Marigolds May Hold Clues to Parkinson’s Disease Cures

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By Jill Brooke

Here’s some good news for flower lovers about the healing impact of marigolds.

Compounds extracted from marigold flowers may be useful in treating Parkinson’s disease, according to a study done in laboratory models.

How great is that? We know how flowers are mentally healing but once again science proves its medicinal powers too.

 “Active compounds from Calendula officinalis flowers act via PI3K and ERK signaling pathways to offer neuroprotective effects against Parkinson’s disease,” the researchers wrote in Food Science & Nutrition.

The plant Calendula officinalis, also known as the pot marigold or Jin Zhan Ju has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine.

In this study, scientists in China and Ukraine tested the effects of an extract from this plant in a zebrafish model of Parkinson’s. The fish larvae were treated with MPTP, a chemical that’s toxic to dopaminergic neurons — the nerve cells that become dysfunctional and die in Parkinson’s.

As Marisa Wexler, who studies cancer biology, and immunology wrote, the “study suggested that SH-SY5Y cell damage was reversed by DA, IG and CE treatment, indicating their potential protective effects on dopaminergic neurons,” the researchers wrote. (SH-SY5Y cells are a line of dopaminergic neurons commonly used for lab studies.)

Further computer-based analyses and cellular experiments suggested that these compounds could activate the activity of a protein called Hsp90 alpha; they also activated a molecular signaling pathway called PI3K/Akt while simultaneously blocking another signaling pathway called ERK. These changes in molecular signaling might help explain how these plant compounds exert protective effects in dopaminergic neurons, the researchers said.

That is the scientific explanation. But what this means is flowers continue to be studied and reveal surprising and helpful clues to better the human experience. In fact, marigolds were not only going to be the U.S. national flower – losing to the rose – but are part of holiday traditions such as Day of the Dead and Diwali. As Diwali is all about good over evil, light over darkness, and most importantly knowledge over ignorance, happy that this flower is the messenger for such positive psychology.

Pass this on to anyone who loves marigolds or who navigates this disease and would welcome this promising news.

As Luther Burbank said, “Flowers are conscious, intelligent forces. They have been given to us for our happiness and our healing.”


Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD and a contributor to Florists Review magazine.

Photo Credit: Top – Eliza Gran, Bottom, Rachel Cho Florals