I start chamomile from seed, Matricaria Chamomilla or German Chamomile, and then divide the sets that come up, as the seeds are miniscule and next to impossible to plant spaced apart. I sprinkle them on the soil as I would salt or pepper, then lightly cover them. They germinate quickly and thickly, after which they grow fast and are easy to split up and transplant with more space between each plant, though I’ve noticed they do grow better with community support rather than well spaced out. Invariably, when I go to transplant them in the garden I discover last year’s chamomile has self seeded and grown as well so many of our garden beds enjoy chamomiles cheerful heads.
I love the scent of chamomile and find myself drawn to whiff deeply from it even before it blooms, just knees and nose to the ground buried in feathery leaves, and in the blink of an eye I feel uplifted and settled.
I gather chamomile blossoms and leaves when they have no dew on them, leave them in the basket to wilt slightly, then cover in extra-virgin olive oil and infuse six weeks. This oil is then used in salves and balms primarily, sometimes when I make soap I’ll use it in part.
When there’s a profusion of chamomile, I dry bundles for infusing as tea later in the year, and while it’s growing I add it fresh to other herbs such as oatstraw and fresh lemon verbena to infuse in the moment and enjoy.
I have made soap with chamomile infusion in place of water, have adorned the tops of loaves with dried chamomile devoid of potency, and also tried it as a compost activator with yarrow and nettle with marvelous results.
Chamomile in a cup sipped feels as though it reaches out and touches all the farthest nerves, such as in my feet, and soothes them with a lightness that is different to Valerians’ heavy-limb-relaxing touch. It always improves my mood in subtle ways that I notice as increased laughter and joy, a sunny herb indeed, sunshine in a cup.
For one of my children, I have employed chamomile as an aid in homeopathic form when he worked himself up into a fevered state of hysteria while teething and had to be walked, rocked, and held while in motion for hours on end.
Also, as a toddler when he was teething and complaining in a non-stop low whine, demanding this that and the other but not satisfied with anything given and would then move on to something else asked for most truculently . . . and I thought, “he doesn’t really know what he wants but he knows he wants something so this is how he’s communicating and it’s frustrating us both and exhausting us both,” I turned to chamomile.
Indeed, this particular one of my children has partaken of chamomile for teething and also once when we were In Melbourne and went to the beach, where he thoroughly enjoyed himself soaking both sun and water and afterward was fretful with a coming going fever: homeopathic chamomile to the rescue.
Chamomile combined with catnip is a personal favorite of mine for high fevers as a hot tea, very effective.
We all enjoy sipping a short infusion of dried chamomile and oatstraw in the evenings, especially after a heavy meal. When my mother came to visit and my children quite young, they loved having tea parties with her, one at a time, and chamomile was a staple herb that they’d brew in the teapot for their tête-à-têtes.
I have to date never made a tincture of chamomile.
Botanical Name: Matricaria Chamomilla, Anthemis Nobilis
Common Names: Chamomile, Manzanilla, Maythem, Pineapple Weed, Mayweed, Baldur’s Brow
Habitat and Growing Conditions:
Chamomile is a low growing perennial with flowering stalks on branching stems that grow up to a foot high. The leaves are feathery and reminiscent of yarrow in their thread like appearance.
It prefers ordinary well-draining soil and sunny areas where it self-seeds happily. Flowers bloom in late summer, July through September, and the blooms have small yellow mounded centers, plump and cushiony, with a ring of white petals encircling them. The whole plant has an enchanting and fresh scent that is uplifting.
It is native to temperate parts of Asia, North Africa, and Europe, and is one of the most revered medicinal garden plants from ancient times onward.
It gets its name, Chamomile, from a fusion of the Greek ‘kamai’ meaning on the ground and ‘melon’ meaning ground-apple. The Spanish called it Manzanilla, which means little apple.
The fragrance, more so of Roman than German, is a cross between apple blossoms and pineapple, perhaps where it gets the name Pineapple Weed from.
Chamomile was sacred to the Saxons, who called it Maythem. The Norse called it Baldur’s Brow, and they used it as a wash to cleanse women post-partum.
Nicholas Culpeper, in his Complete Herbal, mentions that the Egyptians dedicated this herb to the Sun.
The varieties of Chamomile, often used interchangeably in herbalism, are Matricaria Chamomilla aka Matricaria Recutita (German Chamomile) and Anthemis Nobilis (Roman Chamomile).
In European cultures, during the month of May, chamomile, mugwort, thyme, sweet woodruff, ground ivy, and other aromatics were gathered to build sweet scented lovemaking nests.
Arab herbalists made an oil from the flowers, indeed chamomile essential oil is blue from the azulene content and highly prized, as well as costly. The German Chamomile has greater concentrations of azulene than Roman.
Chamomile is useful in the compost heap and speeds up decomposition combined with nettle and yarrow, acting as an activator.
It is a complementary companion plant, enhancing the health of nearby plants. Cucumbers planted with chamomile thrive.
Medicinal Actions and Properties:
Aromatic, bitter, tonic, stomachic, anodyne, diaphoretic, anti-spasmodic, astringent, emmenagogue, nervine, anti-allergenic.
Its energetics are sweet, pungent, cooling, oily.
Chamomile has amino acids, fatty acids, bitters, coumarins, a blue volatile oil called azulene, flavonoids, and mucilage.
Chamomile is full of antioxidants, in addition to being a relaxing, immunostimulant with a particular affinity for afflictions of the digestive tract such as flatulence, colic, cramps, and bloating. It is known as a Band-Aid for the stomach.
It has assimilable calcium, which may be why it is of such use for teething babies and toothache.
Irritation, constriction, stagnation.
Liver, Stomach, and Lungs.
This carefree and fragrant herb is a pleasant nervine tonic and makes for an easy tea to sip on. It is often used for fevers to both relax and also bring heat to the skins surface.
For headaches, those that come with flu as well as tension headaches, a damp rag on the forehead, a mug of hot chamomile and hops tea that has 5 drops of either skullcap or valerian tincture in it, with the feet soaking in a super-hot infusion of chamomile, hops, and rosemary is a process that is very effective and relaxing.
Chamomile soothes and relaxes, and as such has calming effects on the person with a sunny and cheerful disposition when healthy, but becomes whiny, petulant, and quarrelsome when afflicted. In situations when pain is not severe in comparison to the severity of the complaints about it being unbearable, chamomile presents itself.
It is especially useful for toothache and teething in babies, and tooth related eruptions in toddlers.
Also, for young children who cannot talk, and whine, cry, and express themselves by clinging to communicate their state, needing to be in motion by way of being carried, rocked, and walked around until the person doing so is exhausted, chamomile is effective.
During pregnancy pre-labor, it soothes, calms, and settles the nerves, easing tension, when there is an over-excited response to circumstances and a feeling of stuckness.
For the frolicking person who runs out on a sunny spring day and over-exerts herself, heating up while catching a cool breeze, then returns with intermittent fever, this herb is useful.
Poultice of one handful chamomile, handful poppy seed, and a handful linseed crushed, mixed to a paste with boiling water, then applied is said to provide pain relief and reduce tumors.
Try the flowers and leaves as a seasoning for cabbage and broccoli, both these vegetables can lead to flatulence and perhaps the presence of chamomile, a stomachic, neutralizes their tendency toward building gas.
4 tbsp. dried flowers to a pint of water, boiled and simmered for 30 minutes, then cooled and used as a hair rinse for blondes brings out sunny golden highlights. Hair must be washed and clean, and the tea caught and repeated as a rinse until gone.
Fresh preparations of tea and tincture are relaxant and nervine, preserving the volatile oils.
Dry plant preparations, as infusion and tincture, are bitter and stomachic.
A Modern Herbal Volume 1, Maude Grieves p. 185-187
The Earthwise Herbal, Volume I: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants, Matthew Wood, p. 177-182
The Way of Herbs, Michael Terra, p.110
Common Herbs for Natural Health, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, p. 37
Gardening with The Goddess, Patricia Telesco, p. 77
Witchcraft Medicine, Claudia Muller-Ebeling, Christian Ratsch, and Wolf-Dieter Storl, p. 64
Sleeping with A Sunflower, Louise Riotte, p. 76
The Quick Return Method of Compost Making, Gardeners Book Club Series 2, #4, Maye E. Bruce, p. 71-74
The Complete Herbal, Nicholas Culpeper, p. 39