officinalis indicates that the plant is useful in medicine.
What to buy
To ensure the best healing results, always purchase Marigold that has been organically grown or certified wild collected. Alternatively, you can grow your own Marigold successfully from seed. It is also possible to buy dried flower petals or petal powder from an accredited herbalist or herbal dispensary. Calendula preparations are easily obtained from many health food stores.
Botanical family: Compositae.
The genus Calendula of the family Compositae is native to southern Europe. Since early times, however, it has spread widely. Today, Calendula is common in central and Eastern Europe and may be found growing wild from the Canary Islands to Iran. It is also cultivated throughout the world as a garden plant.
Species: Although the most widespread and best known example is Calendula officinalis or Pot Marigold, there are about 20 species in total. The term Marigold is also applied to the genus Tagetes of the family Asteraceae, as well as to unrelated plants from several families. However, these plants do not possess the same healing properties as Calendula officinalis.
Marigold is self-seeding and once planted, it largely takes care of itself. It thrives in a sunny position and will grow in any good soil, though it prefers one that is rich and moist.
Where to find Marigold
Calendula officinalis is the main medicinal species used by herbalists but at least 100 wild species of Marigold can be found in Morocco, Portugal, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Algeria, Mexico, Africa, Australasia, Asia Minor and Palestine. It has been grown in Britain since Roman times and cultivated in temperate regions of the United States since the 18th century.
Marigold is grown for commercial purposes mainly in Egypt where the climate allows two or three crops to be produced each year. It is also grown commercially in South America, Hungary, France, Spain, Germany and to a small extent, in Britain. Commercial growers may use both organic and chemically assisted types of husbandry.
Marigold grows readily all over the garden and should be sown in March or April directly where it is to flower. The seeds germinate quickly and the seedlings should be thinned out as they emerge, preferably to about a hand's width apart. If you start them off indoors, however, the little seedlings can easily be transplanted to their new flowering positions when they appear in the spring. Once planted, Marigold grows sturdily and requires little care, although cutting off the deadheads of the plant immediately will then encourage growth of further flowers, often until the first frosts in the autumn.
A further sowing can be made in late August. This results in plants that will start to grow over winter and flower early in the following year.
A History of Healing
Marigold has a long history of medicinal use, stretching back to the Romans and the ancient Greeks, who drank Marigold tea to relieve nervous tension and sleeplessness. It has also been used in cooking, dying cloth and skincare, and was a well-known symbol of good luck.
A puzzle from John Gay's The Shepherd's Week runs thus:
'This Riddle, Cuddy, if thou can’st, explain,
This wily Riddle puzzles ev'ry Swain.
What Flower is that which bears the Virgin's Name,
The richest Metal joined with the same?'
The answer is quite straightforward. The Virgin is Jesus's mother, Mary. Combined with gold, the most precious of metals, the answer is Marigold.
It is thought that the plant's name may have a much earlier derivation, being a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon name given to the Marsh Marigold, merso-meargealla, a different plant to the medicinal Pot Marigold. The Marsh Marigold is poisonous unless cooked. Subsequently, Old English writers referred to the Marigold as Golds or Ruddes, and the plant also acquired a series of common or folk names, including Garden Marigold, Gold-bloom, Mary Gowles and Jackanapes-on-horsebacke ('jackanapes' meaning a cheeky child). In 17th century England 'marygold' was a slang term for the gold coin known as a sovereign and during the reign of Queen Mary (1689–94), for the sovereign herself.
Ancient uses and folklore
Originally a native plant of ancient Egypt and first introduced into Britain by the Romans, Marigold is one of the earliest cultivated flowers. It was also known to the ancient Greeks, who used its petals for decoration, to colour foods and cosmetics and as a material dye, in addition to its medicinal uses. An infusion of the herb was drunk to alleviate the symptoms of nervous tension and to prevent sleepless nights. Marigold has been cultivated in European gardens since about the 12th century. By the 14th century, the plant had become endowed with almost magical powers. A medieval author called Macer, who described Marigold in his Herbal, thought that merely to look at it would improve eyesight and draw out evil 'humours' from the head:
'Gold [Marigold] is bitter in savour, Fayr and zelw [yellow] is his flowr Ye golde flour is good to sene, It makyth ye syth bryth and clene, Wyscely to lokyn on his flowers, Drawyth owt of ye heed wikked, Hirors [humours].'
History and Traditional Uses
Marigold features widely in the literature of the 16th and 17th centuries. Its blooming was one of the well-observed characteristics. In 1578, for example, A Niewe Herball by Dodoens, translated into English by Henry Lyte, stated that Marigold's flowers, 'Do close at the setting downe of the sunne and do spread and open againe at the sunne rising.' The poet Francis Quarles wrote of the 'sun-observing Marigold', while in The Winter's Tale, William Shakespeare also describes the actions of the Marigold flower, which 'goes to bed wi' the sun, and with him rises weeping'.
The plant is often called Pot Marigold, a name that does not refer to the containers in which it may be grown, but to its traditional use in the cooking pot. So Fuller wrote in his Anthology of 1655 that, 'We all know the many and sovereign virtues in your leaves, the Herbe Generalle in all pottage [soups].' The herbalists of this time clearly recognised Marigold for its use in medicine. Stevens in 1699, for example, wrote that Marigold helped 'headache, jaundice, red eyes, toothache and ague'. The herb was also used to treat skin problems.
Good luck symbol
A host of beliefs regarding Marigold’s power were prevalent in Europe in medieval times. For example, picking the herb at noon was thought to comfort the heart. The simple addition of the flower to bathwater was thought to help with the admiration and respect of others, while if it was kept in the pocket, Marigold was believed to ensure that in a court of law justice would be kind. To bring good luck at weddings, church paths were strewn with flowers, especially Marigold, Broom and Rosemary. Marigold garlands strung on doorposts were reputed to prevent evil from crossing the threshold, while Marigold petals scattered under the bed were said to protect the occupant and make the sleeper’s dreams come true.
A traditional use for Marigold petals is as a dye for wood or silk, producing a pale yellow colour. It is not colour fast – the characteristic yellow of Marigold easily washes out or fades. It therefore needs a fixative, which can be either alum or cream of tartar.
A recipe to see the fairies
Kay Sanecki records that the following recipe was thought efficacious for those who wished to see the little folk: '(Take) a pint of sallet oyle and put it into a vial glass; and first wash it with Rose water and Marygolde water; the flowers be gathered towards the east. Wash it untol the oyle becomes white, then put it into the glasthe flowers of Marygolde, the flowers or toppes of Wild Thyme, the budd of young Hazel and the Thyme must be gathered near the side of a hill where the fairies used to be; and take the grasse of a fairy throne, then all these put into the oyle in the glasse and sette it to dissolve three days in the sun, and keep it for thy use.'
Anatomy of Marigold
Only Marigold's flower heads are used medicinally. The bright petals contain powerful natural chemicals that give the herb its amazing healing properties, so always ensure that you use the most vibrant orange-yellow flowers available.
Marigold is well known as a wound-healing, antiseptic and stimulating remedy, but in fact modern herbalists rely upon this plant for a wide range of uses. Mindy Green in her book Calendula has compiled an impressive list of some of Marigold's other potential actions, including alterative, analgesic, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aperient, astringent, bactericide, carminative, cholagogue, depurative, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, stomachic, styptic and tonic.
The vivid orange to yellowish flower heads of the Marigold are similar in structure to daisies, and grow up to 7 cm (3 in) across. The brighter the colour of the flower, the greater the amount of active constituents its petals contain.
When their chemical composition is examined, Marigold petals are found to contain carotenes (pigments present in their orange colouring), flavonoids, resin, saponins, sterols, triterpenes, bitter glycosides and volatile oils.
Some of these substances provide Marigold with its powerful anti-inflammatory action. It is a good remedy for inflamed skin and for a range of microbial and parasitic infections. The plant has a mild oestrogenic action, probably due to its sterol and saponin content, which is why it makes a useful regulator of hormones in the female body.
Shelf life of flowers
Dried flowers last 6–12 months; fresh flower heads should be used immediately to ensure maximum potency.
Shelf life of seeds
Seeds last 1–2 years, but with suitable storage facilities they will usually keep for much longer.
Marigold in Action
Marigold's wide-ranging and powerful properties make it a very useful plant. It is also a particularly safe remedy. It has been used by sages, herbalists and healers throughout the centuries. One such healer was the German 12th century nun, mystic and herbalist, Abbess Hildegard of Bingen.
How Marigold can help
- Ideal for healing cuts, scrapes, lacerations, surgical wounds and scars, small infected wounds, animal bites and scratches.
- Useful for skin conditions such as acne, shingles, chickenpox, dermatitis, eczema sores, impetigo spots and other systemic fungal, bacterial and viral conditions.
- An effective aid to healing minor first degree burns, such as sunburn.
- Helps to soothe bee, wasp and insect stings.
- An aid to healing cold sores.
- An antiseptic remedy for mouth and throat infections.
- Soothes toothache.
- Soothing to irritable bowel and inflammatory gut and colon disorders, and can be a useful treatment for duodenal and gastric ulcers. It acts by stimulating the flow of bile and soothing swellings.
- Has a wide number of topical uses in childbirth, including the healing of episiotomies. Relieves sore nipples in nursing mothers.
- Ideal for complaints such as candida, leukorrhea and trichomoniasis.
- A useful remedy for bruises.
- An excellent treatment for varicose veins and ulcers.
- A useful plant antibiotic.
How Marigold affects the body
Marigold can help many of the body’s systems, because it works to clear the toxins that are the cause of many conditions and diseases, and heals tissue.
Applied externally to the skin, Marigold is primarily a wound-healer. Its astringent action stops bleeding, and antimicrobial properties fight infection and promote healthy tissue growth. It is also anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling and irritation and soothing the area, and it stimulates a process called phagocytosis where immune cells 'eat' cell debris and bacteria.
Taken internally, it affects the body in a number of ways:
- Improves the circulation.
- Its oestrogenic effect balances the female reproductive system. For example, it may be used in cases of painful or scanty menstruation.
- It helps counteract bacterial, fungal and other inflammatory conditions of the digestive system, including peptic ulcers, gastritis and candida.
- Within the urinary system, Marigold has a safely diuretic and detoxifying action.
- Marigold is a potent purifier of the body and gives invaluable support to the lymphatic and immune systems.
- By colour, action and flavour, Marigold is a prime liver and gallbladder herb. It can help to treat a number of conditions and diseases arising in these organs and in other digestive organs, for example the stomach itself. It will clear, cool and detoxify the digestive system.
Like many medicinal herbs, Marigold has a broad range of effects. The general public knows Marigold mainly for its wound-healing properties, but herbalists use it in a much more wide-ranging manner. Marigold benefits most of the body's systems and has an important role to play in the treatment of a large number of conditions. This herb makes a very safe remedy and further investigation may reveal further ways for this wonderful healing flower to be utilised.
Marigold and AIDS
Laboratory experiments have shown that a solvent extract of Marigold flowers can inhibit the replication of human immunodeficiency virus type I (HIV-I). This positive outcome seems to be due to Calendula's effect upon a viral enzyme called RT (reverse transcriptase), which is the target of some existing HIV drug treatments, such as AZT. The results of these studies, which appeared in Biomed Pharmacother, suggest that Calendula officinalis may be of some therapeutic use in the treatment of AIDS and should be explored further.
Despite its long historical use, medical studies of Marigold's effectiveness have been extremely limited. Some scientific studies, however, have been carried out and a number of interesting new findings have emerged:
- One study in Eastern Europe suggests that in cases of duodenitis and duodenal ulcers, Calendula may alleviate pain.
- In another study, applying Marigold to surgical wounds stimulated the production of epithelial tissue (cells that cover the body and line hollow structures within it).
- In recent laboratory experiments, low concentrations of organic extract of Calendula protected approximately 90 per cent of cells from death attributable to HIV.
- Several scientific studies have supported the efficacy of Calendula in treating inflammatory disorders of the stomach and gut.
When to avoid Marigold
As with other medications, do not use Marigold in pregnancy without the advice of a qualified herbalist. This is of particular importance here because Marigold can stimulate uterine contractions.
Marigold may also increase pressure within the eye in people with glaucoma.
Possible side effects
There have been no reports of serious reactions to the use of Marigold in Western medical literature. However, from the Russian Federation there has been one report of anaphylactic shock in the case of someone gargling with Calendula.
There is always a very small risk of an allergic reaction when taking a herbal medication, but it rarely happens. It is much more likely to occur in people who have already shown an allergy to other herbs such as Chamomile, Feverfew or Dandelion pollen.
Topical reaction to Calendula is also rare and is usually limited to a dermatitis rash in the specific area that has been treated.
Energy and Emotion
Well known in Western herbal traditions, Marigold is also highly valued for its healing properties in ancient Indian and traditional Chinese medicine. It is used to treat a range of conditions, including hormonal imbalances, bleeding, bruises, fever and digestive problems.
According to traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) medicine, taste makes its own important contributions to the healing properties of a herb. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) considers Marigold to have a spicy but bitter taste, with the plant’s energy held to be ‘neutral’.
In TCM, many of the conditions that Marigold treats are similar to those in Western herbal medicine. In particular it is used for blood ‘stagnation’ in bruises, swellings and sprains and the herb is also believed to be a good remedy for conditions of the skin, heart, lungs and liver. It is often prescribed to help staunch chronic bleeding and for the regulation of the menstrual cycle, the reduction of cramps and to induce sweating to break a fever.
More on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
Traditional Chinese medicine evolved as a complete medical system over thousands of years, through practical method, observation, experience, and experiment. Coming from a civilization that perceives people as being either ‘in harmony’ or ‘out of harmony’ with themselves, traditional Chinese medicine sees illness or disease in terms of patterns of disharmony. Accordingly, what it tries to do is restore the correct balance in the body of the sick person.
Practitioners believe that diseases are caused by an imbalance in the five elements within a person: wood, fire, earth, metal and water, which have the associated climates wind, heat, dampness, dryness and cold. The illnesses are treated via meridians, the channels in the body through which energy is believed to flow.
In traditional Chinese medicine herbs used are classified in four different ways:
Organs and meridians affected by them
Energy and the mind
Marigold blooms for a long time – up to seven months in every year – and this cheering, bright orange flower is capable of lifting and renewing the spirits. Just as it helps to stimulate the growth of new, healthy tissue in the body, it can also help revive and renew the body’s energies, both physical and emotional. The bitter and neutral flowers of its petals will help to stimulate the mind and yet bring a sense of calm, a good combination of effects that will refresh the spirit and promote feelings of relaxation.
Flower remedies are a very subtle form of treatment. If you float fresh flower heads in a bowl of water placed in sunlight, the vibration of Marigold will be infused into the liquid, which captures the essential quality of the flower. Marigold flower essence is believed to improve receptivity and benefits people who lack warmth in their relationships with others.
To make a flower essence – standard quantity
- Approx. 350 ml (1½ cups) each of spring water and brandy and 3–4 Marigold flowers. Carefully select some Marigold flowers that are brightly coloured, healthy and strong, pick them in the early morning and use immediately.
- Choose a very quiet spot in bright sunshine indoors or, if the weather permits, a secluded area of the garden or a sunny patch of woodland.
- Submerge the Marigold flowers in a shallow glass bowl containing the spring water. Cover the bowl with freshly washed white cheesecloth.
- Leave the bowl in the sunshine for 3 hours, perhaps next to a window if you are indoors. Try to ensure that the flowers have at least 3 hours of continuous sun. If the flowers wilt sooner than this, remove them earlier.
- After 3 hours, use a twig to lift the flowers out of the bowl.
- Measure the amount of remaining liquid and add an equal amount of brandy. Pour the mixture into sterilised dark glass bottles and label carefully.
Adults: 4 drops under the tongue 4 times daily or every half an hour in times of crisis.
Children: Over 12 years, adult dose. 7–12 years, half adult dose. 1–7 years, quarter adult dose.
Plant spirit energies
Marigold’s plant spirit is not the same as its flower essence, which is mainly connected with its flowering aspect. Instead, the plant’s spirit represents the ‘whole’ of Marigold. It is connected with love, courage and an enduring, uplifting and cheerful presence, which are reflected in the plant’s easy procreative abilities and sunny colour and form. The spirit of Marigold is connected with healing and wholeness, regeneration and balance.
Growing, Harvesting and Processing
Marigolds should be in everyone’s herb garden. They are easy to grow, add a bright splash of colour and provide healing flowers all summer long. Many will come back year after year, reseeding of their own accord.
Marigold is one of the easiest herbs to cultivate in the garden. It may be grown from seed or seedlings in any good soil, though preferably in one that is moist and rich. Always try to grow your plants organically, without the use of pesticides or chemicals, because you will be using the flower heads in preparations such as infusions and tinctures that are to be taken internally.
The wonderful thing about Marigold is that it can produce a quick and bright display on a bare patch of soil, for very little financial outlay. It also self-seeds quickly once it is established.
Marigolds are excellent companion plants. Try growing them as a border to vegetable plots. Marigold's large root system helps to retain moisture and is particularly useful when planted together with tomatoes. The plants will deter aphids from infesting tomatoes and beans and discourage nematodes (slender, un-segmented worms) in the soil. The vegetables will also contrast well with Marigold’s yellow and gold flowers. Companion planting is an ancient form of gardening where the holistic well-being of the garden was taken into account using moon cycles as well as the chemistry of the plants.
Marigolds should be harvested between June and September. It is the flower heads that are used medicinally: gather them when the flowers are fully open.
The flowers can be harvested in the morning once the dew has evaporated, but before the sun’s warmth has started to draw out the oils and the flowers begin to wilt. The plants should be harvested in dry weather and care must be taken not to damage the petals when gathering them, because these are the primary medicinal part of the plant.
When Marigold is collected commercially, a special rake is used to harvest the flower heads without damaging them. The individual petals are then pulled off by hand.
Like other herbs, Marigolds need to be dried as fast as possible to preserve their properties. However, do not dry them in direct sunlight as this is damaging to them.
Pick the flower heads when they are fully open. Put them on trays or cake racks lined with clean paper towels and place somewhere warm, dry and dark – an airing cupboard would be an ideal place.
Alternatively, you can use the oven method. Preheat an oven to 250°C/480°F, then switch off the heat and place the trays or cake racks with the herbs inside the oven and leave the oven door open. Leave the Marigold flowers to dry in the oven for approximately 1 hour. Then either switch on the heat again as low as possible for a further 2 hours or finish the drying process in an airing cupboard.
When you feel that the flowers may be dry, check for moisture content by placing one or two flowers in a clean jam jar. Put on the lid and leave the jar in the sunshine or near another heat source. If water droplets appear on the surface of the glass, then there is still moisture content and therefore a risk of future spoilage. If this is the case, then continue to dry the herb by repeating the drying process you have chosen.
Once the Marigold petals are dry, carefully remove them from the central part of the flower and store them in a clean, dark glass screw-top jar. Jars containing dried herbs should be labelled carefully with the name of the herb and the date and then kept in a cool, dark place. The dried petals should last up to 12 months. Avoid storing in metal or plastic containers, which can contaminate the herb. Take care not to damage the petals.
Note: Microwaving is not a suitable method of drying Marigold petals.
Petals can be used to add flavour to salads.
Preparations for Internal Use
You can take Calendula internally in the form of a tincture, decoction, syrup or herbal tea (infusion). Making an infusion with the fresh herb is the easiest way to benefit from Calendula’s healing properties, but some people prefer tinctures, which can be more convenient to use. One of the most common reasons for taking Calendula internally is to relieve digestive inflammation and ulcers.
This herbal tincture is made by soaking Marigold petals in alcohol. This has the effect of killing germs such as bacteria as well as dissolving the herb’s active constituents into the alcohol. Tinctures are convenient to take and, if stored well, will last for up to two years. You can buy Marigold tincture, but making your own is very satisfying. When making a Marigold tincture, it is always best to buy or grow fresh, organic flower heads and use just the deep orange petals.
Marigold tincture may also be used externally. A few drops can be added to cooled, boiled water to clean a wound, for example. For minor cuts and scrapes 1 part tincture in 5 parts boiled and cooled water will clean the area.
Although Marigold has antiseptic properties, remember that for a more serious wound hospital treatment may be desired, including a tetanus vaccination. This is particularly important in the case of an animal bite or scratch. Wounds should be thoroughly cleaned.
Note: Always use utensils that have been cleaned in boiling water – and for good results add one or two drops of lavender, thyme, or tea tree essential oil to the water.
To make a tincture – standard quantity
- As an approximate guide, use 225 g (8 oz) dried petals or 310 g (11 oz) fresh petals, chopped into small pieces or bought shredded, with a total of 1 litre (4 cups) of vodka and water mixture. For the vodka, standard 45 per cent proof is effective, but 70–80 per cent proof is better.
- Place the flower petals in a dark glass jar or Mason jar and cover them with vodka (900 ml if using 70–80 per cent proof, 1 litre if using 45 per cent proof). It is not necessary to blend the ingredients in a food processor, because the petals are delicate enough to be mixed gently by hand. If you do need to put the mixture in a blender, two or three short bursts will be enough.
- Shake well. Label the jar carefully and store in a cool place out of direct sunlight.
- After 2 days, add the water. If you have used standard proof vodka, extra water will not be necessary, but if you have used 70–80 per cent proof vodka, add 100 ml water to the total quantity of the mixture, to make up 1 litre. If you used fresh herb, halve the amount of water.
- Leave the mixture for at least 2 weeks, but preferably up to 4 weeks. Shake the jar daily to aid the extraction process.
- At the end of the allotted time, strain the tincture through a jelly bag, preferably overnight, until you have the very last drop. For best results you can use a wine press.
- Pour the thick liquid into dark jars and label clearly. Store in a cool, dark place. For personal use, decant into a 50 ml (2 fl oz) tincture bottle.
Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) of tincture diluted in about 25 ml (5 tsp) of water 2–3 times a day.
Children: Over 12 years, adult dose. For use in children under 12, consult a qualified herbalist.
Marigold tincture syrup
Marigold tincture tastes slightly bitter, but most people find it quite pleasant. You can make it more palatable if necessary by adding cold-pressed honey (Manuka perhaps) to turn it into a syrup.
Like a tincture, the syrup should be taken diluted with 25 ml (5 tsp) water or fruit juice. It is also useful in gargles to help ease mouth and throat infections.
To make a tincture syrup – standard quantity
- Mix together 50–80 per cent tincture with 20–50 per cent cold-pressed, organic, runny honey in a glass jar.
- For a minty flavour, you can add one drop of Peppermint essential oil to each 950 ml (4 cups) of the tincture syrup.
- Label the jar clearly and keep it in a cool, dark place. Shake well before dispensing each dose.
The dosage stays very similar to that of the plain tincture; just add a few more drops proportional to each dosage to allow for the added honey.
Marigold cold-pressed oil
Not to be confused with essential oil, this is an ancient method of extracting Marigold’s vital plant chemistry by soaking the flowers over a period of time in olive oil. It can be used externally on wounds and cuts, internally for medicinal purposes, such as for stomach ulcers or indigestion and in salads, soups and rice, meat and fish dishes.
To make cold-pressed oil – standard quantity
- Use chopped fresh petals and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. A good standard would be to put enough chopped petals into a clean glass jar so that it is three-quarters full, and then top up with olive oil.
- Place the petals in a preserving jar. Pack them in as tightly as you can, because the will make a stronger, more concentrated oil.
- Add sufficient olive oil to cover the petals, then put on the lid and shake well. Eventually the petals will subside well below the surface of the oil. Shaking as often as possible will help this process.
- Place the jar in a warm, sunny position such as on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. Leave for a minimum of 2 weeks, although you can leave the mixture for up to 4 weeks. It is important to shake the jar daily, especially at the beginning.
- Strain the mixture through a jelly bag or a wine press. If using a jelly bag, leave it overnight, and then thoroughly squeeze any remaining oil from the bag.
- Store in a dark glass jar and label clearly.
External use: Apply liberally and as often as you can until the symptoms ease.
Internal use: Adults: 10 ml (2 tsp) 3 times a day. Children: Over 12 years, adult dose. For use in children under 12, consult a qualified herbalist.
Marigold herbal tea (infusion)
With such a pleasing colour as well as healing properties, it is not difficult to see why Calendula is included in a number of commercial tea blends. Making an infusion is a simple way of extracting its qualities. The infusion can be used for a number of reasons, not just drunk as a tea – for instance, it can be used as a douche or skin wash. Internally, it is good for digestive complaints such as indigestion and some people find that it is beneficial in the treatment of a range of other complaints. For example, it will promote the production of bile, kill over-virulent microbes, help relax and soothe the organs of the genito-urinary system and assist blood circulation, as well as balancing female hormones, easing menstrual cramps and normalising the menstrual cycle.
To make an infusion – standard quantity
- Use 2–3 g (1 tsp) dried petals or 4–6 g (2 tsp) fresh petals to 250 ml (1 cup) water.
- Put the Marigold petals in a tea sock and place in a cup or teapot. Pour on the boiling water and let the tea infuse for 7–10 minutes.
- Remove the tea sock. If desired, add 2.5 ml (½ tsp) of organic, cold-pressed honey to sweeten. However, it is worth noting that teas are usually best drunk without added sweetness and that Marigold has a distinctive flavour of its own.
- Alternatively, the infusion can be allowed to cool, kept in a covered container in the refrigerator, and drunk within 24 hours. If taken cold, a slice of lemon or lime makes a tangy, colourful addition.
If you do not have a tea sock, you can make an infusion of Marigold petals in a special tea pot infuser, or alternatively you can use a coffee pot with a plunger.
Adults: 500 ml (2 cups) per day.
Children: Over 12 years, adult dose. 5–12 years, 125 ml (½ cup) per day.
Case study – stress
Peter, and overworked businessman, had been troubled with vague intestinal pains over many months. He tried to suppress the symptoms with medication from the local pharmacy, but soon began to worry about the possibility of having cancer. Because he was unwilling to go to his doctor, his partner suggested that he try using Calendula. He started drinking a cup of Calendula tea 3 times a day. After a few weeks, Peter had almost forgotten that he had been ill. He had already come to the conclusion that a change of lifestyle might help, so a new diet regime followed and he began a gentle exercise programme. Peter was beginning to find a balance between the demands of work and the needs of this body.
Preparations for External Use
Marigold ointment and lotion are so versatile that they should be in everyone’s herbal first aid kit. They soothe eczema, heal cuts, relieve bruising, and much more.
Marigold is famous for its topical use, especially for soothing skin complaints. Taking Marigold orally at the same time as an infusion reinforces the action of the herb.
An ointment of Marigold is ideal for conditions such as small wounds, cuts, insect bites, rough skin, acne, shingles, and chickenpox. If the skin is hot or oozing, use an infusion instead of ointment, or dust on Marigold powder.
To make a standard ointment
- Use 425 ml (1¾ cups) cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, 350 g (6 cups) dried, powdered petals, and 50 g (2 oz) beeswax.
- Pour olive oil onto the powdered Marigold in a glass bowl and mix together well.
- Place in a closed container (ovenproof if you are using the oven method) – choose stainless steel, earthenware, un-chipped enamel, or ovenproof glass.
- Either place the dish in an oven pre-heated to 38°C (100°F) for two hours, or stand it in the sun or some other warm spot for a week. During the allotted time, occasionally stir the mixture with a sterilised fork.
- If using the oven method, the mixture can be strained directly after the 2 hours if you need the ointment quickly, or you can also leave it to stand for a week to encourage a greater extraction of the active components.
- On completion of slow cooking or soaking, strain the mixture by passing it through a large colander lined with a piece of cheesecloth, or through a jelly bag overnight.
- Melt the beeswax in a double boiler, or saucepan with a thick base, at a very low heat. Then add the herbal olive oil mixture. Have clean, dark glass jars ready. Put a little of the liquid into a jar to check that it is the correct consistency for use, before filling the jars.
- Label the jars of ointment clearly. Apply freely when required.
To make a lotion – standard quantity
- Use 100 g (2 cups) dried Marigold petals, 300 ml (1⅓ cups) distilled water and the thinly peeled rind of half an organic orange.
- Place the Marigold petals in a small enamel or stainless steel pan. Add the distilled water and mix together with the orange rind. Cover, and bring to a boil.
- Gently simmer on very low heat for 10 minutes and then put to one side to macerate for about 1½ hours.
- Strain off the petals and rind, first making sure that as much fragrant oil as possible is extracted by pressing the mixture through a sieve. Bottle and carefully label the lotion. Apply freely. This lotion will keep for 3 days if it is stored in the refrigerator.
Added to a bath, a Marigold infusion will help to draw body tissues together, toning greasy skin and healing cuts, grazes or sores. Add 1 litre (4 cups) of Marigold infusion to bathwater.
Powdered Marigold petals are useful for treating many skin complaints, especially if they are hot or wet, for instance shingles and chickenpox. The powder disinfects the area and allows quick cell tissue regeneration by drying out overly wet tissue. Either use powdered, dried Marigold petals on their own or mix with a little arrowroot powder to help the powder adhere to the skin. If using arrowroot, use 3 parts Marigold powder to 1 part arrowroot powder.
This preparation is used externally to treat candida, a fungal infection caused by a form of yeast. The main symptom is extreme irritation in the vagina in the form of sore white patches of skin and excessive discharge.
To make the douche, make a Marigold infusion and add 10 ml (2 tsp) of lemon juice to 500 ml (2 cups) of the infusion. Also, try adding other antifungal herb infusions such as anti-inflammatory Chamomile flowers, or astringent Walnut hulls, or Thyme leaves. In each case the quantity should be 50 ml (2 fl oz) of tincture per 500 ml of douche liquid.
Marigold is considered to be one of the premier herbal treatments of burns and scalds. If you are burned or scalded, immediately cool the area by applying cold running water for at least 10 minutes. Then add 10–15 ml (2–3 tsp) of Marigold tincture to a bowl of cold water and immerse the affected area in it. After that, cold compresses can be applied to the burned area. These should be soaked in ice cold water to which 10–15ml (2–3 tsp) of Marigold tincture has been added. About a day after the injury, the blisters that form can be cleaned with an infusion of Marigold and then treated with Marigold ointment.
At the other end of the temperature scale, Marigold also has a role to play in the treatment of frostbite. Bathing painful chilblains in a warm infusion or applying a medium-hot poultice (maximum 37°C / 98°F) of dried petals can bring relief.
To make a compress – standard quantity
- Use 25 ml (5 tsp) tincture in 500 ml (2 cups) hand-hot water (or cold for burns/scalds).
- Soak a soft, clean cloth (cheesecloth is ideal) in the mixture and then wring out the excess liquid.
- Place the compress on the affected area and secure it firmly in place with a bandage and safety pins or clips. Alternatively, simply put plastic wrap around the compress to keep it in place. Leave for 10–20 minutes and then repeat. The compress may be reapplied 2 or 3 times, with the last one left in position for 1–2 hours.
A powerful mouthwash can be made by diluting 5 drops of Marigold tincture in half a glass (125 ml) of warm water with an optional quarter teaspoonful of salt. This solution will help to stop infections of the gums, mucous membranes, and throat. Regular treatment with herbs and thorough brushing and cleaning techniques will help to cut down on dental procedures and bills.
A Marigold mouthwash is also effective in the treatment of the ulcers on the inner surface of the cheeks. For a stronger version, use half Marigold tincture and half warm water.
Cooled Marigold infusion may be applied as an eyewash. It is also used as a soothing cold compress on the outside of the eyes and is useful when they are sore. For inflamed eyelids or conjunctivitis, bath the eyes three times daily with an infusion of Marigold. Wash the eyebath after every use.
Petals and juice
Juice expressed from Marigold petals, using a juicer, can help cure corns and calluses. However, a large quantity of petals is needed, so it is more practical to rub the petals directly onto the affected area. Apply morning and evening until the problem is resolved.
Case study – digestive relief
Richard was in his early 40s and worked in the armed forces. He had recently been suffering from an irritable bowel and bouts of gastritis. After trying conventional drugs, he visited a herbalist who prescribed 40 drops (5 ml) of Marigold tincture, taken with water, 3 times a day. After 3 weeks he felt calmer and virtually symptom-free. His doctor was impressed.
Case study – varicose veins
Daisy was a pensioner who had suffered from varicose veins and ulcers for longer than she could remember. The problem was made worse because Daisy thought that she had tried every remedy possible. Eventually she acquiesced to her nurse's suggestion to try Calendula. Ointment was applied to her varicose veins twice a day for about 3 weeks.
Although her condition did not clear entirely, the improvement was marked and she felt much happier in herself.
Case study – childbirth
Sue was very eager to have her first baby using natural childbirth methods. Although her obstetrician raised the possibility of an episiotomy, she opted to avoid medical intervention, if at all possible. When her baby was born, Sue suffered an irregular perineal tear. After suturing, the wound was slow to heal and was causing considerable pain and discomfort. The local midwife suggested Calendula ointment to assist with the healing process and Sue was delighted with the results. Once she discovered that the herb was useful in other circumstances, from soothing sore or cracked nipples to easing nappy rash, Sue was never without a tube of Calendula in her first aid kit.
Natural Medicine for Everyone
In general, Marigold is one of the safest herbs to use. Care has to be taken with women who are pregnant, however, because it is believed to stimulate labour.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
During pregnancy, do not take the herb internally unless under the guidance of a qualified herbalist, because it may stimulate the uterine muscles and bring on labour. It is safe, however, to use Marigold externally in pregnancy. The herb comes into its own after childbirth. It is a well-known treatment for promoting the healing of episiotomy wounds and tears in the perineum, either on its own or with other recognised herbal topical treatments. For example, Arnica gel or ointment can be used to help treat bruising and may be alternated with Marigold. Use Marigold ointment on any birthing scars, including a Caesarean section scar.
If nipples are sore or cracked, Marigold ointment offers safe relief. It can also be used as a preventative; try gently rubbing ointment into the nipple to ward off soreness. It can also be used for mastitis in the same way, to reduce local inflammation. If using the ointment on the nipples, however, it is important to wash or gently wipe the nipples before breastfeeding. You should also consult a doctor if you have mastitis.
Marigold can be safely used as an infusion (tea) while breastfeeding.
Babies and children
Among the vast array of herbs available, Marigold stands out as one that is mild and safe to use topically for babies and children.
Marigold ointment is one of the best treatments for nappy rash. Marigold powder is a valuable replacement for conventional baby talc. However, the skin of a baby also needs fresh air, so a little time without a nappy, perhaps lying on a cotton towel with a rubber sheet beneath, is of great benefit. The powder can also be used topically on chickenpox rash – it helps to dry up the spots and reduces itching.
Regarding internal use for children, follow the guidelines given on the 'Preparations for Internal Use' and 'Herbal Combinations' pages regarding suitability of the different Siberian Ginseng preparations. For children of ages below those given, consult a qualified herbalist prior to use.
Consult a doctor for any persistent condition in a child under 12 years.
Pressure sores or bed sores (decubitus ulcers) often afflict the elderly, or those confined to bed. Applying Marigold ointment and/or powder regularly to the area will help treat or prevent them.
It is normally safe to take Calendula internally at the same time as other prescription medicines, but you should always check with a qualified herbalist first. Also consult a herbalist if you suffer from any herb allergies.
Herbal combinations are used where the effect of a single herb needs to be complemented in some way. However, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a serious medical condition or are taking prescribed medication, you should consult your doctor or qualified herbalist first.
It is not unusual for herbal remedies to consist of one main ingredient, with others added to support the principal action. The herbs will work in harmony to produce a healing ‘rainbow effect’. For example, a remedy for external use may contain Marigold to soothe and heal damaged wound tissue, Arnica to promote increased circulation to the area, and Comfrey to encourage the growth of new cells.
Taken as a warm tea, this formula will help to ease cramping pains and other menstrual and premenstrual symptoms, and assist in regulating the entire menstrual cycle.
Formula: 2 parts Marigold flowers, 2 parts Chamomile flowers, 1 part Yarrow flowers and leaves.
Adults: 250 ml (1 cup) 3 times every day.
Marigold helps to reduce uterine congestion and muscle tension, and helps to regulate menstrual flow. Chamomile is noted for its calming effects on the nervous system, but also has a strong antispasmodic effect. Yarrow, which should be avoided in pregnancy, relieves menstrual cramping and reduces heavy bleeding.
The glandular tissue known as the tonsils is a major part of the immune system of the whole body. When the tonsils become inflamed, it shows that they have been doing their work properly in defending against infection. The following decoction helps them in their fight against microorganisms.
Formula: 1 part Marigold flowers, 2 parts shredded Echinacea root, 1 part Cleavers leaf and stem.
To make a decoction, use 20 g (¾ oz) dried herbs or 40 g (1½ oz) of fresh herbs to 750 ml (3 cups) of cold water. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan (a double boiler is ideal). Bring to a boil then simmer on a very low heat for 20–30 minutes. The liquid should reduce by about one third. Remove the pan from the heat. Let the liquid cool then strain through a sieve. Keep in the refrigerator if storing for more than one day.
Adults: 250 ml (1 cup) every 2 hours until acute symptoms subside.
Children: Over 12 years, adult dose. For use in children under 12, consult a qualified herbalist.
Marigold tones the lymphatic system and helps to remove waste products. Echinacea boosts the immune system and acts against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. It is an effective antibiotic and lymph cleanser. Cleavers gently and effectively cleanses the lymphatic system.
American Cranesbill and Marigold can help to reduce the bleeding of duodenal or gastric ulcers. This tincture formula is soothing and healing.
Formula: Equal parts Marigold flowers, Marshmallow root, American Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum) flowers and leaves, Meadowsweet flowers.
Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) 3 times a day.
Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. For use in children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist.
Ulcers are caused when the body is unable to heal damaged tissue. The surface of the delicate stomach lining wears away, resulting in a open sore. Marigold, Marshmallow, American Cranesbill and Meadowsweet all have properties that promote healing within the digestive tract. Marigold is well known as a treatment for gastritis and inflammation and ulceration of the digestive tract. Marshmallow root is an important remedy for both gastric and duodenal ulcers: it is mucilaginous and protects the mucous membranes of the digestive system so that healing can take place. It also provides pain relief. American Cranesbill is known as an effective astringent. It will effectively tighten and heal raw tissue, and arrest any bleeding. Meadowsweet helps to neutralise stomach acid. It also heals and protects, and its aspirin-like constituents, salicylates, bring relief from pain. It will also ease nausea or heartburn connected with other digestive problems.
Liver and gallbladder problems
As a cholagogue, Marigold stimulates the flow of bile. It is therefore helpful not only in relieving general indigestion, but also in toning the liver and gallbladder. This tincture formula combines herbs that can assist in relieving inflammation as well as treating liver and gallbladder diseases and imbalances.
Formula: Equal parts Marigold flowers, Dandelion root, Blessed Thistle flowers and leaves, Bupleurum root, Barberry bark, Milk Thistle seeds.
Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) 3–4 times daily.
Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. For use in children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist.
People have testified to the usefulness of Marigold in dealing with liver problems for many years, and herbalists have long regarded it as invaluable for liver and gallbladder conditions.
Dandelion helps to relieve congestion and inflammation in the liver and gallbladder, and is also helpful for gallstones. Blessed Thistle is very effective for general digestive problems, including inflammation of the digestive tract. It is also helpful for gentle liver and blood detoxification. Bupleurum root helps to release bile and is especially useful when the liver and gallbladder need protection and support. Barberry bark will assist with bile release, while Milk Thistle seeds will help to protect and regenerate the liver.
Varicose veins and haemorrhoids
This topical lotion helps to reduce inflammation of the distended blood vessels in varicose veins and haemorrhoids.
Formula: Equal parts Marigold tincture, distilled Witch Hazel essential oil or gel, Pilewort tincture, Horse Chestnut tincture.
Mix the tinctures and Witch Hazel together to form a lotion. Using absorbent cotton, apply liberally to the affected area twice daily.
Witch Hazel is astringent and reduces bleeding. It is often used for treating inflamed swellings and bruises. It is considered to be particularly effective, however, in easing haemorrhoids and also enjoys an excellent reputation for the treatment of varicose veins. Pilewort is a particularly effective astringent in the treatment of haemorrhoids. It can relieve the uncomfortable prickly and itchy symptoms quite quickly. In combination with the soothing and healing power of Marigold, therefore, the herbs in this formula will provide a potent treatment for these debilitating conditions.
Caution: Do not use this lotion on broken skin. Do not use Pilewort (Lesser Celandine) internally, because it is toxic if taken this way.
Although Marigold is itself effective against infection, and is one of the best would-healing agents, its combination with other herbs in a tincture form makes it even more effective.
Formula: 1 part Marigold tincture, ½ part Golden Seal root tincture, ½ Myrrh gum resin tincture.
Adults: 5 ml (1 tsp) 3–4 times daily until the would heals.
Children: Over 16 years, adult dose. For use in children under 16, consult a qualified herbalist.
Marigold’s antiseptic action is extremely powerful. Both Marigold and Golden Seal are astringent and wound-healing herbs. Myrrh is known as a very useful antimicrobial agent, with a two-part action: it has a direct action against microorganisms, and it stimulates the production of white blood cells, which identify and destroy invading bacteria.
An ointment made from powdered Marigold petals, Golden Seal root, and Myrrh gum resin may also be applied to the affected area three times daily.
Caution: Do not take Marigold, Myrrh or Golden Seal internally during pregnancy. Do not take Golden Seal for longer than two months at a time, or if you are breastfeeding or have high blood pressure. Make sure the Golden Seal comes from organic commercially harvested sources or from C.I.T.E.S. certified wild collected stock. It is a protected herb in the wild.
How Marigold Works
Marigold is composed of a host of beneficial substances that act upon the body’s systems in a wide-ranging manner. The experience of centuries and more recent scientific research give us some fascinating information.
Studies conducted mainly in Eastern Europe have analysed the chemical composition of Marigold. Constituents include acids, mucilage, carotenes, carotenoid pigments, flavonoids, glycosides, gum, lactones, resins, saponins, sesquiterpenes, tocopherols, and volatile oil.
In addition, fatty acids, protein and sterols are found in Marigold seed and salicylic acid in the fresh plant.
Some of the effects of these ingredients are well known:
Flavonoids work as antioxidants, neutralising harmful substances in the body. They have an antibacterial action by improving the efficiency of macrophages, scavenger cells that remove bacteria from the blood.
The resins are antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral.
Its volatile oil is known to stimulate circulation of the blood and cause sweating.
The triterpene glycosides, terpene derivatives and polysaccharides are believed to give Marigold its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Marigold's astringent action is reportedly due to its high resin component, and possibly to other water-soluble constituents. Marigold is known to reduce blood seeping from capillaries and, in particular, one of its chemicals has been found to promote the clotting of blood. Its added ability to help wounds to heal makes Marigold a premier choice for cuts and grazes.
The principal actions of Marigold can be traced to the qualities of its individual chemical components.
In summary, the main effects of Marigold are:
- Skin remedy
Despite its long tradition of wound healing, however, the precise nature of how Marigold heals has yet to be scientifically demonstrated.
Although some work has been conducted into the therapeutic effects of Marigold, principally in Europe, it is clear that much further investigation needs to take place. There has been some interesting research that shows promise in anti-HIV therapy and this may stimulate further study into Calendula.
Considering the centuries of beneficial results from using this plant, however, there has been surprisingly little scientific enquiry into Marigold and, indeed, many other healing plants. There will be great opportunities in the future to discover more, if science is prepared to embrace the healing potential demonstrated by a wide range of healing herbs over countless years.
Assists the elimination of metabolic wastes in the body.
An abnormal and extreme allergic reaction to a particular substance.
Acting against parasitic worms.
Active against bacteria.
Relieves muscle spasms.
A mild laxative.
Causes cells to shrink, helping to reduce bleeding, and to tighten and protect the skin.
Ancient Indian healing system based on dividing people into groups by constitution. There are three basic dispositions, or doshas: vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (water).
Able to destroy bacteria.
Stimulates the follow of bile.
Cloth soaked in cold or hot herbal decoction or infusion and then applied to the skin.
Water-based preparation involving simmering flowers and leaves to extract active ingredients.
Promotes the elimination of toxins and impurities; has a purifying effect.
Stimulates the sweating process and thereby helps to break a fever.
Stimulates menstrual flow.
A surgical incision between the vagina and anus to aid childbirth.
Reduces or prevents fever.
Compounds that reduce inflammation and combat bacteria.
Swollen veins in the lining of the anus.
The body’s defences against infection and disease.
A herbal tea.
Inflammation of the breast; common during breastfeeding.
The destruction of bacteria or other foreign particles by specialised immune cells.
Moist, warm or hot herb applied to reduce swelling and increase local circulation.
A substance that promotes increased activity in a function or system of the body.
Assists the function of the stomach.
Stops or prevents bleeding.
Plant medicine prepared by soaking herbs in alcohol and water.
A herbal infusion or tea.
A health-promoting substance inducing feelings of vigour.
Single-celled parasite that can infect the vagina.
Applied to the surface of the body (rather than taken internally).
Swollen, enlarged veins in the legs.