Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

The Latin name for this flower is taken from the word calends or calendar, as the herb is reputed to flower every month of the year. It is certainly out in force at the moment, in the local allotments and gardens, and adds a welcome splash of sunshine at this time of the year.

English marigold, also known as pot marigold, was traditionally added to the pot to add colour, flavour and nutrition to stews and casseroles. You can use the leaves and flowers to brighten up salads too.

Medicinally, this is a very safe herb and has many great properties. I use it to calm and soothe the digestive system as it contains both bitters and mucilaginous constituents to reduce inflammation and tone the gastrointestinal tract. It is also a lovely women’s herb and can be used to help regulate the monthly cycle.

It has antiallergenic and anti microbial properties, and it is one of the most effective herbs to use in creams for atopic eczema and contact dermatitis. An infusion, in the form of a compress, can be applied to the eyes to soothe soreness and treat conditions such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis. In addition the herb contains antioxidants thought to be specifically beneficial to eye health, including zeaxanthin, lutein and lycopene. For this reason I’ll often prescribe it internally, alongside other herbs, to promote eye health in older patients.

To prepare a tea from the herb pick a few flower heads and steep in hot water for around five minutes. Alternatively you can use a tablespoon of the dried herb. Drink freely throughout the day and enjoy!