“….. Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some chamomile tea and she gave a dose of it to Peter.”
– from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Chamomile is one of the most soothing and safest of all medicinal herbs; it is used for a whole variety of disorders. Throughout history, chamomile has been used by all of the worlds’ ancient cultures. German chamomile (matricaria recutita) has traditionally been the most commonly used for medicinal purposes although the Roman variety is also beneficial. Chamomile can be traced back to the Egyptians who associated the herb with their Sun-God Ra and sacrificed the flowery herb in their rituals. The original of the word comes from the Greek word ‘kamai melon’ which means ‘ground apple’, as the rich golden blossoms of the plant smell like freshly cut apples. The herb was also known as “the Plant’s Physician” because when planted next to an ailing plant, the other plant would recover quickly and grow normally.
As a tea, it can be taken daily for nervous stress and as an aide for restful sleep. Chamomile is a gentle yet powerful medicinal plant due to its effects on the nervous and digestive systems and its anti-inflammatory action. Chamomile soothes a nervous stomach, relieves indigestion and flatulence. It is also a calmative for menstrual pain and frayed nerves. Externally chamomile speeds the healing process for wounds. It rejuvenates hair and skin texture. It is especially good as a rinse for blonde hair.
Just breathing the flowery aroma of chamomile tea has a pacifying affect. Its mild and relaxing properties make it a wonderful tea to drink daily; early morning on an empty stomach, or before bedtime are perfect ways to benefit from chamomile.
German Chamomile seeds can be planted in either fall or spring. When planted in fall, seeds are exposed to freezing and thawing which increases the chance of propagation. Be sure to leave some flower heads unpicked so the plant will reseed itself. Chamomile likes sun, but also needs lots of watering during periods of strong sun.
Carefully harvest the flower tops for drying when the petals turn back on the disk. One easy way to dry petals is put them in a brown paper bag and leave in your car. Depending on the season, the heads and petals are soon ready to transfer into a glass jar for storage. Chamomile’s bittersweet flavor stimulates the gastric juices so the longer the flowers are infused, the more its bitter properties are released. Thus, steep blossoms 20 minutes or longer for liver and digestive issues; 5 to 10 minutes for a relaxing bedtime tea.
So take the time to make yourself a soothing cup of chamomile tea at this time of changing seasons.