Chamomile

Matricaria chamomilla, Anthemis nobilis, Compositae. It is also known as German chamomile and Roman chamomile.

The flowers are the part of the plant used. The flowers are gathered in late spring when they are not wet with dew or rain. They need to be dried when they are at not too high a temperature.

Functions of chamomile

Chamomile is a relaxant of the nervous system and digestive system and is a useful remedy for children and babies. Chamomile:

  • contains apigenin a compound that binds to the same cell receptors as pharmaceutical tranquilizers and has a similar effect. The main difference is that apigenin doesn't cause serious sedation or morning after grogginess nor does it pose a risk of addiction.
  • is used for the digestive tract to relieve tension and spasms, colic, abdominal pain, wind and distension. It regulates peristalsis in the bowel and can therefore assist in the treatment of both constipation and diarrhea. The bitters in the herb stimulate the flow of bile and the secretion of gastric juices, thus enhancing the appetite and improving a sluggish digestion.
  • contain volatile oils which prevent, and speed up the healing of, ulcers when used internally and externally. This makes it useful for gastric and peptic ulcers and varicose ulcers on the legs.
  • is highly antiseptic with bactericidal and fungicidal capacities. This means that it is effective against yeast (such as, candida albicans ) and bacteria (such as, staphylococcus aureus). It is useful in colds and flu, sore throats, and coughs. The antiseptic qualities also make it useful for wounds, ulcers, sores, burns and scalds. It can be used as a steam inhalations to relieve fever, catarrh and sinusitis.
  • has had a long standing reputation for the treatment of skin conditions. Its natural antihistamine mans that it will assist with asthma and hay fever and externally with eczema.
  • helps relieve nausea and sickness during pregnancy, it reduces uterine spasms and menopausal symptoms.
  • helps reduce the pain of migraines and headaches.
  • also functions as a hair tonic.

Notes on chamomile

  • Chamomile is included in the Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) list by the FDA.
  • Do not ingest large amounts of chamomile tea during pregnancy, since some of the plantís ingredients may cause uterine contractions.
  • If you are allergic to other plants belonging to the Daisy family, such as ragweed, elecampane and arnica you may also be sensitive to chamomile. If you have asthma take chamomile infusions with caution, especially if you are allergic to these plants.
  • Chamomile may cause allergies either by direct contact with the plant, employing it as an eye wash, skin cream or drinking the tea.
  • Chamomile may interfere with blood clotting; do not use together with aspirin, warfarin or other substances that possess anticoagulant (blood-thinning) action.
  • Do not take chamomile with diazepam or other sedative medications, since this may increase the potency of the drugs.

Dosages

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonsful of the dried flowers and infuse for 5 - 10 minutes. For digestive problems this can be drunk after meals. A stronger more aromatic tea can be made using the fresh flowers. for this use 2 teaspoonsful of the fresh flowers and allow them the infuse for 10 minutes before straining out the flowers.

For the gardener

Sow the annual self-seeder in spring after the threat of the last frost has passed. It needs a well drained sandy soil and part shade. Keep them well watered if the weather should become dry (especially during the flowering period). Allow some of the plants to go to seed so that you can have a crop the next year.

Chamomile flowers in about 6 weeks and you can gather the flowers over a period of several weeks.

References

Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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