All About Chamomile: The Herb of the Month for August 2015
Chamomile is most often thought of as a gentle relaxing herb for the end of the day. However, it offers many more beneficial actions! It’s a must-have in the home.
If there’s any herb I’ve come to appreciate more through my herbalism studies, it’s definitely chamomile.
I used to think of chamomile as little more than a mildly relaxing herb to use for children, during pregnancy, or after a hard day. For years I had no idea just how beneficial chamomile is!
I now realize that chamomile is an absolute must-have for any herbal medicine cabinet. It’s use as a gentle relaxant is still the most common one, but it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, wound healing, and anti-microbial actions deserve recognition, too.
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Chamomile is an annual plant that will self-sow, allowing it to occasionally return to the same place yearly. It has feathery true green leaves similar to the tops of carrots and small daisy-like flowers less than an inch across. The center of the flower head is yellow and is surrounded by thin white petals. As the flowers mature, the petals pull away from and drop behind the yellow center. If the flower heads are not removed, the petals eventually fall off, leaving only the enlarged yellow center containing many very small seeds.
The flower heads are used in herbalism, though it is common for some short stem pieces to be retained on the flower head.
Actions in the Body
- Chamomile is best known as a nervine, toning the nervous system and acting as a very mild sedative.
- Chamomile offers vulnerary, or wound-healing, properties, making it a beneficial botanical to consider for skin injuries.
- It also offers anti-spasmodic actions which can be useful for relaxing muscles through the body and even through the digestive system.
- It’s anti-inflammatory properties can benefit the entire body, particularly in the digestive and respiratory systems. Paired with its anticatarrhal (mucus-clearing) properties, chamomile becomes a beneficial herb for colds and allergies.
Chamomile is most often used in a simple tea or infusion. It has a pleasing flavor on its own that is agreeable to even young children. Approximately 1 scant tablespoon of dried flower heads can be infused in 8 ounces of freshly boiled water and allowed to steep for 10-30 minutes in a covered cup, then strained and taken up to 4 times a day.
Infusions can also be used topically on the skin as a compress. The herb can be infused in oil and used as calendula-infused oil is in lotions, salves, balms, and other skin care products.
Chamomile essential oil is a valuable addition to a family’s essential oil cabinet. It is an excellent anti-fungal agent and also helps to sooth and moisturize the skin. As with all essential oils, it should be diluted in a carrier oil for topical application.
Chamomile glycerite or tincture can be made for easy dosage, as well. It should be extracted at a rate of 1 part herb (grams) to 5 parts chosen menstruum (mLs). 1-4 mLs is the suggested dose of extract from the German Commission E, but this should be reduced if administered to children.
Those with allergies to the daisy (Asteraceae) family should use chamomile with caution in case of potential reaction, though true reactions to chamomile are rare.
Chamomile is considered completely safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and has been studied in such individuals extensively.
How have you used Chamomile in the past?
Hawkins, Jessie. Botanical Supplements, Vintage Remedies, Frankline, Tennessee. 2013. (found here).
Hawkins, Jessie. Botanical Medicine in the Home. Vintage Remedies, Franklin, Tennessee. 2013. (found here).
Hoffman, David. Medicinal Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont. 2003. (found here).