When chamomile presents itself to you in three different ways in as many days, I guess it’s time to take heed. 😀
First encounter- North Shore Herb Group
At our monthly meeting this past Monday, we had a lovely lady come talk to us about the blending of herbs for therapeutic teas. We all tasted teas, and talked, and had a good evening in general (as always). The chamomile came in when the speaker mentioned that she personally didn’t like chamomile tea, and would rather drink something else with similar benefits. She was stressing the point that herbal teas should be enjoyed, even if it is for their medicinal qualities, and that you would be more likely to follow a regime of herbal teas for health if you actually liked the taste of the infusions. Good point. All medicines do not have to be hard to swallow, and I have on occasion added some lemon verbena or peppermint to teas to enhance their flavour.
Luckily I do love chamomile and have some chamomile tea in my cupboard, and although I favour a blend of valerian, passiflora and lemon balm at night at the moment, I still love the simplicity and efficacy of this herb as a soothing and calming aid.
Second encounter- Grow-Food-Not-Lawns Encounter
Responding to a neighbourhood post on someone having extra strawberry popcorn corn seedlings available, I was pleasantly surprised to find a mini farm in the front yard of the generous giver. Between houses with perfectly manicured lawns and topiary trimmed rose bushes, the organised chaos of the vegetable, herb and fruit front yard of my benefactor was absolutely delightful. As I (slowly and deliberately so I can take everything in), scanned the beds for the tray of corn seedlings that was left for me, I became aware of the most amazing fresh and gently sweet smell around me. I hadn’t even noticed until I started tramping around – the “grass” in between the garden beds was chamomile! This is the most perfect example of growing chamomile as a lawn that I have ever seen. It was immaculate!
Having a chamomile lawn is definitely on my “most wanted” list, and also, just for good measure – a chamomile seat!
Third encounter- Pretty little flowers
To section off my vegetable garden from our small lawn area, I planted a bee and butterfly garden a month or so ago. In between my lavenders, borage, sweet willies (dianthus), hollyhocks, corn flowers, sunflowers, scented pelargoniums, thyme and sage, I planted a forgotten little chamomile plant that I found in my greenhouse. I sowed seeds early in the season and sent a pot with three seedlings with my husband to work, but they came back a few weeks later, two dead and one barely surviving (air conditioned office space is not a good place for chamomile). I did not have high hopes for anything to grow from what I stuck into the ground, but I was so richly rewarded with a beautiful chamomile plant, and now – my favourite of favourites- chamomile flowers! Enchanted!
Chamomile is the name given to two herb plants – Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile syn. Anthemis nobilis) and German chamomile (Matricaria recutita syn. M. chamomilla, Chamomilla recutita). Both are used sisimilarlylthough there are slight differences in their chemical make-up and their fragrances; German chamomile is less bitter and more often used for teas, although it is common for herbalists to blend the two types. Roman chamomile (particularly Chamaemelum nobile “Trenegue’ is suited to growing as a lawn.
Height: 10-30cm; Spread: 45cm Full sun Light, well-drained soil Perennial Propagated by seed or division
Height: 15-60cm; Spread: 10-38cm Full sun Moist to dry, well-drained soil Annual to Biennial Propagate with seed
Sedative, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic.
Internally chamomile works gently to relieve digestive upsets, insomnia, nervousness, motion sickness, fevers, and children’s complaints such as hyperactivity or colic. It has also shown some immune stimulating activity.
Externally it can be applied to wounds, burns, skin irritations (eczema and psoriasis), rashes, leg ulcers, for mastitis and hemorrhoids. Chamomile tea also makes a good eye wash and a gargle.
Most commonly the flowers are used to make tea. Fresh they can also be added to salads or baked goods. Chamomile leaves can be added to butters and cheeses in small quantities to add flavour.
Recipe idea: Chamomile Tea Sorbet
Chamomile is known as a plant doctor and is said to benefit ailing plants if it is grown in their proximity. A chamomile tea sprayed on seedlings has some great success against “damping off” and chamomile leaves added to the compost heap can help activate decomposition.
Added to hair rinses, chamomile lightens and conditions fair hair; and added to skin preparations acts as a soothing anti-allergenic agent.
As a protective herb, chamomile bunches are often hung over babies’ beds to keep them safe from harm. Chamomile also features in many love potion recipes and is known as “love apples”. It s a good herb to include in empowerment work for young women.
Myths, legends, history
Dedicated to the sun god, Ra, by the Egyptians, and part of the Nine Sacred Herbs in ancient Anglo-Saxon, the Greeks named chamomile khamaimelon, tranlating to “ground apple” because it is faintly apple-scented and creeps along the ground.
In the language of flowers, chamomile denotes patience in adversity, which inspired the proverb: “like a chamomile bed, the more it is trodden, the more it will spread.”