By Heather Harris, Contributing Writer
When we talk about chamomile (Matricaria recutita), we are talking of what consists of the fresh or dried flower heads.
Also known as “ground apples”, “garden chamomile” or “pin heads”, they are a lovely, daisy like flowering herb that is one of the most popular tea flavors in the world. Its benefits are widely known and it has been used for millenia. This apple-like scented herb was first used by the ancient Egyptians and its name in Greek literally means “ground apple”.
Herb Profile: Chamomile
Chamomile enjoys a reputation of being anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and having calming properties. Most commonly used as a tea, it can also be used as a poultice, or in semi-solid preparations like salves and balms.
Chamomile is very easy to grow in your backyard garden. It only needs some moist soil and full sun. It can spread like wildfire, and can come back year after year. The bees will love this flowering herb and you can enjoy the fragrant blossoms before harvest. Chamomile will also grow well in a container on the front porch, balcony or even in a sunny windowsill. To harvest these beauties, simply cut the flowering heads as they are in full bloom.
Uses for Chamomile
You can enjoy them fresh in a tea, or dry them in a low oven (150) for 5-6 hours and store in an air tight container for later.
To enjoy as an herbal tea, take 1/4 cup of the fresh flowers, or 4-6 grams of dried flowers and steep in 16 ounces of boiling water. Steep for 5-8 minutes, then strain the herbs and sweeten to taste. Chamomile also mixes well with peppermint, rose hips and lemon balm for calming and enjoyable teas. You can give cooled chamomile tea to a child 6 months of age or older for stomach upsets such as colic. The only people who should NOT use chamomile are those allergic to ragweed, as they are in the same family.
Chamomile’s benefits can also be enjoyed in preparations for the skin. To make a skin soothing salve with chamomile, you will need:
- 6 grams of dried flowers (or 1/4 cup fresh flowers)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 2 Tablespoons beeswax (optional, but it will be more solid with beeswax).
- Simply add the flowers to melted coconut oil and place in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then strain the herb matter out of the oil. Add the beeswax and return to oven to allow the beeswax to melt. Stir to combine and place in an airtight container. You can use an old glass jar, an old mint tin, or even old lip balm containers to store in. Label with ingredients used and date prepared. The shelf life is approximately 6-8 months, if stored in cool, dry conditions. This salve is great for diaper rash, sunburned skin, dry skin and leaves your lips feeling soft and smooth.
- As you can see, chamomile is an easy herb to grow and is safe for nearly anyone to use.
What is your favorite use for chamomile?