(matricaria recutita, also known as German camomile; chamaemelum nobile also known as Roman camomile)
Botanical family: Compositae/Asteraceae
Parts used: Flowers and essential oil
Main active constituents: Coumarins, flavonoids, volatile oils
Actions: Anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, relaxant
Good for: Insomnia, allergies, indigestion
Available forms: Tincture, essential oil, ointments, tea
Camomile is an annual plant of the sunflower family. There are two varieties, Roman (chamaemelum nobile) and German (matricaria recutita), with the German being the most researched. The Greeks knew the herb as ground apple (khamai melon) so called because of its characteristic aroma of over-ripe apples.
It grows wild all over Europe where its erect smooth- branched stem reaches a height of 15-60cm. The herbal extracts are taken from the flowers, which have a strong aromatic smell and bloom in June and July.
History of Camomile
The healing powers of camomile have been highly valued for more than 4,000 years. In ancient Egypt, camomile was considered sacred and dedicated to the sun god Ra; as the religious rituals were performed at dawn, so the tiny camomile flower opened its petals.
The ancient Arabic doctors used camomile, as did the Saxons, and all surviving ancient European herbals mention it. According to 18th century herbalist Nicholas Culpepper ‘…bathing with a decoction of camomile taketh away weariness’. In Victorian times camomile along with lavender was used to calm people with hysteria.
The flowers have also been used for centuries to scent clothing and bed linen, made into potpourris, strewn on the floor to help deter fleas and other insects and used to help freshen the air.
Current uses of Camomile
An infusion of camomile can be used to help insomnia especially if stress is the underlying cause.
Camomile has mild anti-spasmodic actions as well as being an anti-acid. If taken after food as a tea, it will ease acid indigestion and reduce wind.
Camomile is wonderful for calming down the body’s reaction to allergy, especially in cases of eczema, asthma and hay fever. It has anti-inflammatory properties when taken internally and when used topically.
How to take CamomileTo make an infusion place one heaped teaspoon of the dried flowers in a mug of boild water and allow to steep for about 10 minutes. Lemon or honey can be added to taste.
Teabags containing Camomile are available in health food stores and are a convenient way of preparing a tea infusion.