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.
Getting Down to Basics
A current controversy concerning marigold ointment swirls over its mixture of ingredients. In the European tradition, in which medicinal preparations have undergone years of experimentation to arrive at precise formulations, marigold ointments begin with lard bases. In fact, tradition says that lard itself acts as an antibiotic ointment.
The lard in marigold ointment serves to extract the fat soluble components of marigold, such as carotenoids, that provide many of its benefits. These compounds require a fat substance such as lard to release their full healing force. Furthermore, as a natural substance, lard best transports healing compounds into the skin because its fat cells closely resemble thos in human skin. The action also provides deeper penetration into the skin by the ointment than do present-day commercial creams and ointments. The marigold creams and ointments manufactured today that employ lard bases tend to use purified lard. To accommodate individuals who object to lard, other creams substitute vegetable oils or beeswax, which produce les satisfactory results.
Soothing the Skin
Used for centuries by healers across Europe, marigold applied externally as an ointment or cream accelerates healing of wounds and skin problems, inhibits inflammation, and treats chapped lips and hands. An individual whose skin is peeling or cracked from sun, wind or minor fire burns also find relief with marigold ointment.
Although users should avoid any contact between marigold ointment and their eyes, it can be used virtually anywhere else on the the body. For example, it has been effective not only in relieving athlete’s foot, but in soothing the sensitive skin of many men after they shave.
Marigold ointment further stimulates blood flow in the skin, rendering the skin more supple and resistant to chemical irritation. Few users report any allergic reactions to marigold ointment.
On the other end of the age spectrum, the elderly, who often experience various chronic wounds due to reduced circulation, benefit from marigold’s stimulation and healing abilities. The ointment battles bedsores that may ultimately turn ulcerous, a problem for seniors and bedridden individuals of all ages.
A Natural Chemistry Set
In all cases, marigold’s chemical factory works overtime destroying such bacteria as staph and strep. Experts generally acknowledge that the marigold plant produces little or not toxic side effects.
Extensive biochemical research in Europe and the U.S.S.R. supports the traditional use of marigold ointment to heal skin irritations and cuts. The compound calenduloside B, a triterpene glycoside, is a relativiely new finding and is being researched for its advancement in this area.
Another use of marigold ointment is treatment of varicose veins. Most often afflicting women, varicose veins used to go unnoticed thanks to long petticoats our feminine ancestors wore. But today’s scantier skirts and shorts can’t hide the spider like tracings, spurring more women to seek treatments.
Varicose veins can begin in pregnancy or when an individual stands for long periods. Essentially, they occur when veins in the leg lose their elasticity and their valves cannot close properly. Blood collects in the legs rather than returns o the heart. If the condition goes untreated, sufferers face increasing chances of developing a thrombosis or embolism.
According to clinical trials, marigold helps restore the skin’s own healing capacity, a medically relevant consideration for varicose veins. Researchers also found that the ointment works rapidly on varicosis, which aids in assuring compliance. Marigold ointment also contributes to the healing of varicose ulcers.
Because it promotes healing and stimulates blood flow, marigold ointment has also successfully reduced and healed scares from injuries and surgeries.
Folk traditions and modern medicine concur on several points when it comes to Calendula, or Pot Marigold. Its natural healing powers provide welcome relief in many areas and its easy applications as an ointment means universal acceptance and use. And with today’s research laboratories looking even closer at marigold, we may have found a pot of gold at the end of the remedial rainbow.