Chamomile

chamomile in bloom

Botanical: Matricaria recutita

Family: Asteraceae

Parts Used: flowering tops
Energetics: cool, dry
Actions: anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, carminative, digestive, nervine, vulnerary
Common Names Bodegold, Camomile, Chamomile, Common chamomile, German chamomile, Roman Chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, Sweet false chamomile, Wild chamomile

Chamomile is one of the most ancient medicinal herbs known to mankind. The word Chamomile is based in ancient Greek and means roughly, “earth apple” and is used to describe an assorted variety of different daisy-looking plants, that are members of the Asteraceae family. There are at least seven different species of chamomile, represented by two common varieties viz. German (Marticaria recutita) and Roman (Chamaemelum nobile). They have been used to the tune of 1,000,000 cups per day (yes, you read that right, ONE MILLION) for their calming and anti-inflammatory properties.

This herb is an age-old medicinal herb known in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The plant’s popularity grew throughout the Middle Ages when people turned to it as a remedy for numerous medical complaints including asthma, colic, fevers, inflammations, nausea, nervous complaints, children’s ailments, skin diseases and cancer. As a popular remedy, it may be thought of as the European counterpart of the Chinese tonic Ginseng.[1]

Culinary Uses for Chamomile

Most people use the blooms, as the bright yellow centers have a mild, apple-like flavor.

  • Brown a few crushed or dried chamomile flowers in hot butter, then stir them into oatmeal or other hot cereal.
  • Make acordial with apple brandy, a small amount of honey and a few fresh or dried chamomile flowers. You can also add orange, lemon, overripe berries, cinnamon sticks or even peppercorns. Allow the mixture to sit overnight to let the flavor develop, then strain. Place the cordial in a clean glass bottle or jar and store it in the refrigerator. Pour the cordial over ice cream or use it as a glazed on desserts.
  • Add a small amount of chamomile flowers to the crunchy topping next time you make apple, peach or berry crisp.
  • Create a liqueur by mixing dried chamomile flowers with vodka and small amounts of honey and lemon zest. Let the liqueur infuse for two to four weeks, then strain well.
  • Infuse the flowers in almond oil. Use the chamomile oil for salads or fish dishes, or mix it in mayonnaise to add flavor to sandwiches.
  • Add a few blooms to add color and flavor to a fresh green salad. You can also use leaves, although they may have a somewhat bitter flavor.
  • Make a relaxing tea. Stir two to three tablespoons of crushed chamomile flowers in a cup of boiling water. Allow the tea to steep for five to 10 minutes, then strain and drink. Add honey and lemon to taste, if you like.
  • They are a real treat in desserts like these Lemon Chamomile Shortbread Cookies

Food Republic notes that…

It may surprise you just how many things you can do with chamomile. For example, at Juni in Manhattan, pastry chef Mina Pizzaro infuses the flower into ice cream, highlighted with yuzu and ginger. To get the flavor of the chamomile out of the plant and into the dessert, Pizzaro steeps it in cream for hours prior to churning. “The flavor lends a natural gentle sweetness and pleasant floral notes to the dessert,” she says, adding that the spiciness of ginger and acidity of yuzu help to strike a perfect balance.

Chamomile works in non-dessert applications as well, as chef Craig Richards has done in Atlanta at St. Cecilia. His pièce de résistance: scallop crudo with chamomile-celery oil. “We decided to use chamomile because it’s a unique ingredient you don’t see very often in savory cooking,” he says. “It brings another element of acidity and herbal flavor that plays very well with raw fish, especially the natural sweetness of the raw scallop.” Richards has developed a technique for extracting the plant’s flavor as well. “We blend it for an extended period of time so that it heats up in the blender and releases its essential oil.” He also suggests making a dried chamomile and salt rub for fish and throwing some fresh blossoms in a spring salad. [2]

Both German and Roman chamomile are used commercially to flavor alcoholic beverages, such as Benedictine and vermouth, and confectionery, candy, ice cream, baked goods, desserts, and chewing gum.

Cosmetic Uses for Chamomile

Chamomile, closely related to the daisy, has become one of the most popular herbal remedies in the world, with an extremely broad range of applications and uses, both internally and externally.

For example, it is used in a great many cosmetic creams and lotions, and combined with other herbs to create aromatic bathing experiences. When used in such external manners, it is prized for its volatile oils. A great and powerful herb that tones, has a calming quality, improves tissue regeneration and soothes the skin

Chamomile tea is an excellent rinse for fine hair, especially during hot weather – just be sure to strain it well before using! It is also famed for lightening hair, which is why it is frequently used in shampoos for blonde hair.

Using Chamomile for Wellness

Chamomile has been used for centuries in teas as a mild, relaxing sleep aid, treatment for fevers, colds, stomach ailments, and as an anti-inflammatory, to name only a few therapeutic uses. It may be used internally or externally. Extensive scientific research over the past 20 years has confirmed many of the traditional uses for the plant and established pharmacological mechanisms for the plant’s therapeutic activity, including anti-peptic, antispasmodic, anti-pyretic, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-allergenic activity.

Recent and on-going research has identified chamomile’s specific anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, muscle relaxant, antispasmodic, anti-allergenic and sedative properties, validating its long-held reputation. This attention appears to have increased the popularity of the herb and nowadays Chamomile is included as a drug in the pharmacopoeia of 26 countries.

Paul Bergner founder of North American Institute of Herbalism, says that chamomile is… “rare in its qualities of being both a bitter digestive tonic and a relaxant/sedative, meaning that it has both the ability to tone the digestive organs and at the same time relax the nervous system.” [2]

Chamomile is a great plant for pollinators!

Using Chamomile

  • tea – used for lumbago, rheumatic problems and rashes/li>
  • salve – used for hemorrhoids and wounds
  • known to relieve restlessness, teething problems, and colic in children
  • known to relieve allergies, much as an antihistamine would
  • known to aid in digestion when taken as a tea after meals
  • known to relieve morning sickness during pregnancy
  • known to speed healing of skin ulcers, wounds, or burns
  • often used to treat gastritis and ulcerative colitis
  • known to reduce inflammation and facilitate bowel movement without acting directly as a purgative
  • often used as a wash or compress for skin problems and inflammations, including inflammations of mucous tissue
  • known to promote general relaxation and relieve stress – Animal studies show that it contains substances that act on the same parts of the brain and nervous system as anti-anxiety drugs.
  • useful when dealing with insomnia – It’s mildly sedating and muscle-relaxing effects may help those who suffer from insomnia to fall asleep more easily.
  • useful when dealing with diverticular disease, irritable bowel problems and various gastrointestinal complaints – It’s reported anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic actions relax the smooth muscles lining the stomach and intestine. The herb may therefore lend support to relieve nausea, heartburn, and stress-related flatulence. It may also be helpful in the treatment of diverticular disorders and inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease.
  • known to soothe skin rashes (including eczema), minor burns and sunburn – Used as a lotion or added in oil form to a cool bath, it may ease the itching of eczema and other rashes and reduces skin inflammation. It may also support the speed of healing and prevent bacterial infection.
  • useful when dealing with eye inflammation and infection – Cooled chamomile tea can be used in a compress to help soothe tired, irritated eyes and it may even help treat conjunctivitis
  • useful when dealing with mouth sores and gum disease – A mouthwash may help soothe mouth inflammations and keep gums healthy.
  • useful when dealing with menstrual cramps – Its believed ability to relax the smooth muscles of the uterus helps ease the discomfort of menstrual cramping.

Dose: steep 1-2 tablespoons dried flowers in a cup of hot water for 5-10 minutes, drink 3-4 cups/day; 3-6 mL 3x/day of a 1:5 tincture

*All doses come from the book Herbal Therapy and Supplements by David Winston and Merrily A. Kuhn.

Safety:

  • If you suffer from allergies to plants of the Asteraceae family (a large group including such flowers as daisies, ragweed, asters and chrysanthemums), you may wish to be cautious about using chamomile at first. While there have been isolated reports of allergic reactions, causing skin rashes and bronchial constriction, most people can use this herb with no problem.

FarmHomestead FB FarmHomestead twitter farmandhomestead pinterest farmhomestead mail