Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
A video outlining the main points covered in this post is available on YouTube here.
The English marigold or calendula, called pot marigold or just marigold in the UK, Calendula officinalis, is a common sight in English gardens. It’s a hardy annual, but it produces so many seeds, it’s unlikely you’ll need to sow it two years in a row. It’s only distantly related to the French marigold and the African (American) marigold.
It’s also useful as a companion plant in the vegetable garden where it attracts bees, lacewings, hoverflies and ladybirds, deters whitefly on tomatoes and will lure aphids away from your beans if planted nearby.
This flower is so well known that it seems unnecessary to describe it. The bright orange flowers can be seen in gardens all over the UK every year right through from June to November. I say orange, but there are marigolds in almost all colours at the red end of the spectrum, from white to palest pink, yellow, orange in many shades through to red. There are also both single and double forms, but it’s better to stick to the single ones, as these are much more ecologically friendly. It reaches a height of around 2 feet (60cm) and has slightly downy spoon-shaped leaves.
Cultivation and harvest
Marigolds are so easy to grow: you just sprinkle the seeds on the ground in Spring or early Summer, mix them into the top layer, and they will come up within a few days or a couple of weeks. Once they start flowering, you can pick them as you need them. You can use the whole fresh plant for remedies, or just collect petals and dry them for use later in the year.
The reason it got its common name of pot marigold was because it was one of the herbs often added to the pot when cooking. Nowadays culinary uses are pretty much restricted to the petals, which can be added to salads or dried and used for coloring rice and flavoring other foods. The leaves are also edible (but not very nice).
Contra-indications and warnings
Unfortunately, marigold is not suitable for internal use by anyone expecting a surgery in the next few weeks, and for a few weeks after surgery. It’s also not suitable for pregnant women except during labour. You should be fine using it externally, though.
Marigold is a powerful anti-inflammatory, used to treat stomach and duodenal ulcers, colitis and diverticulitis, swollen glands and painful periods. For these purposes, make a standard infusion from all parts of the plant above ground, chopped finely. Use 3-4 teaspoonfuls of fresh or 1-2 teaspoonfuls of dried to 1 cup of boiling water and allow to steep for about 10 minutes before straining. This can be sweetened with honey if preferred, and sipped slowly over the course of an hour or more.
Although there isn’t a marigold essential oil, there is a marigold-infused oil, which can be used for massage and skin problems on its own or with the addition of a maximum of 2 essential oils at the usual recommended dilution levels.
Where to get it
Like all herbs used for medicinal purposes, if you grow them yourself it’s important that marigolds are grown organically so as to avoid consuming high concentrations of chemicals along with your remedy. For more information about growing organic marigolds, visit the Gardenzone.