As legend goes, leprechauns delighted in accumulating wealth. They placed it in vessels and jealously guarded it. Nature, instead, has directed the end of her rainbow to her own pots of gold-shimmering fields of marigolds.
Ablaze in yellow and orange abundance, marigolds offer more than just a sweet scent and pleasure to the eye. The Calendula officinalis, one of several species of the family of marigolds, packs a powerful natural chemical factory inside, producing significant medicinal solutions for various ailments.
Its name derives from the Latin calendae, “the first day of the month,” because the Calendula or Pot Marigolds bloom nearly year round. Furthermore, Calendula adapt to most types of soil and heartily defy the cold and frost they may fell most other flowers and plants come Fall. Pot Marigolds cultivated today for medicinal purposes largely come from their native Mediterranean area.
Since the Middle Ages, marigolds have been a staple of the healer’s cache of medications, used primarily for blemishes and wound healing. Imparting a slightly bitter taste, marigold also found its way into cooking pots, sometimes substituting for the more expensive saffron, which it resembles in flavor and coloring. In modern times, marigolds remain a major medicinal herb in Europe, but find less acceptance beyond the garden in the United States. Continuing research may help change that as diseases such as cancer and AIDS cause scientists to search traditional sources to locate cures.
Past investigations have already discovered more than 30 chemical compounds in the flowering plant, including the antirheumatic salicylic acid. Its orange and yellow colors derive from flavonoids and carotenoids, essential for maintaining good eyesight and for skin regeneration. Beta carotene, vitamin A’s precursor, is itself under the substantial study for cancer prevention. Although healers in centuries past may not have known technically why marigolds wove their medical magic so well, they knew it worked by its species designation officinalis. This identified it as the “official” apothecary shop marigold. Today, preparations of marigolds are available in natural food stores in different forms, the most common being ointment or cream.