Tagetes erecta (syn Caryophyllus Indicus)
Also known as : Flor de muerto, African marigold, Cempoalxόchitl (Nahuatl name “twenty flower”, from cempohualli – twenty and xochitl – flower), cempasuchitl, zempasuchitl, apátsicua (purépecha and tarasco), caxiyhuitz (huasteco), guie’biguá, guie’coba, picoa and quiepi-goa (zapoteco), kalhpu’xa’m (totonaco), Ita-Cuaan (Mixtec), Jondri (Otomí), Genda phool, Genda (Hindi, Bengali), Chenduhoovu, Chendu huva (Kannada), Ghenda (Marathi), Galaghoto (Gujarati), Chendu malli (Malayalam), Banti Puvuu (Telgu), Jhandu, Gendaa (Sanskrit), Gulhazara (Parsi), Gainda (Nepal), Rosa de oiro, cravo de defuntos, cravo da Índia, cravo de Tunes

See also Post on Pericón (another variety of Tagetes)

as depicted in “Hortus Eystettensis” (1713)

Marigolds are native to North and South America with a range that extends from the South Western United States of America south into Argentina. The area of their greatest diversity is South/Central Mexico and they grow wild in the states of  San Luis Potosí, Chiapas, the State of Mexico, Puebla, Sinaloa, Veracruz and Tlaxcala

Commercial field of cempasúchil in Puebla

T.erecta is widely cultivated on a commercial scale with more than 17000 tons being grown on an annual basis (1) around 3/4 of it being grown in the state of Puebla. The flower is also an important traditional crop of the chinampas of Xochimilco but there are fears that this tradition may be in danger due to the younger generations drifting away from the old ways (2).

  1. 2018 figures. https://www.gob.mx/agricultura%7Cpuebla/articulos/puebla-produce-el-76-de-flor-de-cempasuchil-a-nivel-nacional
  2. https://www.publimetro.com.mx/mx/noticias/2018/11/01/siembra-cempasuchil-xochimilco-riesgo-desaparecer.html

All Targetes species can be traced back to the New World (just another botanical gift from Mexico to the rest of the world). They were exported from the New World into Europe and Africa in the 16th Century (by around 1520)

In Mexico, the cempasuchil flower is used as decoration and ritual offering on the Day of the Dead . It is usual to use the petals to mark on the ground the path that the souls of the deceased must follow towards the ofrendas raised (1) in their honor. The rich golden colour and scent of the flowers guide the spirits to the ofrenda.

  1. altars

The Day of the Dead is a popular Mexican celebration to honour and remember those who have passed. It is a day of recollection and prayer, the memory and presence of deceased family members are celebrated , they return home to be with their relatives and to feed on the offerings of favourite foods and drinks (and toys for children who have died) that have been dedicated to them.

An ofrenda dedicated to a family member who has crossed over.
Cempasuchil illuminating a graveyard in Patzcuaro.
Photo: OrtMartz / Instagram – via Neomexicanismo

Culinary uses.

Cempasúchil is edible (for both humans and animals) and can be used to make soups and stews with its petals. It is used in ice cream, infusions or as a garnish for pastries and salads as well as a flavouring for pulque curados.


Pollo en salsa de cempasúchil (Chicken in marigold sauce)
(adapted from an Animal Gourmet recipe)
• 1 chicken (cut into serving sized pieces)
• Chicken stock (enough to cover chicken)
• 6 cempasúchil flowers (only the petals)
• 1 cup of milk
• 1 cup of cream
• 100 grams of almonds (blanched and skinned)
• Butter (as needed)
• Salt and pepper (to taste)
• Toasted sesame seeds (used to garnish)

  1. Place the chicken pieces in cold chicken stock, bring to the boil and reduce heat to a slow simmer. Simmer for 12 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave the chicken in the stock to cool a little. Set aside until needed.
  2. Place the milk, cream, almonds and the flower petals (of five of the flowers) into a blender and blend until smooth mixture.
  3. In a saucepan heat a little butter and add the flower mixture.
  4. Add the chicken pieces to the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. To serve, sprinkle over some toasted sesame seeds and the reserved flower petals. Accompany with white rice with peas and green onions.

Pea and green onion rice
• 1 cup white long-grain rice, rinsed
• 2 cups chicken stock
• 1/2 cup green peas
• 2 or 3 green onions (spring onions or scallions), thinly sliced

  1. Place rice and stock in a pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil. Stir to ensure no rice is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 12 (or until liquid is absorbed). Do not remove the lid for these 12 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Add peas and onion. Stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork to separate grains.

Medicinal Uses.

Parts used : leaf, flower, root

Actions : analgesic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hepatoprotective, laxative (root), ophthalmic, stomachic

The pharmacological activities of cempasuchil are related to the content of several classes of secondary metabolites such as flavonoids, sterols, carotenoids, tannins, saponins, triterpene alcohols, polysaccharides, a bitter principle, mucilage and resin

Constituents :

Flowers – lutein (a common yellow/orange food colour E161b), thiophenes, zeaxanthin, dammarenediolⅡ3-O-n-palmitate, uvqol, quercetagetin 3-O-glucoside, quercetagetin 5-methyl ether, 5,7-dimethoxy quercetin, gallic acid, 3,4-dihydroxy-5-methoxy-benzoicacid, 16Z,19Z-pentacosadienoic acid, monolinoleoyl glycerol, Vitamin Eα, terpinoline (12.4%), (E)-ocimene (13.1%), piperitone (20%), limonene (11%). Indole was found among the minor compounds.

Leaf – essential oil, d-Limonene, ocimene, l- linalyl acetate, l-linalool tagetone, n-nonyl aldehyde

Stems – ß-caryophyllene, terpinolene, (E)-ocimenone, ß-ocimene, piperitenone and Z-ocimene, and limonene.

In the 16th century, Francisco Hernández reported that the juice of the leaves was used to cure a variety of stomach ailments, reduce fever and to relax the nerves.

The leaves and flowers can be used medicinally in a number of ways (no shaman is required).

The flowers can be dried and ground to a powder which can be boiled in water, filtered, and drank so its anti-inflammatory properties can treat inflammation of the throat and peptic ulcers.

An infusion of the flowers can be used as a treatment for fever in children. To relieve a child’s night sweats, a tea of the flowers is drunk or used to bathe the child.
The infusion can also be taken for the treatment of stomach ache, indigestion, colic, dysentery (1) and a “hot” (2) tea of the leaves may be taken for constipation. To treat intestinal cramping make an infusion of the flowers and leaves and combine them with chamomile flowers and peppermint leaf. The tea is also a traditional anthelmintic (3). A weak infusion can also be used as an eyewash to treat conjunctivitis and sore eyes.
The pounded leaves are used as a poultice as an external application to boils and carbuncles, The leaves are reported to be effective against piles, kidney troubles, muscular pain, ulcers, wounds and earache. Minor respiratory conditions can also benefit from this plant. Bronchopulmonary (4) infection may be treated with a cempasuchil and gordolobo (5) infusion. Drink the tea (warm and sweetened with honey) throughout the day. Cempasuchil has emmenagogue (6) and uterine tonic properties although there is some mention of it being a potential abortifacient so its use should be avoided during pregnancy. To treat menstrual cramping make a decoction of cinnamon (boil 3 cinnamon sticks in one litre of water for 10 minutes) remove from the heat and add 2 flower heads. Cover the pot (so the volatile elements do not escape with the steam) and let it steep for 10 minutes. Drink this tea (warm) throughout the day. The infusion has also been used as a douche or sitz bath for uterine inflammation and as a postpartum (7) bath

  1. an inflammatory disease of the intestine, especially of the colon, which always results in severe diarrhea and abdominal pains. Other symptoms may include fever and a feeling of incomplete defecation. One form (amoebic dysentery) can be potentially deadly. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, or bloody diarrhoea. Complications can include inflammation and ulceration of the colon with tissue death or perforation, which may result in peritonitis. Seek medical advice if diarrhoea persists for more than a few days or if there is blood present in the faeces.
  2. drink the tea warm. The “hot” refers to the energetics of the tea and its balancing nature in “cold” conditions
  3. Anthelmintics (or antihelminthics) are antiparasitics that expel parasitic worms (helminths) and other internal parasites from the body by either stunning or killing them (and without causing significant damage to the host)
  4. lower respiratory tract
  5. gordolobo – Verbascum thapsus (Mullein)
  6. a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual flow.
  7. following childbirth

To make a cempasuchil tincture fill a jar with fresh flowers and leaves, cover with a mixture of 800 ml of 96% pure alcohol and 200 ml purified water. Leave in a cool dark place to macerate for 20 days. Strain and bottle. Take 25 drops, 3 x day. This can also be used as a rub for sore muscles and joints.

An alcoholic extract can also be made by infusing 1 cup of dried flower petals in a bottle of tequila or mezcal (I prefer to use the blanco or silver variety) for 7 days. This can be used to make Marigold Margaritas fo Dia de los muertos

An infused oil can be made of the flowers. In 500ml of extra virgin olive oil macerate the petals of 10 flower heads. Lightly crush the flowers before adding to the oil and let macerate in a warm place for 2 weeks before using. Consume 2 tablespoons of this oil per day. It helps lower high cholesterol levels, inhibits the oxidation of blood lipids, protects the walls of the arteries against oxidation and fights hypertension. The oil can also be used to help combat colds. Massage into the chest and upper back before bedtime (this may also increase breast milk production when used this way)

The essential oil of the leaves and stems of cempasuchil, act as an antibiotic against several bacteria: pseudomona aeruginosa (1) , Staphylococcus aureus (2) , Bacillus cereus (3) and Escherichia coli (4) and fungi: Candida albicans (5) , Candida utilis (6) as well as several species of Aspergillus including Aspergillus niger (7) and Trichoderma viride .

  1. causes infections both in the urinary tract and in the airways or respiratory system – nasal passages, mouth, larynx, tracheal pharynx, bronchi, bronchioles and lungs
  2. causes skin infections, cough and fever
  3. causes diarrhoea, abdominal pain and nausea
  4. causes stomach infections and diarrhoea
  5. present in vaginal infections
  6. causes respiratory and urinary conditions
  7. present in lung infections
In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Young Pharmacists it was found that the oil of cempasuchil was capable was providing an SPF of 14

Cempasuchil is a valuable plant in the Ayurvedic traditions of herbal medicine. Its uses are very similar to that of both Western Herbal Medicine and Curanderismo.
For urinary tract infections 3-6 grams of powdered leaves (mixed with rock sugar to make it more palatable) are taken twice daily. A cold infusion of the leaves and flowers is used to alleviate burning urination. A strong decoction of the leaves (20g of leaves boiled in 500ml of water until only 125ml remains) is taken twice daily to treat urinary calculi.
3-4 grams of powdered seeds (mixed with an equal amount of rock sugar) can be taken daily to treat all respiratory complaints. A cold infusion of the whole plant is used to treat bronchitis, asthma and coughs
5-10 ml of fresh flower juice extract is used to treat bleeding disorders such as menorrhagia, bleeding piles & bleeding stools in ulcerative colitis patients. Take this juice daily or you can orally chew its flower for stopping bleeding in any case. Menorrhagia can also be treated by eating a paste of the leaves which has been fried in clarified butter. Epistaxis (nosebleeds) is treated by the intranasal application of fresh leaf juice.
To treat toothache make a decoction of marigold leaves by adding few leaves in two cups of water. Boil this until reduced by half. Strain the mixture and use this for a gargle/mouthwash twice daily.
To treat earache use a fresh juice extract of leaves and put two drops in both ears.
A poultice made from a paste of the whole plant can be used on swelling, boils, bleeding wounds by applying it over affected area. This same paste can also be applied to piles.

An interesting study (Reka et al 2011) shows that cempasuchil may have a role in limiting lead acetate induced toxicity (See use of lead powders in the Post on Empacho). Results showed that the administration of Tagetes erecta efficiently protected albino rats against lead caused injuries. Further study on this is required.


T.erecta is an effective companion plant in the garden as it has been shown to inhibit the infestation of okra and tomato roots by nematodes through the process of allelopathy (1). They may also be planted amongst potato, tobacco, chiles, and eggplant. The roots of cempasuchil also encourage the growth of the network of mycorrhizal fungi which exchanges beneficial nutrients with host plants for their mutual health and growth.

  1. the chemical inhibition of one plant (or other organism) by another, due to the release into the environment of substances acting as germination or growth inhibitors
  • Bashir S, Gilani AH. Studies on the antioxidant and analgesic activities of Aztec marigold ( Tagetes erecta ) flowers. Phytother Res. 2008; 22: 1692–4.
  • Chivde BV, Biradar KV, Shiramane RS, Manoj KV. In vitro antioxidant activity studies of the flowers of Tagetes erecta L. (Compositae) Int J Pharm Biol Sci. 2011; 2: 223–9.
  • Dasgupta, Nandita & Ranjan, Shivendu & Saha, Proud & Jain, Rahul & Malhotra, Swati & Saleh, Arabi Mohammed. (2012). Antibacterial Activity of Leaf Extract of Mexican Marigold (Tagetes erecta) Against Different Gram Positive and Gram Negative Bacterial Strains. Journal of Pharmacy Research. 2012. 4201-4203.
  • Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256-20-4
  • Giri RK, Bose A, Mishra SK. Hepatoprotective Activity of Tagetes erecta against carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatic damage in rats. Acta Poloniae Pharm Drug Res. 2011; 68: 999–1003
  • Guadarrama-Cruza G, Alarcon-Aguilarb FJ, Lezama-Velascoc R, Vazquez-Palacios G. Bonilla-Jaimed H. Antidepressant-like effects of Tagetes lucida Cav. in the forced swimming test. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008; 120: 277–81.
  • A. Hadfield, Robert & Vlahovic, Tracey & Tariq Khan, M. (2008). The Use of Marigold Therapy for Podiatric Skin Conditions. The Foot & Ankle Journal. 1. 10.3827/faoj.2008.0107.0001.
  • Khan, AM, Saxena, SK and Siddiqui, ZA (1971) Efficacy of Tagetes erecta in reducing root infestating nematodes of tomato and Okra. Indian Phytopathology 24: 166–169
  • Mishra, A. K., Mishra, A., & Chattopadhyay, P. (2012). Assessment of in vitro sun protection factor of Calendula officinalis L.(asteraceae) essential oil formulation. Journal of Young Pharmacists, 4(1), 17-21.
  • Manandhar. N. P. Plants and People of Nepal Timber Press. Oregon. 2002 ISBN 0-88192-527-6
  • Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. 1998 ISBN 0-88192-453-9
  • Rhama S, Madhavan S. Antibacterial Activity of the Flavonoid-patulitrin isolated from the flowers of Tagetes erecta L. Int J Pharm Tech Res. 2011; 3: 1407–9.

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