Chamomile is a super useful herb, though a bit of a tricky one with all the different varieties and various common names for each variety. The name Chamomile refers to several species in the family Asteraceae (daisies, sunflowers, etc). The two most commonly used are Roman Chamomile (often called English Chamomile) and German Chamomile. These are two different and distinct plants, Chamaemelum nobile (sometimes going by the old genus name Anthemis) or Roman Chamomile and Matricaria recutita (German Chamomile). Though many of the properties of this herb are the same, there are noticeable differences, so be sure to note which is which (I will do my best to differentiate between them when necessary).
History of use:
Over the centuries, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans have all used and even revered Chamomile. The Egyptians compared the sunny daisy flowers to the sun and dedicated it to their sun god, Re (Ra). Among the Anglo-Saxons it was one of the Nine Sacred Herbs. The Greeks gave it the name Kamaimelon, due to the apple-like smell it (Roman chamomile) releases when walked upon. Pliny the Elder, one of the most famous of Roman naturalists (and wrote alot about herbs) was said to have recommended it to his students. During the Middle ages, it was used in place of hops in the production of beer. In Spain chamomile is called Manzanilla as is used to flavor a variety of sherry (good stuff–if you don’t mind sherry!!). In the children’s story The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter, Mrs. Rabbit gives Peter “One table-spoonful to be taken at bedtime.”
Roman Chamomile (click for img) is a perennial that prefers cool summers (sometimes called lawn chamomile as well). It has a creeping, branching stems, with a fibrous root. Flowers have a bract between the florets and a solid cone in the center. Roman chamomile originates from northwestern Europe and Northern Ireland, where it creeps close to the ground. It has grayish green leaves and flowers that look like mini daisies. The flowers smell like apples.
German chamomile is native to Europe, and has become common in the U.S. where it grows as a weed in most environments. It has feathery, bright green, fern-like leaves. Flowers have a hollow cone in the center. German Chamomile can usually be cut a couple of times during the growing season because it takes only a few weeks to make a new crop of flowers. Leaving the last crop of flowers to go to seed will help ensure the sprouting of German Chamomile seedlings everywhere next spring.
Neither plant is well suited for indoor growth.
Generally propagated by rood division, though can be seeded. Roman chamomile is a perennial, and will return each season. It does best in well-drained, slightly acidic, moderately fertile soil, with a recommended pH range of 5.5 to 8.0. It needs consistent moisture and about six hours of sun a day. It can grow to ten inches or more when in bloom. Roman chamomile can be grown as a ground cover in areas without consistent foot traffic.
During the 1800′s, seats were created by piling soil into a desired shape and planting chamomile over it, often this was incorporated with some sort of stone backing, etc to make a seat of sorts. This was then kept trimmed or mown. When sat upon, the crushed chamomile was supposed to let off a fantastic smell. Non flowering varieties of chamomile can also be sued for this, as well as for a ground cover.
German chamomile is an annual that reaches 1 to 2 feet tall and is grown from seed. It prefers a poor, clay soil with a pH between 4.5 to 7.5, and full sun. Plant outdoors as early in the spring as possible. While generally seeded directly, they supposedly transplant easily when seedlings are one to two inches tall (but not if you are me… )
Harvesting and preparation:
Remove flowers with stem tips when they are in full bloom, when petals are beginning to turn back from the center, and allow them to dry. If the flowers are infested with insects (a common problem), spread the flower heads on a baking tray and bake at about 60 C or 150 Ffor 30 minutes, then sift carefully through a colander.
Alternate method for German Chamomile:
Pull the entire flowering plant at full flower and cut off the root and any brown parts. Tie bundles of the plant and put them into large paper bags with the flowers pointed downwards. Cut air vents in the sides of the bags, but make sure to keep the bottoms whole. Hang up to dry. After about a week they should be dry, give the bag a shake or two to knock loose any flowers still attached or caught in the bundles. When the plant has dried, the flowers fall out in the bottom of the bag and can be collected.
Tip: Do not delay harvesting Roman chamomile, the flowers lose their flavor once they start to darken.
The German Comission E has approved chamomile for gastrointestinal cramps and skin and mucus membrane inflamation. Chamomile is/has been also traditionally used a relaxant, digestive aid, to relieve colic and teething pain in infants, and to promote wound healing. It can be used internally as well as externally.
The flowers of chamomile provide 1-2% volatile oils containing alpha-bisabolol, alpha-bisabolol oxides A & B, and matricin (usually converted to chamazulene).
Other active constituents include the bioflavonoids apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin.
(these are the recommended dosages for German Chamomile…for Roman Chamomile try here–> http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/roman-chamomile-000233.htm )
Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 – 3 heaping tblsp. (2 – 4 g) of dried herb, steep 10 – 15 minutes. Drink three to four times per day between meals.
Tincture (1:5, 45% alcohol): Take 1 – 3 mL (100 – 150 drops) of tincture three times per day in hot water.
Capsules: 300 – 400 mg taken three times per day.
Gargle or mouthwash: Make a tea as above, then let it cool. Gargle as often as desired.
Inhalation: Add a few drops of essential oil of chamomile to hot water (or use tea) and inhale the steam to calm a cough.
Bath: Use 1/4 lb of dried flowers per bath, or add 5 – 10 drops of essential oil to a full tub of water to soothe hemorrhoids, cuts, eczema, or insect bites.
Poultice: Make a paste by mixing powdered herb with water and apply to inflamed skin.
Cream: Apply cream with a 3 – 10% crude drug chamomile content for psoriasis, eczema, or dry and flaky skin.
Traditionally, the dose suggested for children under 18 is one-half the adult dose. Children under 5 should not take more than half a cup of tea per day.
To relieve colic: 1 – 2 oz. of tea per day. Your doctor may recommend other preparations.
At home, we would make an 8 oz cup of chamomile tea (fennel can be used if you suspect a chamomile allergy), then transfer 2 oz into bottles and dilute it to 4 oz, then sweeten it with Karo’s Light Corn Syrup (which is good for both constipation and colic) or apple juice, we give it to Sophie when she is colicky, constipated, or inconsolably cranky—takes about 20-30 min to go into effect and then it works like a charm.
Now we make chamomile infused warm (organic whole with DHA) milk for her night time bottle…it generally results in a better sleeping baby for the night.
Warning: NEVER sweeten ANYTHING that you are going to give to a child under the age of 2 with honey as they can get infant botulism, which can be life threatening due to their immature immune systems
Generally considered safe, side effects from chamomile are rare. It is advised to advoid use with pregnancy (though this differs from no use at all to not using internally to not using as a tincture or essential oil, depending on the source), asthma, allergies to ragweed, sunflowers or daises, or birch tree pollen, certian medications especially drugs (this includes alcohol) and blood thinners (which is why you should ALWAYS discuss using an herbal remedy with your physician prior to use). In large doses, chamomile can cause vomiting.
Culinary:Roman chamomile foliage can be chopped and stirred into butter or sour cream that is used to top baked potatoes. The flower petals of both Romanand German chamomile can be added to salads. Chamomile can also be made into an herbal beer.
Try a relaxing bath or footbath. Make a facial rinse to condition skin by simmering 2 teaspoons dried flowers in 8 ounces of water for 15 minutes, or include the essential oil in a facial steam. Bring out highlights in blonde or light brown hair with a chamomile herbal rinse. A tincture of chamomile and elderflower on a washcloth or cottonballs placed on the eyes will refresh tired or puffy eyes. Add chamomile tea and a bit of yogurt to ground oats and use as a facial mask.
Roman Chamomile produces a beautiful golden dye for cloth (seen it, but never tried it) and also for handmade paper. Also Roman Chamomile is supposed to repel insects, either as the planted or dried variety.
Though primairly a medicinal herb, chamomile does have several magickal uses.
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs states: “Chamomile is used to attract money and a hand wash of the infusion is sometimes used by gamblers to ensure winnings. It is used in sleep and meditation incenses, and the infusion is also added to the bath to attract love.”
Uses: Abundance, Money, Sleep, Love, Purification
Recipes and Spells:
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon dried chamomile
1/2 teaspoon valerian extract
Simmer ginger in water for 5 min and strain. Steep chamomile in water then stir in valerian before drinking. Leave out the valerian, and use if you have mild craming and discomfort.
Stress Relief Tea
1 qt water
3 teaspoon chamomile
2 teaspoon lavander
2 teaspoon catmint
Boil water. Pour over herbs and steep about 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey, lots of honey.
To help with sleep, add 2-3 teaspoon dried passionflower and drink 30-45 minutes prior to bed time.
1/3 c green tea
1/3 c dried chamomile
1/3 c dried calendula
Bring water and herbs together to a boil, then remove from heat and steep 20-30 min. Strain and add to cool bath. Soak for 20-30 min a day for several days.
Good only for 2-4 days.
Place 1 cup of warm milk in a bowl. The milk must be kept warm throughout, however it must never boil and a skin must not form on the milk. The easiest way to accomplish this is by placing the bowl over a saucepan of hot water.
Add 3 tablespoons fresh chamomile flowers. Stir gently from time to time so as not to break up the flowers. Infuse until the milk smells strongly of chamomile. Strain into glass jars.
Excellent for oily skin
1 tablespoon dried, crushed chamomile flowers
1 table spoon fresh, minced mint
1 egg yolk
Mix well. Apply to the face, rest for 10 minutes and rinse off.
Cooling Lip Balm
4 tablespoons sweet almond oil
1 tablespoon grated beeswax
1 teaspoon honey
10 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops chamomile essential oil
Using a double boiler melt beeswax into sweet almond oil. Quickly stir in honey while removin from heat. Stir in essential oil. Pour in container (recycle carmex pots or other lip balm containers) and allow to cool. Optional, add a bit of 100% cocoa butter and/or vitamin E oil.
1/4 c chamomile flowers
1/4 c peppermint leaves
1 quart boiling water
1 tablespoon Epsom salts
Steep herbs for about an hour. Stir in Epsom salts. Soak feet 15 to 20 minutes. (Optional: add some tea tree oil, especially if you are prone to athletes foot) Enjoy!!
4 tsp dried chamomile ( or 2 chamomile tea bags)
2 tsp dried lavender
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup mild shampoo, such as baby shampoo
Pour the boiling water over the chamomile and steep for 30 minutes, strain, then mix into the shampoo and use as usual.
12 oz chamomile
4 oz ground ginger
4 oz cream of tartar
35 grains saccharine 550
2½ lbs sugar
2 oz burnt sugar
10 gallons water
4 tbsp yeast
Infuse chamomile and ginger in 5 gallons of boiling water for 15 minutes in a covered container. Strain and pour onto the sugar and sacharine. Stir till dissolved. Add burnt sugar, cream of tartar, and 5 gallons of cold water. Mix well, add the yeast and leave overnight. In the morning, skim off yeast and bottle.
Healthy Child, Whole Child by Ditchek and Greenfield
Herbal Medicine by Buchman
Kohler’s Medizinal Pflanzen (the illustrations are AWESOME!!! ) via the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Rare Book Library
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs