Sunday, May 20, 2012

The healing field marigold

The field marigold is a member of the daisy family. It is native to central and southern Europe including the Maltese islands. 

It has now been introduced in many countries throughout the world in some of places it is considered as a pest. 

In Malta we find two subspecies of field marigold one of which even exists in two varieties. 

This makes identification of this species somewhat confusing a situation which is not made any easier by the fact that the daisy family which is made up of over 20,000 species is the largest plant family. In Malta the daisy family is represented by about 120 species.

The two races of field marigold are known in Maltese as suffejra tar-raba’ and suffejra kbira tar-raba’. The variety being shown in the picture has been named suffejra tar-raba’ ta’ ġiex kuluri.

The field marigold is widely cultivated as a garden plant but it is better known for its medicinal properties. 

It is said to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and has been used extensively to heal wounds. It is believed that its anti-bacterial properties are partially a result of the structure of its sugar which stimulates the body’s immune system. 

To heal minor wounds the leaves and petals can be ground or crushed into a paste, mixed with water and applied to the wounds. The flowers have also been used to treat stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal problems for hundreds of years.

Plant identification is an interesting and sometimes challenging task. Until the invention of modern pharmaceuticals most people interested in plants were pharmacists and doctors who studied botany because many plants were used for medical purposes. 

Botanists today still study plants because of their medicinal value but a growing number of enthusiasts are taking an interest in wild plants as a hobby. 

This article was written in The Times on 30.11.11

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