The sun sits upon its petals, flooding the fragrant flower with fire. Blossoming in late Summer, the Marigold is both a memory of sunny days and a sign that Autumn is upon us. Things will sleep, die, and grow cold, before blooming once again with new Spring youth and vibrancy. In a way, the Marigold is a flower of hope. When it comes to this beautiful flower, there is more than meets the eye.
The Marigold’s two most distinctive qualities are its bright color and fragrance. The Aztec, an ancient and powerful civilization of Mesoamerica, took these qualities as a sign of the flower’s medicinal properties. They knew how to harness its power to heal their people. This power, in combination with our modern understanding of health, can still be utilized today.
The fragrance of Mexican Marigolds is known as Anise. It’s commonly produced in herbs such as fennel and licorice. Herbs that smell of anise are good for digestion.8 This is often accompanied by a bitter flavor, which also aids the digestive process.
The Aztecs valued Marigold’s medicinal properties
The most obvious property of a Marigold, its bright orange flower, is reminiscent of fire. Fire was an element highly revered by the Aztec. Even now, some teachings still include the concept of elemental imbalances being a source of illness.5 The Marigold would aid in regulating an imbalance of fire.
In the Western world, it’s less common for us to refer to elements such as fire in conversations on health. We imagine health as a series of symptoms and pharmaceutical quick-fixes, only considering nutritional and lifestyle changes as secondary methods to improve our general health.5 However, if we were to put ourselves in the place of the Aztec, we would think of health quite differently.
The Aztec originated from nomadic tribes that settled in Tenochtitlan. The Earth and her gifts were their life source, inspiring their religion, culture, and lifestyle. All elements of life were sacred, from the landscape across which they traveled, the creatures they hunted, admired, and emulated in spirit, down to the products that allowed them to settle and thrive as a civilization.9
This is depicted in their medicine wheel, with the four corners of the world being compared to the four elements, four seasons, four stages of life (birth, youth, adulthood, elder), and the four stages of self (physical, spiritual, emotional, mental).3 Their pantheon of gods and astrological calendar are only a couple exhibitions of their conviction to the forces of nature.9
The Aztec sometimes considered physical ailments to be a punishment from the gods
In reference to health, although the Aztec sometimes considered physical ailments to be a punishment from the gods, they also understood how illness affected the body on a level that reflects our everlasting connection with the natural elements. This supports the concept of holistic wellness for which so many of us hope to achieve now in the 21st century.3
In its most basic agricultural uses, the Aztec grew Marigold in combination with certain crops because it drove away pests.1 Farmers and gardeners still use it a protective plant today.6 Just as they used it in the land, they would ingest the seeds of the Marigold to cure intestinal worms, as they are a sort of pest in the body.1
The whole plant could be chopped and brewed as a tea to relieve nausea, indigestion, and other gastrointestinal issues, helping to also fight off fever in children.2 In its ceremonial uses they would mix Marigolds with the classic Cacao drink to follow ceremonial feasts.
This would aid in the overall digestion of the meal. This is also a testament to how high it might’ve been held in reverence, as Cacao (the origin of modern-day chocolate) was believed to have a special connection with the gods.4 Apart from digestion, Marigold could also be brewed to alleviate pain in the chest or abdominals, and to relax the nerves.2
We know that Marigold is a depressant and is used for pain relief and relaxation
Today, we know that Marigold is a depressant, making such uses in pain relief and relaxation possible. This would also explain its other, less common use- providing relief from hangovers. Because it affected the body similarly to alcohol (also a depressant, and rarely consumed by the Aztec), it would help them transition smoothly from a state of intoxication to a state of sobriety.1 Ultimately, the Aztec goal upon ingesting any medicine was to restore balance.
The herbal medicine of the Aztec was rooted in the concept of restoring peace and harmony both within and without one’s body. Digestive issues are thought to be related to the imbalance of fire in the body5, as well as fever and sometimes pain. Before discrediting this as metaphysical mumbo jumbo, or primitive and irrelevant, think for a moment on how the concept of fire might resonate in the body.
If fire creates energy and locomotes, the way we’ve seen in a train, car or any mechanism that utilizes gas, steam or heat, then the lack of fire, or the overproduction of fire, might cause the systems that it energizes to go out of whack. While there are multiple systems in the body, our digestive track is arguably the body system most similar to a machine, with the breaking down of solids, churning in acids, and muscular contractions.
Therefore, one can see how an imbalance of fire might cause issues within the fire-fueled digestive track. Fever also causes the body to rise in temperature as it battles infection. Pain causes burning sensations in an afflicted area.
If you were to take away the home and hospitals that sheltered you since birth, the vehicles that transport you, the technological conveniences that allow us to have food in our homes year-round and communicate with others at any distance and were left with nothing but the Earth and her resources to provide for you, to protect you, and to heal you, then it would be no coincidence that these fiery imbalances in our bodies would be cured by a flower that resembles a flame.
Though we have a multitude of ways to deal with these issues in the modern world, consider that the Aztec reasoning was, at the time, sound. Also consider, if it worked back then, could it not work now?
Whereas the concept of elemental imbalances might sound ancient, one might ask if our bodies have truly changed so much over time. Do we not have the same organs and nutritional needs? Do we not have the same nervous system, hormones, and chemicals running through our bodies? What is medicine, besides a way of balancing chemical reactions and restoring the body to its natural state, bringing us from a state of dis-ease to ease?5
It wasn’t simply about drinking a cup of Marigold tea. Medicine often came with a ritual!
In the case of Marigolds, it wasn’t simply about drinking a cup of Marigold tea. Medicine often came with a ritual. Today, a medicinal ritual is as simple as “take one every morning” or “drink every night before bed”. We might be fairly lax with our medicinal ritual, but for the Aztec this was equally as important as the medicine itself in restoring the synchronicity between mind and body, nature and the spirit, achieving the ultimate goal of what we now call holistic health.5
While tea and other concoctions healed the body, the ritual healed the mind.5 Our central nervous system controls every signal sent to the body. Whether the actions are autonomous or consciously controlled, they stem from the mind. If one becomes injured, the body will signal as necessary to send fluids to the area causing inflammation, and ultimately pain.
If one experiences stress, emotional trauma, or anxiety, it might resonate in the body as pain or disruption of the stomach or bowels. Today, we might take an antacid for that stomach problem or an ibuprofen for pain and inflammation, never fully assessing the cause. Because the Aztec didn’t have over-the-counter medicine, they understood that they had to heal the whole self in order to achieve optimal health and survive in a world without quick-fixes.
This was achieved through ritual. Ritual provides rhythm, inviting the mind to concentrate and dispose of distractions.5 The rhythm of the mind triggers rhythm in the body. As this resonates throughout one’s self, we subconsciously recalibrate from a state of increased anxiety and activity experienced during discomfort (or dis-ease), to a resting state where we experience tranquility (or ease).
Upon entering this restful state, impulses from the central nervous system will adjust accordingly over time and allow the physical body to slip into a state of comfort. This is the true magic of medicine.5
The Marigold is known as the Flor de Muertos or Flower of the Dead
On the note of rhythm in the body, the Marigold has one more vibrational quality worth mentioning. It’s most notably used today in the Day of the Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos, ceremonies. This is a tradition started by the Aztec and still practiced today by Mexicans and Mexican Americans.10
The Marigold is known as the Flor de Muertos, or Flower of the Dead. As mentioned earlier, the Aztec knew the fragrance as a medicinal property. They held natural properties at a high value and recognized the fragrance to be more than just a smell. It affected both the body and spirit.
In Aztec mythology, the Marigold is the spirit of Xochitl, giving off her fragrance so that her lover Huitzilin, reincarnated as the hummingbird, could find her after he passed through the spirit world. This fragrance was a gift from Toantiuh, the god of the sun, to the two devout lovers.
To this day, the Marigold and its fragrance helps guide the spirits of the ancestors to join their loved ones in the realm of the living during the Dia de Los Muertos ceremonies.10 When one considers the story of the Marigold, the power the Aztec believed existed in the form of a flower, a curious soul might wonder how this could resonate in their daily lives.
If we don’t worship a sun god, how can this flower connect with our spirit?
If we don’t worship a sun god, how can this flower connect with our spirit? The answer would be through flower essence. Flower essences are a vibrational therapy, each flower representing an affirmation that aids in personal manifestation of good health. Since we know that health also includes a state of mind, I encourage skeptics to consider flower essences as an aid in forming new habits that promote emotional and psychological health.
The flower essence of Marigold is to embody and express our innermost gifts, bringing our spiritual qualities and values into reality, just as it helped the Aztec build a bridge between the spirit world and living. We can form a structure around abstract or creative ideas, thus helping us communicate and mold our physical world around our aspirations7.
The Marigold wields an ancient power. Whether it’s to be used as vibrational therapy or in a tea for digestion, it’s sure to resonate in both the body and spirit. It’s important that we don’t shy away from traditional herbal remedies. The ancestors honed a type of intelligence easily lost in the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
Their insight and medicinal philosophy are based on experiences with nature that help to balance and ground our energy, so that we can improve health on all levels. In a time when everything is fast-paced and convenient, it’s worth delving deeper into the concept of holistic healing, seeking the teachings of our ancestors to guide us on a journey towards a health that is more fulfilling, promotes longevity, and keeps the mind, body, and spirit at ease, for a long and tranquil life.
1“Facts about Mexican Marigold.” Health Benefits Times, HealthBenefitsTimes, 2019, https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/mexican-marigold/.
2Frederiksen, Thomas H. “AZTEC MEDICINE.” Aztec Medicine – Aztecs of Mexico, History, Casado Internet Group, 2005, https://ambergriscaye.com/pages/mayan/aztecmedicine.html#MEDICINES.
3“Mexica Four Directions: Medicine Wheel.” Mexica Telpochcalli – Sixth Sun Ridaz, 30 Mar. 2017, https://sixthsunridaz.com/mexica-teachings/aztec-medicine-wheel/.
4Szogyi, Alex. Chocolate: Food of the Gods. Greenwood Press, 1997
5Bennett, Robin Rose, and Rosemary Gladstar. The Gift of Healing Herbs: Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for Vibrant Healthy Life. North Atlantic Books, 2014.
6Trail, Gayla. Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces. New York, 2012
7Bier, Deborah. “Marigold Essence.” Marigold Essence: Harmony with the Physical World, Vibration Magazine, May 2003, http://www.floweressencemagazine.com/may03/marigold.html.
8 “Anise-Scented Herbs to Know.” Healdsburg SHED, Healdsburg SHED, 13 Feb. 2017, https://healdsburgshed.com/2016/06/23/anise-scented-herbs-know/.
9Gruenschloss, Andreas. “Aztec religion and nature.” Aztec Religion and Nature (Precolumbian!), Encyclopedia of religion and nature, 2002, https://wwwuser.gwdg.de/~agruens/aztec/relignat.html.
10 Pulso Staff, Project Pulso. “Here Is the Legend of Love and Tragic Death and the Cempasúchil Flower.” Pulso, Pulso, 23 Oct. 2019, https://projectpulso.org/2019/10/23/muertos-flower/.