You’ve likely seen brightly orange-colored marigolds in flower or vegetable gardens many times before, but did you know that certain species of marigold flowers actually have many impressive health benefits as well?
A particular species of marigold flower, Calendula officinalis (commonly just called calendula or “pot marigold”), is used to make healing herbal ointments, teas, tinctures and topical treatments that have been in existence for almost 1,000 years.
While marigolds of the tagets genus are usually planted in gardens to repel bugs, add color and give off a pleasant smell, marigolds of the Calendula genus are utilized for their many anti-inflammtory, antispasmodic and antifungal compounds. In fact, according to a report published in Pharmacognosy Review, more than 200 different commercial and medical formulations now contain concentrated calendula marigold extract.
Benefits and uses for Calendula officinalis marigolds include treating conditions, such as rashes, allergies, eczemaand dermatitis; pain, swelling and redness caused from muscle cramps, muscular injuries or sprains; eye inflammation and itchiness caused by conjunctivitis; and fungal infections, including athlete’s foot, candida, ear infections and ringworm.
Calendula officinalis is in the plant family known as Asteraceae or Compositae. Calendula marigolds are yellow-orange in color and form small florets of petals that are harvested and dried for their numerous medicinal properties. While there are various species of marigold flowers grown around the world, calendula is considered to be the most medicinal. It’s native to Egypt and parts of the Mediterranean but is now grown in every continent, usually blooming during the warmer months of the year (from about May through October in the Northern Hemisphere).
Botanical research shows that calendula marigolds contain many active constituents, including various antioxidants and volatile oils. These are responsible for the flowers’ bright color and strong smell; ability to repel certain fungi, pests and insects; and also its capability of improving blood flow and controlling inflammation.
It is thought that marigold originated in Egypt and was first introduced to Britain and other countries by the Romans. It was one of the earliest cultivated flowers. The ancient Greeks, who used the petals for decoration, also knew of marigold’s other uses, such as coloring for food, make-up, dying fabrics, and medicinal uses. Marigolds have been grown in the gardens of Europe since the 12th century. By the 14th century, many had learned of its many and varied “magical powers.” One medieval author named Macer described marigold in his volume on herbs and thought that merely to look upon the blooms would improve eyesight and draw evil “humors” from the head. They are often called “pot marigolds”due to their use in cooking.
During the American Civil War and World War I, marigolds were used to prevent wounds from getting infected. The blooms were made into either a poultice or infused into oils for application to the wounds. In eastern countries garlands of the brightly colored flowers were, and still are, frequently used in festivals.