Getting to know: Chamomile

Getting to know: Chamomile
Chamomile comes from the same family as daisy (Astereraceae). The most prevalent types that we see in use today would be German and Roman (Matricaria recutita and Chamaemelum nobile, respectively) chamomile. Here in the United States, we mostly enjoy the German variety, while our friends in the United Kingdom choose the Roman. Chamomile plants grow best with full sun exposure, but can also benefit from partial shade. This is likely due to the ability of the plant to thrive, even in conditions where water may be a little scarce. The ability to grow in a range of conditions, while not dominating the surrounding soil, is likely why chamomile is known as the “plant's physician”.

In North America, as mentioned, we mostly use (Matricaria recutita), which is actually native to Europe, and parts of Asia. Initially seeds must be sown in the spring (not before the final frost, which can destroy the plants, especially in early stages). After the initial seed laying, chamomile is able to self-sow, dropping seeds for the next season, after it reaches about 3 feet in height. While the Roman (native to North Africa and Europe) variety is more low-growing and is also a perennial, it has a larger flower than its German counterpart. Because of it's ability to cover the ground and spread, chamomile has actually been used in place of regular grass.

When it comes to chamomile, harvesting is not very easy. Not impossible, but since the flower itself is the part of the plant that contains the active elements people are after, it does take a little bit of care to harvest them properly, without damaging the plant. Once the flowers have been carefully plucked, all material should be dried immediately (put them in some air tight or lightly vac sealed containers, to avoid the moisture in he air), and kept out of further sunlight, as much as possible.

As far as uses, chamomile is one of the plants we find documented throughout history, in different cultures, that was used for a lot of varying reasons. Egyptians considered chamomile to be a universal remedy, and was even used aesthetically in Egyptian makeup. Chamomile was also used by Vikings, Romans, and many other ancient cultures that reached high societal levels within their civilizations.

There are many ways to take advantage of the benefits of chamomile. Obviously, it is used in many teas. Most people have probably tried chamomile at least once in their lives, although most wouldn't know it. This method is called infusion, and involves soaking the chamomile in hot water (best NOT to use boiling), and best not to leave the tea steeping for too long. Teas can be milk, for stress, or a little stronger, for someone who experiences insomnia, for instance.

However, although teas are the most popular, there are other forms of chamomile that people use every day. Tinctures, syrup, poultices, compresses, lotions, and salves are also great ways to utilize chamomile. It is possible to have an allergy to chamomile, so please be careful before using too much. Always check with your doctor before trying anything new, just to be safe. Once you have the okay, you can use chamomile at night, in bed, before bed, or even in the bath. You can infuse your bath water with epsom salts, lavender, and chamomile. Check our site for chamomile products and more!
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