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Chamomile as an Herb

Chamomile as an herb

Matricaria recutita

For the herbalist there are only two varieties of consequence: German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile.

Chamomile (or German camomile) is the dried flower head of an annual member of the aster family. The primary chamomile of commerce is grown in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Argentina, and Egypt. Roman (or English) chamomile is less frequently seen in the American market.

According to Varro Tyler, Germans call chamomile alles zutraut, which means "capable of anything". A Slovakian chamomile specialist, Ivan Salamon, says, "Chamomile is the most favored and most used medicinal plant in Slovakia. Our folk saying indicates that an individual should always bow when facing a chamomile plant".

Chamomile as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

Chamomile is an official drug (recognized by government authority) in twenty-six countries.

Chamomile has been used for centuries to quiet an upset stomach, to promote urination and relieve colic, and as a mild sleep aid.

Chewing the dried chamomile flower heads has been used as a means of breaking the smoking habit.

In Europe the following Roll-treatment method has been used to treat ulcers.

A strong infusion is made by combining 3 teaspoons of chamomile in 1 cup of water; this is taken warm in the morning on an empty stomach. The patient lies on his/her back for 10 minutes, then turns onto the right side and remains in that position for 10 minutes, followed by a roll onto the left side where he/she remains for 10 minutes, then onto the stomach for another 10 minutes, and finally onto the back for a 30 minute rest with a warm chamomile pack on the abdomen. This is repeated for 10 days and during that time only chamomile tea or water is taken as a beverage, although lemon balm, peppermint, caraway, or fennel can be combined with the chamomile tea.

Topically, chamomile has been used to reduce inflammation and soothe aches, and to heal cuts, sores, and bruises. As a poultice or wash the tea/infusion has been used for relief and reduction of redness, to prevent gangrene, muscle cramps, pain and swelling of skin and tissues, including acne (to soothe and make smooth), sunburn (in the bath), sensitive skin, inflamed skin, abscesses, hemorrhoids, nettle rash, eczema, sties, seborrhoea, and psoriasis.

A wash of the tea has been used for open wounds and sores. Has also been used to remove weariness and ease pain. The rubbing oil has been used to reduce inflammation on tissues and heal wounds (antiseptic properties) as well as for swellings, tough skin, and aching joints. For hemorrhoids and wounds a salve has also been employed. Hot packs have been applied for carpal tunnel syndrome and bunions.

Chamomile has been combined with bittersweet as an ointment for bruises, sprains, callouses, and corns.

Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, calmative, antispasmodic, and mild sedative activity as well as promotion of wound healing have been attributed to alpha-bisabolol. It comprises 13 percent of the German chamomile essential oil. Another constituent, chamazulene, comprises 5 percent of the essential oil. Chamazulene been credited with relieving spasms, inflammation, pain, and allergy.

In Europe, chamomile is used externally in compresses, rinses, or gargles; to treat inflammations and irritations of the skin and mucous membranes, including the mouth, gums, and respiratory tract; and for hemorrhoids.

The ancient Egyptians infused the flowers in oil and used the oil as a massage for sore muscles.

Chamomile tea or tincture relieves spasms and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract as well as peptic ulcers. A mild tea makes a gentle sleep aid, particularly for children. Modern indications are backed not only by intensive recent research (except for sleep aid claims), but also by many centuries of common use.

Chamomile was used as a strewing herb in Medieval times to disguise unpleasant odors in the home, public buildings, and from the unwashed population.

Prior to the antebellum period, Southern folk medicine incorporated chamomile as a treatment for skin eruptions (Moss 1999). People used this plant as a sedative to treat anxiety, nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, sleep problems, itching, abdominal pain (relaxes muscles), and infections (Maiscott 2000), and for its effect as a sedative. Chamomile has carminative (expels gas), antispasmodic (relaxes smooth muscles), and anti-inflammatory characteristics and has been used for stomachaches (Tyler 1985).

Scientific evidence has found that chamomile does indeed have anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects (Youngkin and Israel 1996). Weiner and Weiner reported that chamomile can be used as a safe sedative, operates as an antihistamine, and can be used as a treatment for conjunctivitis. Modern science also has found that the plant works as an antihistamine, sedative, eye wash for conjunctivitis, and treating wounds.

For Tired Eyes:  Dampen two envelopes of chamomile tea with warm water. Put one envelope on each eye and listen to relaxing music. Keep it on for about 20 minutes, and when you are done, your eyes should be noticeably better.

Stomach Remedy:   Here's a remedy that can quiet stomach discomforts, from indigestion to a spastic colon. Take 1 tablespoon chamomile flowers, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 2 tablespoons mint leaves and steep 1 tablespoon of the mix in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Strain and drink.

Concoctions

Chamomile Concoction

  • Infusion: 1 ounce of dried flower heads to 1 pint of water just off the boil (never boil); keep covered while steeping (15 to 30 minutes) so the oils are not lost. Taken a mouthful at a time. OR - 1 tablespoon flowers with 1 cup of water and taken every 1/2 hour, dose being 2 teaspoons for an adult, 1 teaspoon for a child.
  • Tincture: 1/4 to 1 teaspoon taken 3 times daily, OR, 10 to 20 drops in water.
  • Extract: 1/4 ounce (4.5 g) dried flower heads added to 1 ounce (22 ml) alcohol and 1 ounce water (23 ml) - 1:8 ratio. Allow to steep in a covered jar, shaking daily, for 10 days to 2 weeks. Taken 10 to 20 drops in water 3 times daily. Can also be rubbed on skin irritations and used in bath water for hemorrhoids.
  • Vapor Bath: for the lower abdomen (including menstrual cramps) and irritated anus and genitals. Used to relax abdominal cramps as well as cramps in the kidney and bladder areas. Use a shallow basin and place it inside the toilet, but above the water level. Inside the basin place a hot chamomile infusion (1 cup flowers to 1 quart water). The patient then sits over the steam, wrapped with a blanket to create a tent. Observe proper precautions around hot liquids to avoid burns and scalds.
  • Compress: 1-1/2 cups hot water poured over 2 teaspoons of flowers; cover and steep 15 minutes, then strain. Soak a cloth in the warm infusion and apply to affected area throughout the day.
  • Oil B.P.: 1/2 to 3 drops on a sugar cube.
  • Chamomile Massage Oil: Place 3 ounces of dried flowers into glass jar. Cover with 1-1/2 pints of olive or sweet almond or other suitable vegetable oil. Place in sun for 2 weeks or more (until herb is used up); strain and bottle. Used for facials, masks, compresses, body wraps, massage, bath, and hair care.
  • Chamomile Wine: Add 1 handful of dried flowers to 1 bottle of white wine and steep for 7 to 10 days, then strain. Taken in tablespoon doses for upset stomach.

Chamomile Astringent

Especially good for oily skin.

4 cups water
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint or 2 tablespoons dried mint
2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers, crumbled

Place all the ingredients in a medium-size saucepan and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep for 5 minutes, then strain into a jar and screw on the lid. Will keep 2 weeks refrigerated. Apply with cotton balls.

Herbal Face Mask

1 tablespoon honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon dried chamomile flowers, crumbled
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. To use, apply the mixture to your face and neck. Let dry and rinse off with warm water.

Culinary Uses of Chamomile

A beverage tea is made from the flowers of chamomile (1 teaspoon flowers to 1 cup water steeped 5 minutes) and has been commonly served after a meal as a digestive aid.

Chamomile is used as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages (ie. vermouth and Manzanilla, a Spanish sherry), bitter tonics, teas, desserts, and candies. Is also used in the making of liqueurs like Benedictine as well as in the making of beer.

The essential oil is used to enhance the fruit flavors of ice cream, candy, baked goods, and chewing gum.

With honey added for sweetness, chamomile tea is combined with pineapple and papaya juices for a summer drink.

Cambric Tea: (Popular British tea served to children) A combination of 1/2 Chamomile tea and 1/2 sweetened milk.

Folklore & Magickal

Love, money, purification. Chamomile is a masculine plant associated with the Sun and the element of Water.

Magickal Uses: Chamomile attracts money. Use it in sleep and meditation incenses. Take a chamomile bath to attract love. Sprinkle the herb aropund your property to remove curses and hexes.

Cautions

  • Persons who are allergic to the pollen of other members of the aster family, such as ragweed, may also be allergic to chamomile. Teas made from the dried flowers also contain pollen.
  • Before modern refrigeration was available, it was common to immerse spoiled meat in chamomile tea to eliminate the rancid odor.
  • Cold tea added to water for cut flowers will extend their life.

Chamomile Fact: Worldwide, approximately a million cups of chamomile tea are consumed daily.

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