Marigolds (Tagetes spp) are herbaceous plants, some perennial, some annual, of the Asteraceae family, the blooms made up of many tiny florets. They are native to North and South America but are popular garden plants throughout the world. Some of the more popular cultivated varieties are Mexican Marigold Tagetes erecta and French Marigold Tagetes patula.
For information about Pot Marigold, see Calendula.
History and Folklore
The Latin name Tagetes comes from the name Tages, an Etruscan prophet of ancient fame who taught others about divination. The common name, marigold, is from Mary’s Gold, though it was originally applied to calendula.
The marigold is an important flower in certain religious ceremonies in Nepal and is used to decorate Hindu temples in India. Marigold is considered the flower of the dead in Mexico where it is used to decorate ancestral altars for Day of the Dead celebrations.
After the Spanish invasion, the Aztecs viewed the marigold flower as a symbol of the Spanish invasion and the massacre of their people and the destruction of their way of life.
In the language of flowers, marigold means “pain and grief” or signifies a wish to comfort one who is grieving.
Marigold is easy to grow as an annual. There are some perennial varieties that grow well in tropical areas that can also be grown as an annual in more temperate regions.
Marigold can be grown from seed or young plants can be readily purchased at just about any nursery or the gardening section of your favorite big box store.
It’s not picky about soil though they prefer it to be well-drained. Marigolds need a good sunny spot to thrive. Plant your marigolds in the spring as soon as the soil is warm and the danger of frost is past. If you keep your marigolds happy, they will bloom from spring right through to fall.
The scent of marigold is said to repel some insects and animals and chemicals released by their roots are said to repel nematodes. Because of this, it is considered an excellent companion plant for just about any other plant. However, it should not be used with legumes.
Marigold provides food for some species of butterflies and their larvae.
Healing with Marigold
The essential oil of Tagetes minuta, usually sold as Tagetes oil can be used as an insect repellent and to prevent and help heal fungal and bacterial infections of the skin. The dried herb can be added to bathwater or a vaporizer to help soothe coughs or added to a wash to help speed the healing of wounds, especially those that are weeping and slow to heal.
A tea of the dried herb can be used to soothe respiratory congestion and to prevent internal parasites. It is drunk as a hot or cold beverage quite often in South America and is safe and pleasant tasting.
Tagetes oil is also used for aromatherapy to relieve tension and promote clear thinking and emotional control.
Tagetes lucida is used to in a tea to treat abdominal cramps, and in a bath to treat rheumatism, but it is also rumored to be strongly psychoactive and should be used with care.
Culinary Uses of Marigold
Tegates minuta is used as a culinary herb in South America where it is called huacatay. Tegates lucida is known as pericón or Texas tarragon is also used as a culinary herb and is used to make an anise-flavored tea in Mexico.
The petals of Tegates erecta flowers can be used in salads and to create a bright yellow dye.
Magical and Spiritual Use of Marigold
Mexican marigold resonates with the energy of the sun.
Tagetes lucida has a psychoactive action and has been smoked ceremonially in combination with Nicotiana rustica when peyote was eaten and it may be drunk as a tea to promote visions.
All types of marigolds can be used as offerings to the dead and as decoration for ancestor altars.
Tagetes lucida – Marigolds at entheology.com