In the sixteenth century marigold was a common garden plant valued by herbalists for comforting the heart and soothing the spirit. The dried flowers went into the making of broths and teas, and were used to add colour to cheese.
Marigold, calendula officinalis, with its brilliant orange daisy-like flowers, makes a vivid splash of colour in the flower garden. The light green lance-shaped leaves are soft and velvety. The flowers will bloom throughout the summer months and often until the first frosts of autumn if the dead heads are immediately cut off. Neither flowers nor leaves have any marked scent.
In the kitchen young leaves and petals, with their slightly sharp taste, add a tang to salads. The fresh petals can be added to cheese and egg dishes and to rice in place of saffron.
Marigold is a hardy annual and very easy to grow but there are many varieties and it is important to purchase calendula ofuicinalis, the flowers of which have so many uses in the home. Marigolds grow in any type of soil in a sunny place. In March or April sow the seeds directly into their flowering position: they germinate quickly. When the seedlings are large enough, thin the plants to a hand’s width apart. Marigold readily self-sows all over the garden and the small seedlings which come up in the spring can be transplanted to their flowering position.
Marigold leaves and flower petals are the parts of the herb used in the home. Young leaves can be picked for drying before the flowers open and the petals gathered when the flowers are fully open. Leaves and petals are dried and stored separately.
Marigold is a gentle remedy when taken internally for mild digestive ailments. The tea will help to increase perspiration and so reduce a fever and is said to be good for bringing out the spots in cases of measles.
* To make marigold tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 4 teaspoons of fresh petals or 2 of dried and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Strain and add honey to sweeten it. Take a small glassful as required. The tea is also helpful to those suffering from bad circulation and varicose veins.
Marigold is best known for its healing properties of all kinds of skin complaints. In the form of an ointment marigold is a remedy for eczema, acne, pimples and spots. It can be used in the treatment of boils to prevent the formation of scar tissue, and also helps to heal minor cuts and abrasions.
* To make marigold ointment: Use equal quantities of crushed dried petals and white petroleum jelly. Melt the jelly in an enamel pan and add the marigold petals, pressing them well down. Bring the jelly to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the marigold petals are crisp. Strain immediately into small pots and cover when cold.
Marigold lotion used in the form of a compress will help to soothe painful burns, sprains, bruises and strained muscles.
* To make the lotion: Pour I cup of boiling water on to a good handful of petals. Leave until cold then strain into screwtop bottles. Soak pieces of lint in the lotion and place on the affected part, renewing the compress as necessary until relief is obtained.
* The freshly expressed juice of the plant is said to be a remedy for warts, corns and calluses and should be dabbed on the affected area morning and evening until the problem is cured.
A decoction of marigold petals can be used to bathe scratches, cuts and grazes and will also help to relieve painful chilblains.
* To make a decoction: Soak a handful of petals in a cupful of cold water in an enamel pan. Bring the water slowly to the boil and simmer for 3—4 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to in fuse for a further 3 minutes; strain and leave to cool. To prevent chilblains forming bathe the hands or feet in the decoction to which a small handful of sea salt has been added. The treatment should be carried out both morning and evening to be really effective.
For painful chilblains a poultice made from dried petals is also said to bring relief.
* To make a poultice: Crush the petals into a pulp with a little milk or water. Spread the pulp on to a piece of cloth and heat the poultice between 2 plates over a pan of boiling water. Using the poultice as hot as possible, place it directly on the chilblains.
Marigold petal lotion is slightly astringent and is good for oily skins.
* To make a lotion: Pour I cup of boiling distilled water on to a handful of dried petals. Leave until cold, then pour the lotion into screwtop bottles. Store in a cool place and use within a few days.
The lotion can be used as a compress for reducing large pores. Dip pieces of lint in the lotion and gently press on to the face avoiding the eyes and mouth. Lie down and relax for 15 minutes.
Use marigold ointment (see Medicinal Use) to soothe and soften chapped hands and rough skin. Marigold oil is also effective for this and can be used for sunburn and in the treatment of acne.
* To make marigold oil: Fill a small glass jar with a large handful of fresh crushed marigold petals and add a cup of almond oil. Cover the jar with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth and leave on a sunny windowsill or in the greenhouse for 3—4 weeks. As the petals sink to the bottom of the jar add more freshly picked ones. When the oil is sufficiently strong strain through fine muslin or cheesecloth, pressing all the oil out of the petals. Smooth the oil over the affected part.
* Adding a decoction of marigold petals to the bath water is soothing for tired and aching limbs. Equally effective is to fill a muslin or cheesecloth bag full of petals and hang it beneath the hot water tap (faucet).
For tired, aching and swollen feet a footbath can be very comforting and beneficial.
* To make a marigold footbath: [“lake an infusion by pouring 4 cups of boiling water on to 2 large handfuls of fresh chopped or dried young marigold leaves. Cover and leave to infuse for 10 minutes, and then strain into a bowl. Plunge the feet into the bowl for 10 minutes or until relief is felt.