Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Herb of the Week - Chamomile

Again this week I am presenting an herb that you should think about having in your garden.  Chamomile is one of the most common medicinal and tea herbs that you can grow easily in your garden. With its many uses, especially as a medicinal herb, it definitely is a valuable addition to your home herb garden.

So this week’s herb of the week is Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile (also Anthemis nobilis)


Most of us first heard about Chamomile as the tea given to Peter Rabbit after his run in with Mr. McGregor.  It is very soothing drink for nervous excitement and stomach ailments.  The ancient Egyptians use chamomile as a cure for ague.  They dedicated it to the sun and worshipped it above all other herbs for its healing properties.  Greek physicians prescribed it for fevers and female disorders.  Chamomile even inspired a proverb on energy in adversity: like a chamomile bed, the more it is trodden the more it will spread.  Through out the Middle Ages it was used all over Europe, its most popular planting was as a lawn where the resilient springy herb was a soft cushion to sit on with a pleasing scent.  Both John Gerard and Nicholas Culpepper mention in their herbal publications.  It was especially popular in Victorian times as a skin whitener. The relaxing aroma was even inhaled a snuff or smoked to relieve asthma and cure insomnia.  At beauty salons chamomile tea is often served to relax facial muscles. 

To Grow

Roman Chamomile, grown often for its apple-scented daisy like flowers, prefers full sun outdoors. It grows up to 10 to 12 inches tall and is best planted in the ground rather than in containers. Being a creeper makes it ideal for mass planting, like creating a chamomile lawn, as well as landscaping. 

Hardy in zones 3 to 8, the plant has shallow fibrous roots and a green hairy branching stem.  The leaves are finely cut and feathery and the flowers which bloom in the summer are creamy white with comical yellow centers.  The flowers show from May to July.

When used in the garden provide each plant with 6 inches of space. Soil has to be well drained with adequate nutrients (fertile) and like most sun-loving herbs, water only when the topsoil is dry to the touch.   Chamomile will continue to grow even in poorer soils.

Chamomile is a perennial and can be propagated through division of the runners.  Propagation by seed is also possible. However, starting chamomile from seed can be very tricky and challenging. For many it is better to start from a young seedling in a container then transplant in the garden once the plant has hardened. However if you plant seed indoors in individual peat pots or paper pots you can weed out those that do not germinate and sprout correctly.  When putting seeds or plants outdoors scratch in ½ inch of compost into the top few inches of soil before planting chamomile and repeat this as a top dressing for established plants.  An established chamomile plant is very hardy and can tolerate almost any growing conditions. 

Chamomile in all its varieties is pest and disease free which makes it a great plant for edges of gardens were pests attack first.

Medicinal Properties

The key element in a chamomile plant is its flowers. Chamomile flowers are used as medicinal herb, cosmetic agent, herbal tea, aromatherapy ingredient and can even be tossed in salads and beverages.

Its flowers have anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, nervine or nerve-soothing properties. As anti-inflammatory, it can be used to treat skin irritations, gingivitis, rheumatism, arthritis, and other painful swellings. As antispasmodic, it can be used to relieve stomachache and gas pain, menstrual cramps, indigestion, diarrhea and ulcer. It is also a very good laxative. As nervine, it is slightly sedative and can be used to induce sleep and dull pain. It also helps to alleviate anxiety and depression.

The tea can be used as a general tonic and sedative.  Because it is so gentle it is perfect for restless children and nightmares.  The flowers are often used in sleep pillows.

As a cosmetic agent, chamomile can lend anti-allergenic and soothing properties to beauty products. It is sometimes added to soaps and lotions because it can soften the skin. It is also great for aromatherapy applications because it has a calming effect and relieves mental and physical stress. It is also used in shampoos for its sweet-smelling scent.  Chamomile is also a plant that as a compress can reduce inflammation, especially around the eyes, and eliminate fatigue.  In the bath water it can also relieve sun or wind burned skin.

However, chamomile is not recommended as an alternative medicine for pregnant and breastfeeding women. It is also anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) and vasodilative (nerve-dilating) and must be avoided, at all cost, weeks before and after undergoing surgery. Use with medications having the same effect is also highly discouraged.  Those who have ragweed sensitivities should avoid chamomile.

To Use

What this plant lacks in culinary uses it makes up for in other ways.  A Tisane of the flowers is taken for dyspepsia, flatulence, and other stomach ailments. And is used as a mild antiseptic.  It is also a good appetite restorer which makes it popular with cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy.  Gather the leaves and flowers anytime during the summer and dry them for later use or use fresh. If you’re in for an organic gastronomical treat, you can eat chamomile flowers fresh by tossing some into your salad or your favorite lemonade. 

This is a good companion plant and is said to revive failing plants if planted near them.  An infusion made into a spray can be used on seedlings to prevent damping off and when the leaves are added to the compost bin they speed up decomposition.

This wonderful and common medicinal herb is often use in the form of herbal tea. Dried flowers are added into boiling water then covered and steeped for at least 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can also place them in a tea bag to eliminate the need for draining.  The tea is a mild sedative that is a gentle treatment for insomnia as well as all the stomach ailments discussed earlier.

Dried flowers can also be used in a bath soak as a relaxing beauty regimen. They can also be made into potpourri and burned for aromatherapy. Commercial chamomile essential and massage oils are also available in the market. Cosmetic preparations containing chamomile are also used to soften the skin and refresh the eyes.  An infusion of the flowers can be used to make lotions to soothe sore or irritated skin.  The dried flowers are sometimes added to potpourri as well.

The uses and benefits of growing medicinal herbs in your home is plenty and truly amazing. Having chamomile, along with other common medicinal herbs will make your herb gardening more worthwhile.

At the Backyard Patch, I have used Chamomile in a large variety of our Herbal Teas and as an eye soother, called Eyesaver, as well as including it in some of the newest Herbal Salves and Lotions.


Perfect Chamomile Infusion
1 pint water
Handful of chamomile flowers and leaves

Bring water to a boil and pour over leaves and flowers in a bowl.  Cover and let stand for about half a day.  Strain.  Use the spray to keep seedlings from damping off.

Herbal Hair Rinse
This flower water and vinegar rinse removes soap residue and adds a sparkling healthy conditioner to your hair.

2 oz. Rose Water or other flower water
2 oz. Apple cider vinegar
2 oz. Chamomile herbal infusion (tea).
Combine Rosewater, vinegar and the cool herbal infusion.  Shake well before using as a hair rinse, then massage into washed hair.  Leave on for a few minutes. Rinse off as usual. Chamomile will provides subtle golden tones for blond, light brown and auburn hair.

Perfect Chamomile Tea
one heaped tsp. of fresh or dried chamomile flowers
1 tsp. honey
slice of lemon
hot water

Place the flowers in a mug and pour boiling water over.  Cover and leave to steep for 3 to 5 minutes.  Strain, and then add honey and lemon.  Can be drunk hot or cold.

Blossoms of Health Tea
Beautiful to look at, nectar to taste and good for you too. This is an uplifting and energizing blend.
1 part ginkgo leaves
1 part red clover tops
1 part nettle leaves
1 part meadowsweet leaves
1 part calendula
2 parts chamomile
2 parts lavender flowers
1 part gotu kola leaves
a pinch of stevia.

Place all herbs in a tea ball or bag, put in your nicest or most favorite cup or mug, and cover with boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes.

Pleasant Dreams Pillow Sachet
8 parts rosebuds & petals
3 parts chamomile
3 parts lemon grass
3 parts mugwort
1 part cellulose fiber
1 part lavender
1 part spearmint
Lavender Essential Oil (optional)

Sachets are attractive cotton, silk or linen bags filled with herbal scents and tied with ribbon.  Sachets are often small, traditionally about 3 to 5 inches (but you can make them any size.) Blend the ingredients together in a tightly lidded container and allow to cure a minimum of 4 weeks before filling sachets to maximize aroma.

Relaxing Bath Blend
5 parts chamomile
3 parts lemon grass
3 part rose petals pink
2 ½ parts passion flower
2 parts orange peel
2 parts jasmine flowers
ylang ylang Essential oil (optional)

Blend the herbs together and store in a tightly lidded container.  Fill a small muslin drawstring bag or large sealable tea bags with about 4 Tbls. of the mixture.  Add 4 cups of boiling water to bath sachet and steep for 15 minutes.  Pour into hot bath using sachet as sponge to massage skin.  Discard herbs after use.  Keep dry bath herbs blends in jars away from light and heat.


  1. I use a lot of herb seeds to grow my herbs but in your post i saw that you talked about how the herb came about and the history behind herb seeds. I never knew any of that until now. Thanks for the great info :)

  2. It is such an interesting thing having this post of yours. I was interested with the topic as well as the flow of the story. Keep up doing this. legal highs

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Can I infuse the leaves in oil for hair use? Or what can I use them for?

    1. Yes you can. Warm the oil a bit before you infuse the petals in it. Maybe an hour or so to get the essentials out of the flowers. DO NOT under any circumstances eat this oil after the first day, as if can spoil or develop toxic bacteria. However for salves and hair oil if you use it within 2 to 3 weeks and keep in the refrigerator, you should have no issues. Moisture in the flowers will develop mold after a couple of weeks so make it in small batches.


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