|Botanischer Garten Erlangen, Germany|
Tagetes lucida Cav. is a perennial plant native to Mexico and Central America. It is used as a medicinal plant and as a culinary herb. The leaves have a tarragon-like flavor, with hints of anise, and it has entered the nursery trade in North America as a tarragon substitute. Common names include sweetscented marigold, Mexican marigold, Mexican mint marigold, Mexican tarragon, sweet mace, Texas tarragon, pericón, yerbaniz, and hierbanís.
Tagetes lucida grows 18-30 inches (46–76 cm) tall and requires full sun to light shade. Depending on land race, the plant may be fairly upright, while other forms appear bushy with many unbranching stems. The leaves are linear to oblong, about 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, and shiny medium green, not blue-green as in French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa). In late summer it bears clusters of small golden yellow flower heads on the ends of the stems. The flower heads are about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) across and have 3-5 golden-yellow ray florets. The flowers are hermaphroditic (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects.
Tagetes lucida was used by the Aztecs in a ritual incense known as Yauhtli, as well as being dedicated to the rain god Tlāloc. Tagetes lucida is still in use today primarily as a tea to treat the common cold, intestinal gas and diarrhea.
Tagetes lucida also had many culinary uses by the Aztecs including as one of the ingredients added to make the drink chocolatl, which gave it a spicy flavor. Fresh or dried leaves are also used as a tarragon substitute for flavoring soups and sauces. A pleasant anise-flavored tea is brewed using the dried leaves and flower heads. This is primarily used medicinally in Mexico and Central America.
A yellow dye can also be obtained from the flowers, and when the plant is dried and burnt, it is used as an incense and to repel insects.
In one study, methanolic extract from the flower inhibited growth of Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, and Candida albicans cultures. This effect was enhanced with exposure to ultraviolet light. The roots, stems, and leaves also had the same effect when irradiated with ultraviolet light.
The plant contains the following compounds:
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