It’s a busy time of year for me right now, the beautiful sunshine here has been perfect drying weather and I’m a harvesting as much as I can and putting the herbs through their drying routine.
One of my herbs that gives and gives the more you take and take is german chamomile (Matricaria recutita). I hand pick the flower heads every couple of days, it’s a lovely job, if not slightly tedious but at least it smells good! But no matter how much you take, when you dry it, it looks like nothing, so you’ve got to harvest all those multiple times to actually get a decent amount!
German chamomile is the preferred chamomile for herbalists as it is less bitter than roman chamomile (Chamomillia nobile), though they both have the same therapeutic effects.
Differences; Roman chamomile is low growing and can be used for scented pathways and/or ground cover, doesn’t even mind the odd mow. Smells like apples in the nicest way!
German chamomile can get quite tall, up to about a meter in light dry soils, in heavier soils and if it gets maybe too much water for it own good it can fall over and get a bit sprawly. In a dedicated spot this is ok but not if its going to fall over plants that would rather have a bit of space to shine.
The flowers are both classic daisies but on closer inspection quite different from each other.
Roman is bigger and flatter.
Whereas Germans’ yellow centre turns into real dome and its white petals will rise more obviously with the sun.
There is also a non-flowering chamomile called trenague chamomile that you find mentioned in gardening books as a good ground cover without bee stings. So far I have not found it outside the pages of a book or magazine in New Zealand. Because it doesn’t flower you won’t be able to get seeds so it would have to be grown from division.
Out there in the wild countryside (or your garden) you may notice a plant that looks a helluva like chamomile. And it is! But before you get out there with your harvesting basket, take a smell… does it smell nice? Reminiscent of apples or some other pleasantness? Ahh, it doesn’t does it? That’s because it is Matricaria inodora, Scentless chamomile. Won’t make a nice tea.
There’s also chamomiles bald cousin Matricaria matricarioides, Rayless chamomile – again, just leave it on that old gravel driveway you found it on.
Ok, so you’ve got the right chamomile for your garden or you’ve bought your already prepared dried chamomile flowers from me; what is it good for?
Well, me oh my, what is it not good for!
For those in the know, chamomiles actions are; Anti-spasmodic, carminative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, vulnerary, aromatic, bitter, diaphoretic, emmenagogoue, nervine, sedative, tonic.
Which means for the lay person that it is very very relaxing for mind body and soul.
As a tea or a tincture chamomile can help cramps, pain and discomfit. It can calm anxiety and nervousness – for a double banger have a cuppa in a bath that also has a cuppa in it – failing that, put the children in the bath with said cuppa and have something else!
Chamomile is wonderful for children, not just in the bath for those fractious times but also on a teaspoon for teething babies or in a bottle/sippy cup for restless or hyper-active toddlers. Chamomile is also great for healing skin, making a balm out of the flowers makes a great gift for a new baby and his/her mama, go here for my recipe.
Externally it can sooth and relax smooth muscle (muscles you have little control over like your digestive muscles) think colic, wind, general sore puku, nervous indigestion and heartburn. Can I just say here though, don’t brew your tea too long hey, 5 minutes does the trick in my book or it can taste a bit eughh, like green tea brewed too long. Onwards!
It’s anti-inflammatariness (did I make that word up??!) Helps relieve gastritis and pepetic ulcers, colitis and IBS.
Ladies listen up..
The name matricaria comes from matrix meaning mother or womb. Chamomile for all stages of your life… Daughter; helpful for restful sleeps, absent periods due to stress or psychological problems such as anorexia nervosa… Maiden; relax and relieve painful periods, premenstrual headaches and migraines… Mother/midwife; digestive remedy for morning sickness, drunk throughout labour it can relax tension and lessen the pain of contractions, help relieve mastitis… Amazon; can help reduce menopausal symptoms… Crone; rheumatic and gout pains, its anti-inflammatory properties help resolve conditions such as arthritis.
This is really just a brief over-view (nor complete) of how Chamomile can make your life better and I haven’t even gone into its wonderfulness as a flower remedy, aromatherapy oil or homeopath! Feel free to comment below on how you use chamomile in your life~
Go get a little ray of sunshine!