Chamomile or Common Chamomile is a small flowering plant with flowers that are similiar to daisies. It grows wild in Europe and parts of America, and is is best known for the refreshing tisane, Chamomile Tea that is made out of its leaves and flowers. The herb is available in the dried form. Chamomile is variously known as Chamomile, Camomile, Common Chamomile, Anthemis Nobilis in latin, Manzanilla in Spanish, and Maythen in old Saxon. Less common varieties of chamomile are Stinking Chamomile and German Chamomile.
The significance of Chamomile lies in its long history of use in Europe for digestive ailments. The herb contains anti-inflammatory and soporific compounds and so relaxes the body and soothes the digestion. It is an invaluable kitchen remedy for upset stomachs and insomnia, and a gentler alternative to allopathic medicines.
The name chamomile comes from two Greek words “kamai” (which translates as "on the ground") and “melon” (which in greek means an apple). Together they combine to form Chamomile which literally means "ground apple". The smell of the plant is very similiar to that of apples and this probably caused the Greeks to name it thus.
Chamomile was used as an aromatic strewing herb (strewn on the ground to be walked over either on roads to welcome people, or inside rooms in homes) in the Middle Ages, as the scent of the herb is released when crushed or walked over. Strewing herbs were common in medieval Europe as an antidote to the smells of poor drainage and rotting garbage and also because a lot of the herbs used thus were disinfectants and prevented disease.
Its scent was also the reason that it was planted amongst grass in gardens. Actually, the plant, strangely enough, seems to benefit from being walked over.
Like a camomile bed The more it is trodden The more it will spread''
Did You Know?
- The delightful aroma of the Chamomile herb is deceptive as the herb itself is very bitter.
- The presence of the chamomile plant in a garden seems to have a beneficial effect on the health of the other plants around it. It was known for this reason as Plant's Physician’.
- It was said that if a chamomile plant was planted next to a sick or drooping plant, the sick plant often revived.
- Naturally growing Chamomile is of a “single” form i.e. a single whorl of flowers and is more potent than the cultivated “double” form.
Chamomile is not used much in savoury cooking. It is most commonly used to brew a tea that is very widely used. The flowers are usually used for this infusion and teabags and sachets are available commercially. The herb or leaves are used to flavour herb beers.
Therapeutic usage (with a certified doctor's prescription)
Chamomile may be administered as a decoction, infusion, extract or oil. The tea brewed from chamomile is still the most commonly used way of administering it. Chamomile is also available in capsule, liquid, and tea form.
Poultices made with poppies are excellent as a means to soothe inflamed joints and muscles. It has a calming, anti-anxiety, anti-stress effect and is an excellent remedy for insomnia. As already mentioned, it is an effective digestive tonic.
Chamomile has been used to treat several ailments amongst which are indigestion eye irritations, diarrhea, bad breath, skin infections, migraines, ulcers and menstrual disorders.
Safety precautions/ Cautionary Note
Chamomile has been known to cause allergies -- Chamomile is a member Asteraceae plant family. This family includes ragweed and chrysanthemum. Persons with allergies to these plants may have mild to severe allergic reactions if the herb is taken internally or externally. Allergic reactions include vomiting, skin irritations, allergic reactions, chest tightness, breathing distress and skin irritations. A doctor must be consulted immediately if this happens.
- Chamomile should not be taken during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
- Chamomile contains Coumarin, a naturally occurring compound with anticoagulant or blood-thinning effects. Warfarin is an anti-coagulant drug which is derived from Coumarin and is often prescribed as a blood thinner to patients with cardiac problems. Patients that have already been prescribed Warfarin should not take chamomile since the two taken together may result in an over-thinning of the blood, hemmorhage and other dangerous side effects.
- The Book of Ingredients, Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
- The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods, Dr. Michael Murray and Dr. Joseph Pizzorno with Lara Pizzorno, MA, LMT. Time Warner Books, 2005.
- What is Chamomile?
- Tropical Plant Database