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Calendula officinalis

Few herbs have a more sunny and cheerful disposition than the humble Marigold. Their saturated orange yellow glowing flowers look like a piece of the sun itself. No wonder one of its vernacular names is 'Maidens of the Sun'. Nor is it a surprise that Culpeper gives it to the Sun in Leo. Just looking at them confers an infectious 'joie de vivre', which Culpeper praises as their ability to 'gladden the heart'. Calendula is quite a miracle herb, but since it is so common it receives scant attention- as is often the case: familiarity breeds contempt. Calendula is a well loved garden plant, though some people resent its tendency to spread and consider it invasive. However, as a garden plant Calendula protects other herbs and plants against fungal infections and insect attacks. It also provides cheer throughout the year - at least in mild climates, where it flowers almost all the year round until the frost kills it. However, as soon as spring arrives Calendula revives and its sunny flowers are unstoppable once again, except on rainy days when they stay closed. This is how the Romans came to call this herb 'Calendula' - in their mild climate it spread its cheer for the entire duration of the calendar year.

Marigold is one of the premiere herbs for the skin. During the First World War and in the American civil war it was used extensively and very successfully as a wound cleansing herb. In fact, given the shortage of other medicines, it often was the only thing at hand - and just as well, as many army surgeons could attest: nothing cleansed the festering wounds better than this humble herb. It is strongly astringent, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. Thus it can be used to wash any damaged skin, may it be minor scrapings, ulcers or nasty, indolent wounds. It is also effective in treating eczema, nappy rash and athlete's foot. It can be used as a gargle for inflamed and sore gums or as a douche in leucorrhoea. As a plaster it was used to treat inflamed nipples and hardened or inflamed breasts. It is even reputed to have anti-cancer properties, which makes it useful as a compress on lymphatic nodes or cancerous tissue, especially when simultaneously taken as a tee. Internally, it can be used to stimulate liver and gallbladder, alleviate nausea and indigestion, help in cases of stomach and duodenal ulcers (take with centaury), soothe the pain of cystitis and bladder infections and even stop bloody urine. Calendula expels worms, softens hardened lymph nodes and glands and regulates menstrual irregularities, especially at the onset of puberty and during menopause, when the hormones are in upheaval mode. The old herbalists made much use of the expressed juice, which can be prepared from fresh flowers or from re-hydrated dried flowers. Tincture and creams are commonly used for external applications.

One of the vernacular names of Marigold is 'Death Flower' and in older herbals one reads that they are often planted on graves. This is probably due to their apparently immortal life force, which symbolises the undying spirit and will give cheer to the departing souls. This immortal quality is also invoked in many a love charm intended to make love last forever so it shall never wilt.

Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.