by Phyllis O’Beollain, Dayton Small Pets Examiner
Marigolds are tasty, nutritious, and very healthy for small pets. Marigold leaves are pleasantly peppery; I’ve never met a rabbit who did not like them. Marigolds thrive in full sun and are easily grown (save the seeds and grow them for “free” next year). Marigolds are a nice orange and yellow complement to any garden and don’t take up much room; you can tuck a plant in most any corner of the garden or grow them in pots. Dwarf varieties are usually bushiest and provide the most leaves for your bunny, guinea pig or other small pet to munch on. Mid-July is a bit late for starting them from seeds here in Dayton, so you might as well pick some up marigold plants at one of the local farmer’s markets.
A variety of uses
Marigolds have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antispasmodic properties; it is a good adjunct (additional) treatment for infections and inflammatory processes.
Marigolds are loaded with flavenoids as well as with carotenoids, including lutein, which has been studied for its effectiveness in treating colon cancer in studies conducted by the University of Utah Medical School. Lutein has also been shown to promote healthy vision.
Marigolds are high in vitamins C and A, and contain lycopene and beta-carotene.
Cold marigold tea makes a very soothing compress for the eyes, and can also be used to soothe skin irritations. Offer a drink of cooled marigold tea to your small pet (with a bit of juice mixed in, if need be) to settle GI distress and relieve diarrhea as well as constipation (marigold regulates the gut).
Marigold tea: dry some marigold flowers and add a tablespoon of the flowers to a teapot. Pour some nearly-boiling water over the flowers and let them steep. Cool thoroughly before offering to your pet.
You can also make an ointment from marigold leaves, which I have used successfully on skin irritations on rabbits:
Marigold ointment: chop up fresh flowers and add to coconut oil. Heat lightly and let cool.
As always, make sure you are using flowers that have not been treated with pesticides.