Marigolds are nutritious and full of health benefits for both people and pets. Easily grown here in Dayton, marigolds have leaves which are pleasantly peppery, and I have never found a rabbit who did not like them. What IS news is the fact that small pets also love them dried!
I was recently fortunate enough to be offered the marigold shrubs of a good friend and gardener who was clearing them out to plant spring bulbs. These marigolds were huge! In fact, there were too many marigolds for my rabbits to keep up with. I decided to try drying them, figuring I could make tea out of them if nothing else.
As it turns out, the rabbits seem to think this is some sort of exotic new hay. They greedily eat the dried marigolds with even more gusto than the fresh plants. The dried leaves fall apart in their mouth, making this a perfect choice for a rabbit having chewing difficulties while awaiting a dental appointment. (I have such a rabbit currently, and these dried leaves are one of the few things he will eat).
After harvesting the plants, trim off the blooms (dried and fresh) and save some of them for planting next year. Make some ointment (see recipe below) with some of them. You can hang the plants upside down in bundles to dry, spread them out on newspapers or paper towels, or put them in the dehydrator for a few hours. Once completely dry, they can be stored in a zip lock bag.
Marigolds have many health benefits
Marigolds have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antispasmodic properties; they are a good adjunct (additional) therapy for treating infections and inflammations. They are high in vitamins C and A as well.
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 marigold plants which have not been treated with pesticides.
The autumn frosts are upon us here in the Miami Valley, so if you have any marigolds left, you may wish to harvest and begin drying them for use over the winter.
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