Facts about Mexican marigold

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Facts about Mexican marigold

Mexican marigold Quick Facts
Name: Mexican marigold
Scientific Name: Tagetes lucida
Origin Central America (Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala) and South America
Shapes Cypselae and each contains one seed
Taste Cypselae and each contains one seed
Health benefits Beneficial for sore eyes, diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, colic, hiccups, rheumatism, malaria, feverish illnesses, eczema and scorpion bites
Tagetes lucida commonly known as Mexican marigold is a species of flowering plant in the Sunflower family Asteraceae that is native to Central America (Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala) and South America. It thrives in the south of the United States and in México and is grown in many warm temperate areas worldwide. It is cultivated as an ornamental in the highlands in Java. Other common names of the herb include Cloud Plant, Mexican Mint Marigold, Mexican Tarragon, Mint-Marigold, Spanish Tarragon, Sweet Scent Marigold, Sweet Scent Mexican Marigold, Sweet Mace, Texas Tarragon, Winter Tarragon, yerbaniz, pericón, Cempaxóchitl, Yerbis Anis and hierbanís. The genus name “Tagetes” is derived from the Roman god Tages who was the son or grandson of Jupiter.  The species epithet “lucida” is the Latin word for bright or shining and refers to the bright color of the flowers. This plant is used both as medicinal as well as culinary herb.

Tagetes lucida or Mexican tarragon is a powerfully psychoactive species of marigold that was used as ritual incense by the Aztecs.  Even now, this species of marigold is used in Mexican Dia de los Muertos celebrations as an offering to the deceased.  These beautiful flowers are also used regularly as flower offerings in Hindu and Tantric ceremonies in Nepal and India, and are associated with the goddess Bhagwati and the god Shiva.

Plant Description

Mexican marigold is a half-hardy semi-woody herb to subshrub that grows about 18-30 inches (46–76 cm) high and 18 inch (48 cm) wide. The plant is found growing in forests and on hilly or rocky slopes and normally prefers well-drained, moderately fertile soil, growing well in clayey and sandy soils. The plant has smooth, upright, unbranched stems.


Leaves are opposite, linear to oblong, about 3 in (7.6 cm) long, and shiny medium green and finely toothed margin, acute and tapering base, sessile and glandular. Bruised leaves have a sweet tarragon-like smell with overtones of anise. Leaves are deep glossy green above, pale green below. Underneath are tiny glands filled with oil that smells like anise.


In late summer plant bears terminal clusters of small yellow to orange flower heads on the ends of the stems. The flowers are about 1.5 cm in diameter, comprising a single whorl of 3–5 (−7) ray florets with yellow to orange-yellow corollas, and numerous disc florets in the center of the capitulum. The flowers are hermaphroditic (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects.


Fruits are classified as cypselae and each contains one seed. The fruits are linear and thin. On one end of the fruit, there is a two-pronged, beige projection known as a pappus that promotes seed dispersal. The fruit including the pappus is about 1 cm long. However, plants grown in Singapore typically do not produce fruits.

Traditional uses and benefits of Mexican marigold

  • Leaves and whole plant are digestive, diuretic, and febrifuge, hypotensive, narcotic, anesthetic, sedative and stimulant.
  • It is used internally in the treatment of sore eyes, diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, colic, hiccups, rheumatism, malaria and feverish illnesses.
  • Externally, it is used to treat scorpion bites and to remove ticks.
  • Use of the plant depresses the central nervous system, whilst it is also reputedly anesthetic and hallucinogenic.
  • Lucida was one of the most widely used medicinal plants in western Mexico.
  • Whole plant is dried and made into a tea by Indians for treating scorpion bites, fever, ague, and diarrhea and also as an aphrodisiac.
  • Leaves are softened in water and taken internally to cure hiccups.
  • In ceremonies, the Huichol Indians from the Sierra Madre Mountains reportedly have visions when smoking the herb in combination with the consumption of fermented Tarragon tea, which is prepared the same way ‘Sinicuichi’ is prepared.
  • People who had been struck by lightning were treated with extracts of Tagetes lucida.
  • Lucida is one of the plants most used by the Latin American population for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.
  • In Mexico, fresh herbage of Tagetes lucida is used as a tea for abdominal pains, to calm stomachs, to relax nerves and to alleviate the symptoms of a hangover.
  • Juice that has been pressed from the herbage or crushed leaves are mixed with water or wine and drunk as an aphrodisiac in Mexico.
  • Tea of the plant is also used as a stimulant.
  • It has been recognized since Spanish Colonial times that Tagetes lucida has aphrodisiac effects.
  • In Mexico, it is believed that the herbage promotes lactation.
  • It is also used as a bath additive to treat rheumatism.
  • In India, juice from freshly pressed leaves is administered to treat eczema in India.
  • Decoction of the leaves is drunk for coughs, and when applied topically on the skin in Argentina.
  • It is well known as an insect repellent.
  • It was also believed during Spanish Colonial times to treat the clinically insane.

Culinary Uses

  • Leaves and flowers are edible.
  • Petals are used as condiments.
  • Flowers are used in salads.
  • Anise-scented foliage is used in salads, soups, sauces, stews and poultry and fish dishes.
  • Mexican Marigold is good for bouquet garni for flavored butter and herbed vinegar.
  • Dried leaves and flowering tops are brewed into a pleasant, soothing, anise-flavored tea which is a very popular drink in Latin America.
  • Leaves were an important flavoring of ‘chocolatl’, the foaming cocoa-based drink of the Aztecs.
  • Petals are used as a condiment.
  • Natives in Mexico prepare a tea from the shoots.
  • It is cultivated commercially in Costa Rica as a spice herb; it contains oil having an anise- like odor, and the fresh aerial parts of this plant are sold in the supermarket as a substitute of tarragon.
  • Leaves are dried and ground into a powder then used as a tarragon substitute for flavoring soups, sauces etc.
  • Leaves of this plant are dried or used fresh like an herb, or spice, to season a wide variety of foods from fish, eggs to sauces and salad dressings.
  • Marigolds are used as a flavoring in sangria, cider, cola, and also Turkish tobacco.

Other Facts

  • Tagetes lucida is an aromatic herb distributed naturally in Central and South America, where it is used as a spice, for medicinal purposes, as insecticide, for religious purposes and as ornamental plant.
  • Tagetes lucida has played an important role in social, cultural and religious rites since the Aztec era till today in Mexico and Guatemala.
  • Flowers are importantly used in religious Catholic and indigenous festivities especially in ceremonies for the dead and in the Catholic All Souls Days.
  • Tagetes flowers are normally used for arcs and altar decorations.
  • Even today, many Mexican Indians burn the dried foliage of Tagetes lucida as incense on their home altars and during public ceremonies.
  • They would sprinkle a powder of the plant into the faces of prisoners of war who were to be burned as sacrifices, so that they would be sedated during their ordeal.
  • Huichol Indians of the Sierra Madre of Mexico would smoke dried herbage of T. lucida (commonly referred to as tumutsáli ) alone or mixed with tobacco from Nicotiana rustica.
  • This smoking mixture, although sometimes smoked recreationally, does have ceremonial importance and hallucinogenic effects.
  • It is reported to be smoked as a rite of passage in sexual shamanic rituals, most likely due to its aphrodisiac effects.
  • Bundles of the dried herbage are placed as offerings in temples, administrative buildings and sacred sites.
  • Dried leaves and flowers are also smoked in cigarettes made from corn husks, often in combination with the ingestion of peyote.
  • The combinations of smoking the herbage of Tagetes lucida along with consuming peyote, ‘tesquino’ or ‘nawa’ (fermented maize beverage), or homemade ‘ci’ or ‘soter’ (cactus liquor) are believed to produce very active, vivid hallucinations.
  • Mexican Tarragon is an attractive landscape ornamental often used in perennial borders.
  • Secretions from the roots of growing plants have an insecticidal effect on the soil and are reported to be effective against nematodes, keeled slugs and couch grass weed.
  • Growing plant also has a repellent effect on various insect pests such as the asparagus beetle and bean weevils.
  • Dried plant is burnt as incense and to repel insects.
  • Yellow dye obtained from the flowers is used for textile.
  • An essential oil extracted from this plant, known as tagetes oil, is used for the production of cosmetics, food flavorings and in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • In Mexican folk art, a wide variety of skulls and skeletons made of wood, paper-mâché or sugar associated with All Saints’ Day are often times painted with decorative Tagetes flowers.


  • It may increase the risk of bleeding.
  • It may be allergic to some people.
  • Drowsiness may occur.
  • If you have sensitive skin, avoid contact with the sap, as it may cause dermatitis.
  • Avoid use by pregnant and breastfeeding women.













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