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The pretty yellow calendula flower derives its name from the Latin word “calens”, meaning the first day of each month, because the Romans claimed that was when they bloomed.

Christians called it "marygold" and "marybud", because it bloomed at the same time as all the festivals celebrating the Virgin Mary; and also because people believed by constant association with the flowers they could ward off evil. It is also known as the "herb of the sun", because the flowers open in the morning and close in the evening.

The culinary use of calendula dates back to ancient Rome. Common people couldn't afford to buy saffron and they discovered that powdered calendula petals were an excellent substitute, which is why it has been called "poor man's saffron". Marigold was commonly used as an aphrodisiac, and thought to have great significance in love. Planting marigold in the footsteps of a loved one was supposed to tie him to his beloved. An old legend held that if a maiden touched a pot marigold with her bare foot she would be able to understand the language of birds. In the Middle Ages in Europe it was believed that those who wore marigolds would have a vision of anyone who had robbed them. In German folklore, rain was predicted if the flowers remained closed after 7 a.m.

Calendula is one of the best herbs for treating local skin problems. It can be used safely wherever there is inflammation of the skin due to infection or physical damage. It can be used for any external bleeding or wound, bruising or strains. It can be used on nappy rash and sore nipples. It will also be helpful for slow healing wounds and skin ulcers. It is ideal as a first aid treatment for minor burns and scalds. Calendula has antiseptic and astringent properties which, when used internally, stimulate the immune system and help the body fight against infections such as the flu and herpes virus. It has also been used for digestive tract infections (including enteritis, dysentery and worms) and viral hepatitis. It also has marked antifungal properties.

Calendula reduces lymphatic congestion and swollen lymph glands. Calendula has anti-inflammatory properties that will assist with healing gastric and duodenal ulcers and for inflammation and irritation of the stomach and bowel. It checks diarrhoea and stops bleeding. It assists the cleansing function of the liver. Calendula has an affinity for the female reproductive system regulating menstruation and relieving menstrual cramps. Its oestrogenic effects help in menopause and reduce breast congestion. Its astringent properties help reduce excessive bleeding. During childbirth it promotes contractions and delivery of the placenta.

Toni Green is a Tasmania-based naturopath and health writer. It is her passion to pass on this knowledge of natural therapies to others so that they might live a stress-free life with health and vitality.
Toni can be contacted at www.naturalhealthsolutions.net.au; toni.green57@iinet.net.au, or 0431 716 601.