The Charms of Chamomile

Chamomile has been noted for centuries as being calming, comforting and as a healing herb. Over 400 years ago herbalists noted that drinking chamomile was good for indigestion, while bathing in an infusion of chamomile flowers seemed to relieve aching joints and strained muscles. In shampoo and hair rinses chamomile is purported to keep blond hair at its golden best, while it is traditionally recommended to topically treat swelling from arthritis, burns, and sprains, it has also been noted to decrease redness of the skin that is due to irritations. Chamomile is also noted as a mild sedative and an anti-errythemic (anti-itch) medicine. Used as a treatment for everything from teething pain relief to diaper rash relief, this herb has long had the reputation of being good for "whatever ails you"! As a matter of fact, chamomile is frequently used in many products for adults and children, and is often preferred for infants and children, for both internal and topical remedies, because of its mildness. Chamomile is one of the few medicinal plants that still have a large, prominent role in modern medicine. European researchers have shown that substances found in the essential oil of chamomile flowers have anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, sedative and analgesic properties. Some studies also report that chamomile oil or extract soothes burned or irritated skin, and even helps to prevent stomach ulcers. The tea made from the chamomile flowers has long been touted to help calm an upset stomach and to help induce sleepiness. It seems that centuries old folklore is a modern day fact! Chamomile comes in two species, the Roman and the German, but both belong to the same family as asters and daisies. The flower heads resemble mini daisies, and are where the healing power is found. The flower heads are the part of the herb that the essential oil is distilled from, and they yield an azure blue volatile oil. Chamomile is considered to be one of the safest herbs to use, frequently recommended for use by infants, children and pregnant women, however, anyone with a ragweed, daisy, aster, or mum allergy should exercise caution when using chamomile products, and especially think twice about drinking chamomile tea. Now I have to say that many people, even those with such allergies, do use chamomile products without any adverse affects, it is generally better safe than sorry, most especially with internal preparations! If a topical makes your skin red or itchy, it is fairly easy to discontinue use, but if your airway is swelling shut it is not something you can take care of yourself! Chamomile is purported to help;
  • reduce inflammation
  • sooth skin irritations, including diaper rash
  • decrease toothache and teething pain
  • reduce earaches
  • ease indigestion, including colic in infants
  • calm nerves
  • promote rest/sleep
  • reduce cold symptoms
  • relieve menstrual cramps
  • prevent stomach ulcers

You can buy a cup of chamomile tea in restaurants all over the world, or purchase pre-made bags in your local grocery store, but this tea is going to be weak. Even the strongest of prepared teas will only contain 10-15% of the volatile oil that the flowers themselves have. So.....if you would like something stronger, remember that many health experts feel that a cup of tea a day will provide long-term health benefits, you can simply brew about 1 Tbs. of flower heads to about 1 cup of water, strain and sip! When cooled, this solution can also be used as a hair rinse. You can even infuse some olive oil with an ounce of flowers, leave sit for several days then strain and use as a body oil.

I just planted my chamomile last week, but I still have some dried from my old house, so I think I will head to the kitchen and brew a cup, as all this writing has made me thirsty!

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