Chamomile

Chamomile is one of the most ancient medicinal herbs known to mankind.  Herbs have been integral to both traditional and non-traditional forms of medicine dating back at least 5000 years  and one of the most commonly used herbs for medicinal purposes is chamomile. Chamomile is one of the oldest, most widely used and well documented medicinal plants in the world and has been recommended for a variety of healing applications.

The name Chamomile comes from the Greek word meaning “ground apple.” Its history dates back to ancient Egypt, where Chamomile tea was prescribed as a cold remedy as well as to treat fevers caused by malaria. The Romans enjoyed it as a beverage, and to treat headaches and urinary tract disorders. During the Middle Ages, Chamomile was used in Europe as a diuretic and a tonic to manage pain and fatigue, and monks cultivated the plant for beer as well as for use in traditional herbal remedies. Chamomile became known as the "Plant's Physician," because planting chamomile near other species of ailing plants would aid in the ailing plant’s recovery. It was later discovered that the scent of chamomile repels plant pests, thus protecting the chamomile as well as its neighbour plants.

Today there are many wide-ranging traditional remedies which employ Chamomile. These include everything from a cure for a cough,  a fever, inflammation of the skin, liver and gallbladder complaints to an appetite stimulator and a tonic for the prevention of nightmares. Chamomile also has immune boosting properties and helps in the fight against colds due to its antibacterial properties. 

How to make your own chamomile tea:

  • It’s easy to grow chamomile at home, either by buying a flowering plant, or planting your own in a window box or garden. Keep them in part shade to full sun, and once the flowers are in full bloom, get ready to harvest!
     
  • The flowers are ready to be harvested when the blooms are completely open and the white petals are fully extended. By harvesting the flowers at their peak point they will have the most essential oils and therefore the greatest medicinal value as well as taste.
     
  • It is best to harvest your chamomile flowers on a dry day- wet flowers might lead to your flowers turning mouldy. Pull or cut the flower heads off just below the head, being sure to leave behind any heads that have not come into bloom-these will be your very next crop. And by removing the blooming heads the chamomile plant will reward you with many, many more flowers.
     
  • You can also leave some stem on and tie them into bunches which you can then dry by hanging upside down. Then, once the chamomile is dry, remove the individual flowers off the stems. Those dried flower are what you will eventually boil to make your own tea. (Sift through them first to remove any dust or insects!)
     
  • Put the flower heads in a warm and dry place, such as a closet or covered with a apaer towel on a windowsill.
     
  • After they have dried thoroughly, put them in an airtight glass jar and keep away from the sun, in a cool dark place. Check after a couple of days, if there is condensation in the jar, the tea needs more drying time. If kept in a cool and dry location, your preserved chamomile will keep for a year.
     

How to brew chamomile tea:

For every cup of water you boil add 1 heaping teaspoon of dried chamomile. Remove the saucepan from the heat to cool the just-boiled water slightly (chamomile tea is best when steeped in hot - not boiling - water), and let the chamomile sit in the hot water, covered , for however long you like or until the liquid turns a pale yellow hue, at least 5 to 10 minutes (herbal teas tend to improve with longer steeping times to bring out their best flavour and fullest benefits). A bit of lemon really brings out the flavour!

Precautions for medicinal doses:

It's best to introduce any new herbal tea to your diet slowly. Drinking high amounts of strong chamomile tea in a short period of time may cause nausea or even vomiting, so watch for side effects, if this tea is new to you.

Check with your healthcare provider before drinking chamomile tea if you have asthma, as this herbal tea has been known to aggravate asthma.

If you are allergic to other plants in the same family such as daisy, ragweed, aster, chrysanthemum, or marigold you should use caution when using chamomile.

If you're a regular chamomile tea drinker and you have a medical or dental surgery coming up, ask your healthcare professional if this tea (which has blood-thinning properties) should be eliminated from your diet. Chamomile's blood-thinning properties may increase the effects of other medications or remedies that also thin the blood.

Because chamomile tea has mild sedative effects and may cause drowsiness, do not drink chamomile tea and drive! Chamomile is known as a uterine stimulant and, as such, may increase the risk of miscarriage. So, if you are planning to fall pregnant or are already expecting, avoid chamomile tea (either as a beverage or topically) altogether until you've checked with your healthcare provider.

Chamomile is also known to lower blood sugar levels. As such, it may interact with diabetic medications or other prescribed medications. If you are taking any prescription meds at all (including birth control pills), be sure to have a discussion with your healthcare professional about how this tea may affect or interact with your medication.