The Romans discovered that the marigold bloomed on the first day of each month, and named it for the calendar. Thus, the Latin term Calendula oficinalis. Oficinalis is the word to indicate “official medical abilities” as accepted in a pharmacopoeia. Calendula can bloom in Fall, Winter and Spring here, but usually gives up in the Summer. Note: no part of this article is related to the hybrid marigold. The word marigold is used interchangeably with calendula.
There are numerous pages written on the medicinal qualities of the calendula, including remedies for various conditions of the skin, Exzema, Inflammation, Bodily Discharges, Sprains, Bleeding, and Mood Elevation. Culpeper and other seventeenth-century harbalists felt that the use of calendula could comfort the spirit. He suggested a chest plaster of marigold steeped in lard, turpentine and rosin to ease the heart during intense fevers. When I was growing up we always had calendula in the medicine cabinet in one form or another, and it was always growing in the kitchen garden. Henry VIII used marigolds in his personal recipe “Medycyne for the Pestilence.” In this he used a handful of marigold, sorrel, burnet, feverfew, and a half-handful of that old epidemic standy rue, as well as a few dragons (snapdragons, that is!). He wrote “This tea, if it is taken before the pimples do apere, then yt will hele the syke person with God’s Grace.”
Marigold flowers were once used to produce perspiration when on the verge of a dangerous illness, particularly during epidemics of measles and smallpox. Marigold was often used by English country people either in tea form, or as a posset (a drink made with hot milk, and curdled with either ale or wine, sometimes sweetened or spiced.) The Garden’s Labyrinthe (1577) also describes marigold as a toothache aid – “The juice of the marigold petals mixed with vinegar to be rubbed on gums and teeth becomes a soveraigne remedy for the assuaging of the previous pain of the teeth.” It was also once considered an excellent remedy for red eyes, and, like the regular marigold, it has been planted in the vegetable garden as an insect repellent for hundreds of years.
Calendula petals are available in dried form, as a tincture, pressed juice, ointment, or lotion. Use them for a dash of color in green salads, potato or pasta salads and soups. Or, sprinkle the petals on cake icing for a delightful springtime dessert. Young leaves are tender and edible, the mature leaves bitter; a few petals in rice color it like saffron, and it can also be used to dye cloth. According to some sources, Calendula originated in Egypt, where it’s flowers served as the original dye in cheeses.
Easy to grow from seed, this plant also readily self-sows. A little seed goes a long way – the average number of seeds per lb is 72,554!
(This article is re-posted from an article I wrote in March 2008! but as I just planted some today I thought I’d post again!!!)